New Delhi: The standoff at the Line of Actual Control involving the Chinese troops at eastern Ladakh was discussed during the meeting of India’s Union Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in New Delhi on Saturday.
The press statements released by both the sides after the hour-long meeting was over stated that the dialogue was on “free and open Indo-Pacific”, a term which is being used increasingly amid China’s aggressive actions in the region.
US Defence Secretary General Lloyd Austin said, “As the world faces a global pandemic and growing challenges to an open and stable international system, the U.S.-India relationship is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh highlighted that both sides “discussed steps to be taken to realise full potential” of foundational agreements–LEMOA, COMCASA and BECA for mutual benefit and agreed to pursue “enhanced cooperation with the US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Command.”
LEMOA or Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement and COMCASA or the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement are foundational agreements which Washington has signed with its close allies with an aim to increase military interoperability and transfer of equipment. Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) provides for sharing unclassified geospatial information.
The India-China standoff witnessed a booldy skirmish at the Galwan valley which resulted in the loss of 20 Indian soldiers. In February 2021, disengagement at the Pangong lake was initiated by both the countries but there is no clarity on disengagement at Gogra, Depsang, and hot spring yet.
During the meeting, cross border terrorism from Pakistan and the recent joint statement of Indian and Pakistani militaries on observance of Ceasefire pact of 2003 was mentioned by the Indian side during the discussion with the American side.
Last month, India and Pakistan issued a rare joint statement after DG MO talks to cease hostilities at the line of control(LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Last year was the worst year in terms of ceasefire violation at LOC.
The ongoing situation in Afghanistan also came up for talks, with India reiterating that the peace and reconciliation efforts in the country should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
At the press statement, Secretary Austin said, “India… is an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics.”
Other areas which were mentioned and discussed during the talks include, information-sharing, logistics cooperation, artificial intelligence, and cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber, military to military cooperation.
US Defense secretary Lloyd Austin is the first high profile official of Joe Biden administration to visit India since the change of guard in Washington around two months ago. India was the last leg of his visit to the Indo-Pacific region which included a visit to Japan and South Korea.