New Delhi: The US and India are not seeking an alliance on the post-war model, but have a “fundamental alignment”, while China remains the “elephant in the room”, according to US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun.
Biegun, who is in India on a three-day visit, also said India and the US do not have to follow the security partnership models like that of NATO or those that emerged in the post-Cold War era.
“As the United States assesses our own interests and how they intersect with India’s, we have seen the conditions emerge for an organic and deeper partnership — not an alliance on the post-war model, but a fundamental alignment along shared security and geopolitical goals, shared interests, and shared values. Of course, as we advance in this direction, there is an elephant in the room — China,” he said during his address at the India-US Forum.
Biegun is visiting India to pave the way for the upcoming 2+2 ministerial meeting that is likely to take place between the foreign and defence ministries of both countries on 26-27 October.
He also met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla Monday.
“The security partnerships the United States and our partners explore today do not necessarily need to follow the model of the last century of mutual defence treaties with a heavy in-country US troop presence. Today we benefit from forging close links with countries like India that share our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and that seek to provide for their own defence,” he added.
He also said that the US’ post-World War II Pacific treaty alliances contributed to security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region for seven decades.
“While our commitment to these alliances and their mutual defence obligations is iron-clad, we also recognise that the United States cannot assume that a global post-World War II alliance structure, designed to address the challenges and threats of the Cold War, can endure without rejuvenation,” he added.
“To sustain the free and open order, our strategic relationships need to reflect the geopolitical realities of today and tomorrow. Much has changed over the past 70 years and our own thinking must evolve as well,” he said.
“Our relationships with many of our global treaty allies — NATO, Japan, and Australia in particular — have already evolved to reflect post-Cold War geopolitical realities, and they continue to adapt to meet new threats.”
‘Have been far too cautious when it comes to developing Quad’
According to Biegun, India and the US have been too cautious in creating a comprehensive security dialogue, known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad.
On 6 October, Jaishankar went to Tokyo where he attended an informal meeting of the Quad amid the ongoing border tensions with China.
“We have been too cautious… Cooperation between the United States and India does not have to be limited to a bilateral or Quad format but can extend to broader areas of shared interests and with other like-minded partners, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
“The Quad is a partnership driven by shared interests, not binding obligations, and is not intended to be an exclusive grouping. Any country that seeks a free and open Indo-Pacific and is willing to take steps to ensure that, should be welcome to work with us,” he added.
Helping India strengthen its ability to defend itself
Biegun said the US would also cooperate in strengthening India’s ability to defend itself and by promoting interoperability among the militaries through regular exercises and exchanges, common defense platforms, and co-development.
“The upcoming 2+2 ministerial meeting between Secretary Pompeo and Minister Jaishankar and their respective defence counterparts will be an excellent opportunity to explore next steps on some of these issues,” he added.
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