India, US sign strategic defence pact

India and the US signed a key military pact and agreed on boosting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region during talks between their top foreign affairs and defence officials in New Delhi on Tuesday, news wires reported.

"I am glad to say the United States and India are taking steps for cooperation against all manners of threats and not just those posed by the Chinese Communist Party," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a joint press briefing.

Tackling the coronavirus pandemic, expansion of military ties and the situation in Afghanistan were also discussed at the meeting attended by Pompeo, US Defence secretary Mark Esper and their Indian counterparts Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh. India and the US also signed pacts on nuclear energy, earth observation and alternative medicine.

Esper in his remarks to the media said India and the US stood together "in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, particularly in light of increasing aggression and destabilizing activities by China." A tough China policy has been a key campaign issue for US President Donald Trump while he seeks re-election.

Singh and Jaishankar without naming China spoke of collaboration with the US to maintain "a rules-based international order."

The bi-annual meeting comes just a week before presidential elections in the US and at a time India is engaged in a military stand-off with China along their disputed Himalayan border.

The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) inked on Tuesday will serve as one of three foundational agreements between the two countries for sharing sensitive information and sophisticated military hardware. The agreement would give India access to US data systems like high quality GPS and real time data that would enhance the efficiency of military equipment acquired from the US, including missiles, drones and aircraft.

"Our military to military cooperation is progressing well," Singh said. He announced that the countries would be positioning liaison officers at each other's military establishments to enhance information sharing.

Over recent decades, the US has emerged as a leading defence supplier to India including fighter jets, military helicopters and howitzers with estimates of more than $20bn in such deals since 2008.

A bulk of India's military equipment is still sourced from Russia, which the US is eyeing to change.

From New Delhi, Pompeo is due to fly to Sri Lanka, the Maldives and finally Indonesia.

 

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