By: Chandrashekar Bhat
THE US will continue to support India with the equipment it needs along its border with China, a top American admiral has told lawmakers, asserting that Washington and New Delhi share a “tremendous partnership.”
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on ‘Military Posture in the Indo-Pacific Region’ this week, Admiral John Aquilino, commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said the military-to-military relationship between the two countries is probably at its highest point.
He was responding to a question from Senator Gary Peters.
“My question for you, Admiral, is can you speak to the relationship you have with our Indian counterparts and what more can we do to strengthen our security relationship between our two countries?” Peters asked.
“I have no concerns. Our partners in India are tremendous partners, and the military-to-military relationship is probably at its highest point. We continue to do more together,” Admiral Aquilino said in response.
His remarks assume importance as India and China on Friday (11) held another round of high-level military dialogue to resolve the 22-month-long standoff in certain friction points in eastern Ladakh.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.
Admiral Aquilino also mentioned military exercises between the US and India.
“The Malabar exercise with Japan, Australia, the United States and India is critical. Increased mini lateral and multilateral engagements with the Indians, and ultimately continue to sell them equipment so we can be more interoperable and more effective together in the military sphere,” he said.
On Wednesday (9), Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing that he perceives the US-India defence relationship as one with “incredible momentum”.
He also said that the much awaited 2+2 dialogue between the two countries will take place in Washington in early April. The last meeting of the 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi in 2020. The 2+2 ministerial dialogue takes place between foreign and defence ministers of both sides.
India and the US held a bilateral 2+2 Inter-sessional meeting at the official level in September 2021 in Washington DC.
The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian Navy and the US Navy in the Indian Ocean. Japan became a permanent member of the exercise in 2015. This annual exercise was conducted off the coast of Guam in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019.
The exercise was hosted in two phases in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in 2020.