India most important partner in Indo-Pacific: Mark Esper


India-US 2+2 dialogue: India will be the most important partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific in the 21st century, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday ahead of his visit to the country next week. US leader said that he and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would  travel to New Delhi next week for the 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

“It’s our second 2+2 with the Indians, the third ever for the United States and India. And it’s very important. India will well be the most consequential partner for us, I think, in the Indo Pacific for sure in this century,” Mark Esper told a virtual conference organised by Atlantic Council think-tank.

In a late evening development, India’s ministry of external affairs confirmed that the India-US 2+2 dialogue will be held in New Delhi on October 27.

The US leader said India is the world’s largest democracy, a very capable country, very talented people and they face of every day with the Chinese aggression in the Himalayas specifically along that Line of Actual Control.

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“So, like so many other countries in that region, I’ve spoken with them (Indian officials). I’ve travelled from Mongolia all the way down south to New Zealand and Australia, from as far as Thailand to Palau in the Pacific island countries. They’ll recognize what China is doing,” Esper said.

“In some cases, it’s very overt, and in many more cases it’s very opaque, what they’re doing,” he added.

“But they are putting political pressure, diplomatic pressure, and in some cases like India, military pressure on countries to bend to their way. We just can’t put up with that. We need all countries to follow those international rules-based order, to follow the norms that have served us so well,” said the US leader.

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China’s rise not an issue: Esper

The US defence secretary rejected the contention that some countries had problem with the rise of China.

“The issue is not about China’s rise, it’s all about how they rise,” he said.

“That’s what we talk about in all these forums. Last week we had a Five Eyes Forum, right, the US, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and UK. Anyways, we have the Five Eyes Forum and we talked about the challenges in the Indo-Pacific and how do we cooperate together, how do we confront these challenges to sovereignty, to the international rules-based order, to freedom of navigation,” he said.

“So, you see a lot more closer collaboration come out, and this will be reflected in our meetings next week in New Delhi,” Esper said.

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The US defence secretary said both the countries have been discussing a number of areas for cooperation and it will be made public in due course of time.

“We’ve made good progress on a number of them, but we’ll release information on that when it’s appropriate,” said the US leader as he refused to divulge more information.

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India US 2+2 Dialogue

Mark T Esper, Rajnath Singh, Mike Pompeo & S Jaishankar (December 2019).

India-US 2+2 dialogue

In 2018, India and the US have initiated a 2+2 dialogue, a joint dialogue involving both defence and foreign minister. The first India-US 2+2 dialogue took place in September 2018 in New Delhi.

The then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and the then defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman represented India while the US side was represented by the secretary of state Mike Pompeo and then US defence secretary James Mattis.

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The second India-US 2+2 dialogue was held in the US between India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh, external affairs minister S Jaishankar and their US counterparts – Mark T Esper and Mike Pompeo.

The third India-US 2+2 dialogue will be held at New Delhi on October 27.

Esper said first-ever US-India defense cyber dialogue was held last month as both the countries expand bilateral collaboration into new domains.

“Together, these efforts will strengthen what may become one of the most consequential partnerships of the 21st century,” Esper said.

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