NEW DELHI: The United States will work closely with India in the region of the Indian Ocean to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific Ocean and to strengthen India’s ability to project strength in the face of increased activity by the Chinese navy, a senior US official said on Wednesday. .
The activities of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in areas ranging from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean fit into a pattern of behavior aimed at undermining the rule-based order and trying to change the status quo through coercion , said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
At the same time, the United States is focused on helping India modernize its military and support the country’s defense indigenization agenda, as it fits into US plans to help India’s armed forces move away from dependence on equipment and platforms of Russian origin, the official said. . These efforts will also lead to further integration of the defense industry on the two sides.
Although India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been at odds with the reaction of the other members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad – Australia, Japan and the US – the official made it clear that this would not be a “significant obstacle” to cooperation before for the group.
“The operational environment of the Indian Ocean region is changing, in part due to increased PLA activity. It is an area where we are interested in supporting India’s capabilities and capabilities to project forces as well as deepen our own bilateral cooperation,” operationally and in the field of information sharing, ”the official said.
“When I look at what the PLA is doing in the Indian Ocean, what they are doing at the LAC, I see it as part of a pattern of behavior associated with what is happening in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, the East China Sea – which is that you have a country with both intention and ability to undermine the rule-based order and try to change the status quo through coercion, ”he added.
The United States also has concerns about PLA facilities in third countries and “its ability to use economic and military tools for coercive purposes against regional countries”. The secret security pact, recently signed by China and the Solomon Islands, is “part of a pattern of behavior”, and it is very clear that the PLA “is looking for overseas installations wherever it can get them, and that includes South Asia”, said the official.
The official described the ties with India as “one of the most important bilateral issues in the world” and one of the “most consequential” for the Biden administration, saying that the US side is very focused on helping India modernize its military and support the Indians. page indigenization of defense fabrication.
India’s indigenization agenda fits into the movement away from Russian equipment, a “trend already underway”, and the US “will look for opportunities to support this agenda”, the official pointed out.
India has been under increasing pressure from the United States over its relationship with Russia in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. During a visit to New Delhi in March, US Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland suggested that Soviet-era equipment and spare parts should be made available to wean India away from Russian military equipment.
Asked specifically whether the disagreements over the Ukraine crisis will affect the functioning of the Quad, the US official replied: “I do not think it will be a significant obstacle to cooperation in the Quad. We recognize that India has a long and complicated relationship with Russia. .
“We also have an extremely broad relationship with India, which we are working on in a number of issues across the board. Of course, we will not agree on every single issue, but we are in close communication on these issues. “
The official further said that “no decisions” had been made by the United States regarding the imposition of secondary sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over India’s $ 5.4 billion agreement to acquire S-400 air defense systems from Russia.
The recent 2 + 2 meeting between Defense and Foreign Ministers from India and the United States has set in motion efforts to expand the defense relationship and work on joint development and joint production of military technologies and platforms. The collaboration will also be extended to new areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber, space and submarine domain awareness.
Projects will be accelerated under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), and there has been a “very strong signal” from management on both sides to ensure progress, including bureaucratic constraints that stop technology transfer. The U.S. Office of Naval Research is looking at opportunities to place experts and engineers in India to work with their counterparts on joint development and co-production, the official said.