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India, US to work for free, open Indo-Pacific region

Washington: India and the US have reaffirmed their commitment to work together in support of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific where Washington says China was engaged in “unfair and predatory” economic activities, posing a risk to those very freedoms.

The resource-rich Indo-Pacific region is where China has been trying to spread its influence. The US has been pushing for a broader role by India in the strategically important region.

India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military maneuvering in the region.

In November last, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending Quadrilateral coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of Chinese influence.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with Defence Secretary Mark Esper hosted their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for the US-India 2+2 dialogue between the two countries at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department here.

On China, Pompeo said, “We discussed the risks that Chinese-built communication networks, including 5G, pose to our treasured freedoms and how China’s unfair and predatory economic activity in the Indo-Pacific presents a risk to those very freedoms.”

“The two sides reaffirmed the growing strategic partnership between the United States and India, which is grounded in democratic values, shared strategic objectives, strong people-to-people ties, and a common commitment to the prosperity of their citizens,” the US state department said in a statement after the conclusion of the 2+2 ministerial.

“During the meeting, Secretary Pompeo and his counterparts reaffirmed their commitment to work together in support of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” the state department said.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and with Japan in the East China Sea. Both the areas are said to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources.

According to the state department, India and the US also agreed to deepen cooperation to address regional and global threats, combat terrorism, coordinate on disaster relief, train peacekeepers, promote transparent and sustainable infrastructure, and advance maritime security.

Both delegations also welcomed new initiatives to further strengthen people-to-people ties, including new exchange programmes for parliamentarians and young innovators, increased judicial cooperation, the expansion of university research partnerships, and a new bilateral science and technology agreement, it said.

Looking to the future, the two sides pledged new cooperative efforts in the areas of water management, oceans, and space, according to the State Department.

“The secretary and his counterparts also discussed ways to expand their 21st century defense partnership,” the state department said.

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