The United States and India must work together to confront the threat posed by China to security and freedom, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday as he prepared for talks with Indian leaders.
Pompeo arrived in New Delhi on Monday along with Defence Secretary Mark Esper for an annual strategic dialogue at a time of heightened tension in the region, with Indian troops confronting Chinese forces on their disputed Himalayan border.
“Today is a new opportunity for two great democracies like ours to grow closer,” Pompeo said before the talks with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region.”
In talks with their Indian counterparts, Pompeo and Esper signed an agreement expanding military satellite information sharing and highlighted strategic cooperation between Washington and New Delhi with an eye toward countering China.
US President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
China dismissed Pompeo’s accusations.
“We urge Pompeo to abandon his Cold War mentality, zero-sum mindset, and stop harping on the ‘China threat’,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news briefing in Beijing.
India has its own problems with a more assertive China.
In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops on their high-altitude border, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.
This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilize the region.
“Our focus now must be on institutionalizing and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.