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Post Quad Foreign Ministers’ meet, India-United States to step up bilateral engagements

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NEW DELHI: Following the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meet in Tokyo on October 6, India and the United States will step up bilateral engagements, including a key face-to-face ministerial meet this month to strengthen its partnership in the Indo-Pacific region amid tensions along the Line of Actual Control with China.

The Quad meet will be followed by a visit by US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun to New Delhi in the third week of October to hold consultations with India’s foreign secretary to prepare for a big meet at the end of the month, ET has learnt.

New Delhi is expected to host the next edition of 2 + 2 Ministerial (Foreign and Defence Ministers’) meet at the end of October amid election season in the United States, with both sides displaying commitment to the strategic partnership, it is learnt.

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will host their American counterparts Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper, respectively. Last year, Singh and Jaishankar had travelled to the United States for the 2 +2 Ministerial meet. Ahead of the Delhi meet, Jaishankar and Pompeo are expected to hold a bilateral meet in Tokyo on the sidelines of the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meet.

The United States has been consistently critical of Chinese actions along the LAC that has created tensions in the South Asian region.

While India does not favour any mediation to resolve the crisis, senior American officials have extended support to India’s position. The two sides have maintained regular contacts over telephone amid the pandemic.

During the third India-US Leadership Summit last month, Biegun emphasised that the US strategy is to push back against China in every domain.

“Our strategy is to push back against China in virtually every domain. We’re doing it in the security area. We’re doing it in terms of outsized demands to claim sovereign territory, whether it’s in the Galwan Valley of India on the India-Chinese border, or in the South Pacific,” Biegun had said.

To strengthen the defence partnership, the United States has announced the supply of spare parts for the Indian Air Force’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, in a $90 million deal. Besides, India has sought to fast-track purchase of 30 MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones that could be deployed along the disputed border with China.

However, ahead of the Quad meet, the United States sounded cautious and said that “Quad membership is driven by shared interests, not binding obligations”. “The Quad seeks to establish, promote, and secure Indo-Pacific principles, especially as PRC tactics, aggression, and coercion increase in the region,” Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David R. Stilwell told reporters during a conference call on Friday.

Stilwell, however, ruled out any joint statement at the end of the Tokyo Ministerial meet and claimed that the Quad was not formed to exclude nations.

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