The United States and India have signed a pact to share sensitive satellite and map data as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of the threat posed by an increasingly assertive People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Pompeo, who arrived in New Delhi on October 26, 2020, with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, said after talks with their Indian counterparts that the two countries had to work together to confront the threat the PRC posed to security and freedom.
The annual India-U.S. strategic dialogue comes at a time of heightened tension in the region, with Indian troops confronting Chinese forces along their disputed Himalayan border.
“Big things are happening as our democracies align to better protect the citizens of our two countries and, indeed, of the free world,” Pompeo told reporters after the talks with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. (Pictured, from left, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi on October 27, 2020.)
“Our leaders, and our citizens, see with increasing clarity that the Chinese Communist Party is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation, the foundation of a Free and Open, prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Pompeo said.
The new defense pact — the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation — is a “significant milestone” that will foster cooperation between the nations’ militaries, Esper said.
The U.S. plans to sell more fighter planes and drones to India, Esper added. The pact will give India access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data considered vital for targeting missiles and armed drones.
It will also allow the U.S. to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on U.S.-supplied aircraft to India, an Indian defense source said.
Twenty Indian Soldiers were killed in a June 2020 border clash with People’s Liberation Army troops in the Himalayas, hardening the mood in India against the PRC and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the U.S.
Jaishankar did not refer directly to the PRC during the news conference, but he hailed “national security convergences” with the U.S. and the two nations’ determination to tackle security and counterterrorism issues and ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Earlier in October, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with Japan and the U.S., dismissing PRC claims that the exercises destabilize the region.
Pompeo and Esper also met with Modi for talks that included regional stability, a U.S. government spokesman said.