Two days of meetings by the top US and Indian diplomatic and defense chiefs in New Delhi underscored
a desire for growing military cooperation driven by mutual distrust of China.
Deadly clashes between Indian and Chinese troops over a disputed border region have given the
Pentagon fresh fuel to draw Delhi closer, as it seeks a coalition to counter what the US sees as the rapid
expansion of China's military presence across the Indo-Pacific region.
In two days of talks on Monday and Tuesday, couched as the third annual 2+2 discussions, US Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper agreed to share with India geospatial
satellite and sensor intelligence.
They laid the groundwork for more military exchanges and cooperation on cybersecurity and space, as
well as increasing arms sales, the US particularly pressing India to buy US F-18 fighter jets for its navy.
And both sides cheered the addition of Australia to the upcoming Malabar exercises in the Indian Ocean,
joining the US, Indian and Japanese navies, an informal relationship now dubbed ‘The Quad.’
“I think the tide has turned,” Pompeo told Indian newspaper The Print.
“I think the world has begun to recognize the threat posed by the ideology that emanates from the
Chinese Communist Party. And so yes, I think my Indian counterparts get that.”
The US is anxious to build partnerships to hem in China’s expansion, and India is a key focus.
The Delhi talks took place just days after Washington piqued China with the announcement of the sale
of several billion dollars worth of advanced military systems to Taiwan.
And immediately following the talks, Pompeo travelled to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, where China has
sought strategic inroads.
The deadly confrontation between Chinese and Indian troops in a remote, disputed part of their long
border earlier this year then played into US hands as it seeks to rally a global anti-Beijing movement.
India has requested US support, from endorsing its position diplomatically to supplying satellite
intelligence and special cold weather gear.
In New Delhi the US eagerness was palpable.
“This may be the most, certainly one of the most, consequential relationships for the United States in
this century,” Esper told reporters.
Amid the talks, Pompeo and Esper set time to visit India’s National War Memorial.
In a well-choreographed ritual, they laid wreaths of white flowers and stood silent for a good two minutes. No
other senior US official had ever done so.