By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: India and the United States can’t afford to take their “eyes off the ball” when it comes to Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a senior US defence official posted at its embassy here said today, as he made it clear that Washington remains watchful of Beijing‘s moves.
Rear Admiral Michael L. Baker, the United States defence attaché in India, also said that Washington wants to be New Delhi’s “partner of choice” in the production and sale of defence equipment.
He was speaking to a select group of journalists. Defence.Capital was not invited to the briefing, and this report is sourced from other media outlets that attended and reported the conversation, in view of the significance of the remarks made by the American officer.
Admiral Baker expressed satisfaction at the growth of Indo-US defence ties, and said the American military does the maximum number of exercises with India.
Asked specifically about the ongoing LAC tensions and how the US sees them going, Baker said, “This is certainly an important area for us. We do remain watchful, we do work closely with India to exchange our views on this area to make sure that we have a clear understanding of what we think may be happening, and I think it is a place for both India and the US for being watchful. We cannot take our eyes off the ball.”
He further said the Chinese had a very aggressive stand when it came to the South China Sea, another area where the Americans need to be watchful.
The US and India, he said, are working to ensure that — either individually or together — they become security partners for other countries in the region, as an open and free Indo-Pacific is their shared goal.
Discussing India’s strong military ties with — and dependence on — Russia, the American official said his country wants to be New Delhi’s partner of choice.
“India has its ability to choose its partner. And it has made a conscious decision to diversify more in the last one decade. It has made a conscious decision to continue to diversify going forward, and I think it has made a conscious decision to partner with the US in a host of areas. I am happy with those developments,” he said.
Baker added that both India and the US were working on “pretty tough challenges” when it came to greater cooperation including data sharing and high-end technology.
He said the two countries were working on a number of projects under the foreign military sales route, and were also looking at how they can collaborate more.
Speaking about the Ukraine conflict, he termed it an unwanted war being waged by Moscow. Baker also referred to the close ties between China and Russia. In its National Defense Strategy released last week, Washington identified the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as its “most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades” whose “coercive tactics” are the most comprehensive and serious challenge to American national security.
India and its tensions with China along the LAC figured thrice in the 80-page document, which said the US would advance “our Major Defense Partnership with India to enhance its ability to deter PRC aggression and ensure free and open access to the Indian Ocean region.”