The Joe Biden administration emphasized the strength of US-India ties at its March 19 meeting with Chinese officials in Alaska, underlining how it increasingly sees India as central to its broader objectives in dealing with China in the Indo -Pacific region.
The reference to India, it is learned, was not received favorably by the two Chinese officials in Alaska — top diplomat and politburo member Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Wang Yi — and is seen as a reflection of how relations between the US and India, only two months into the new administration, are developing vigorously.
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The speed with which the new Biden administration has strengthened ties with India contrasts sharply with expectations in some quarters, both in New Delhi and Washington, that relations would not run as smoothly as with the Donald Trump administration. both because of the rapport between Mr Trump and Prime Minister Modi and the former US president’s lack of interest in India’s internal affairs and, more generally, human rights issues abroad.
But two months later, the initial concern that the relationship, which had progressed rapidly over the past four years, especially in the security field, would have to be rebuilt from the ground up had disappeared.
One of the reasons for this is the successful organization of the virtual Quad Summit between India, the US, Japan and Australia on March 12, seven days before the US-China Alaska talks. While the Biden administration’s message was that it did not want to push any country above its comfort level and was willing to consider their respective concerns about China – hence the absence of any reference to China in the joint statement and the focus on results such as The Vaccines Initiative – India’s immediate expression of its willingness to go ahead with the summit and the “clarity” with which it put forward its agenda have allayed many concerns in Washington that New Delhi, amid the ongoing process of withdrawal with China along the line of true control (LAC), could waver in its commitment to the group. When India has made it clear that it will not be part of any formal alliances, it has also suggested that it is more willing to raise the bar with China than before.
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The broader reason for the smooth transition in India-US relations is the new administration’s emphasis on a two-pronged approach to India and other key foreign policy issues, despite divisions at home on the domestic agenda. One indication of that was Mr. Biden’s insistence that a video being prepared for the Quad summit would begin at the outset by recognizing former President George W. Bush’s legacy in building the Quad, which was first came to life after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. India’s familiarity with three of the key interlocutors on the new government’s Indo-Pacific agenda: Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who chaired the meeting in Alaska, as well as newly announced “Indo-Pacific Coordinator” Kurt Campbell – has also helped.
The Chinese military struck the Quad on Thursday, describing it as a mechanism “promoted by the United States” and saying it “adheres to the Cold War mentality, believes in group confrontation, loves geopolitical games and takes advantage of the so-called “cold war” mentality. – Called ‘China Challenge’ as an excuse to ‘form cliques’ and openly provoke relations between regional countries”.
“We are strongly against this,” said Ren Guoqiang, the senior colonel of PLA and spokesman for the Ministry of Defense. “Seeking peace, development, cooperation and win-win is the trend of the times. Anything that goes against the trend of the times and satisfies one’s own selfishness is untimely, unpopular and doomed to failure. China has always insisted on being a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order. We urge the United States to take responsibility and make no mistakes and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability,” he said.
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Regarding the LAC’s withdrawal, he reiterated China’s earlier statement that both sides had a positive view of the Pangong Lake withdrawal and had “agreed to maintain communications through military and diplomatic channels to promote the settlement of other issues” , as in the Gogra-Hot. Springs, where the next round of military talks is expected to take place. He said that thanks to “joint efforts”, the situation in the border region “has eased considerably” and “China hopes that the two sides can appreciate the hard-won results, follow the important consensus reached by the leaders of both countries, open the dialogue and communication, and stabilize the situation against relapse, and gradually come to solutions that can be accepted by the two countries to jointly maintain peace in the border area.”
A two-pronged approach to foreign policy was one of the messages from the US in Alaska to Chinese officials, who in the course of talks, in response to US criticism of Hong Kong and Xinjiang, repeatedly emphasized Washington’s post-election resentment. , including the attack on the Capitol and attempts to delegitimize the election. The other message was that a Biden administration would not be a return to Obama 2.0 and all notions of a “G2” settlement and accommodation with China were long buried.
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The context in which India grew up in Alaska – as a key US partner and a country that shared similar values, a message the Chinese side did not welcome – reflected the marked change from 2009, when a joint statement following Beijing talks between Barack Obama and Hu Jintao said both sides “support the improvement and growth of India-Pakistan relations” and were “ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together for peace.” , promote stability and development in that region”. That prompted a sharp response from Delhi, who told both countries that “a role in a third country cannot be considered and is not necessary”.