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Esper: New India-U.S. military pact meant to challenge China

An agreement between India and the United States was signed in New Delhi this week calling for U.S. sharing of geospatial data, useful for steering missiles and drones, with India. Photo courtesy of U.S. Defense Department 
An agreement between India and the United States was signed in New Delhi this week calling for U.S. sharing of geospatial data, useful for steering missiles and drones, with India. Photo courtesy of U.S. Defense Department 

Oct. 28 (UPI) -- An agreement between the United States and India calls for military cooperation and is a check on Chinese aggression, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.

Esper and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with their counterparts, Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi on Tuesday to sign a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement.

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The pact will give India, involved in a protracted border conflict with China, access to advanced U.S. map and satellite imagery to enhance accuracy of Indian weapons, drones and missiles.

The U.S. Navy has notably been involved in attempts to curtail Chinese influence, including claims of sovereignty, in the Indo-Pacific theater of military operations.

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At the signing ceremony, Pompeo and Esper lauded India, the world's largest democracy, and spoke of having a mutual adversary in China.

"Based on our shared values and common interests, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, particularly in light of increased aggression and destabilizing activities by China," Esper said.

Esper also said that India and the United States are working to establish dialogue regarding in cybersecurity and space domains.

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Afterward, Pompeo was more blunt in his assessment of China.

"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 and prosperous Indo-Pacific," Pompeo said.

A week before a U.S. presidential election, Esper is on a multi-country tour to reinforce the anti-China message of the administration of President Donald Trump, and traveled to Sri Lanka after his visit to New Delhi.

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Earlier in his trip, he noted that cooperation between the navies of India and the United States is strong.

"We are looking to build more army-to-army and air force-to-air force opportunities," he said Esper, noting India's decision to include Australia, with Japan and the United States, in November's Malabar naval exercises.

"We have a lot of existing exercises right now," Esper said. "We would like to multilateralize more things."

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