China's aggression and Covid solutions to dominate US-India 2+2 talks

1 month ago 28
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US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON: Security and defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region in the face of China's aggressive behavior and public health collaboration with an eye on the ongoing pandemic will be among topics that will feature in the India-US 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi on Monday, US officials previewing the meeting said.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper are on their way for talks with their Indian counterparts amid fervid election campaign in the US, attesting not just to the business-as-usual approach but also to the urgency of situation in the face of a continuing face-off between India and China that is not de-escalating to mutual satisfaction.

"Given China’s increasingly aggressive behavior across the Indo-Pacific from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, it’s more important than ever that we work with like-minded partners such as India," a senior US administration official previewing the talks said on Friday, talking up the Quad grouping of US-India-Japan-and Australia, and describing it as "one of vibrant democracies working together towards a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region."
The two officials who briefed journalists on background in a telecon declined to go into specific details about intelligence exchanges between US and India about China's border incursions, but acknowledged "information sharing" with a view to ensure that "the situation doesn’t escalate."
The officials confirmed the two sides have made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence enabling agreement, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, or the BECA, which will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between the armed forces of the two countries. The two sides are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between the respective militaries as well as between the foreign and defence ministries as part of the information-sharing arrangement, they added.
The officials said they have no reason to believe that in the event of there being a new administration following the upcoming elections in the US that the policy with regard to India would change, asserting "both parties (Republican and Democratic) are largely aligned on their interest in supporting and deepening the partnership."
Talking up the US-India talks and relationship, the officials said the frequency and candor and common objectives of these engagements reflect a broad, strategic convergence between the two countries and the 2+2 ministerial will serve as a capstone to review our many accomplishments as well as lay down next steps for the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.
The officials also spoke to the joint efforts to develop and produce Covid-19 vaccines between the two countries, saying they have taken off at a "remarkable pace" and more than half a dozen American companies and institutions are working on vaccine research with Indian partners like the Serum Institute of India. "We know that going forward, working closely with India and its robust research and pharmaceutical sectors will be critical to finding and implementing a cure," one official said.
The assertion came despite copious evidence of growing US insularity under the Trump administration in science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM) fields, under its so-called "America first" policy.
Addressing the increasing restrictions on student and skilled guest worker visas that has disproportionately affected India, one official maintained the current visa policy is based on "US interests in protecting the American homeland and respect for American immigration law and "none of the current restrictions have anything to do with any specific country, and many of them have a lot to do with the Covid pandemic."

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