Expressing concern over China’s increasing aggression across the globe from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China Sea and along the India-China border, a senior White House official said the US has stood with New Delhi during its military standoff with Beijing.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official asserted that US President Donald Trump, during his presidency, has really strengthened all aspects of the US-India security and defence cooperation to build a comprehensive, enduring and mutually beneficial defence partnership.
“We have been very concerned with China's increasing aggression really across the globe, whether it be Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China Sea and of course along the India-China border,” the senior administration official from the White House told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“We have stood with India as it faced this aggression along its border over the last six-seven months. We provided equipment. We have been engaged with India, shown our moral support for India to be able to stand up to the Chinese and make sure that there's a peaceful resolution and de-escalation of the situation,” said the official.
The armies of India and China are locked in a tense border standoff in eastern Ladakh since early May. Both sides have held multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks. However, no breakthrough has been achieved yet.
During the Trump administration, the United States has become the second-largest arms supplier to India, growing from virtually no sales a decade ago to more than USD 20 billion today, the official said.
Earlier this year, the US and India concluded USD 3 billion in defence sales for naval and attack helicopters. To bolster India's role as a net provider of security in the Indo-Pacific, the Trump administration has lifted restrictions on the provision of sensitive defence technology, enabling India to become the first country that''s not a treaty ally of the United States to be offered armed MQ-9 Reaper drones.
In support of India during its border standoff with China, the United States has leased two MQ-9s to India while the sale of MQ-9s is being finalised, said the official.
The US also expedited delivery of cold weather gear to support the deployment of Indian military along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) through the winter, said the senior administration official.
“In addition, we have concluded the basic exchange and cooperation agreement, which is the last of the so-called key defence enabling agreements. I think this is really a historic achievement that clearly demonstrates progress in defence partnership,” said the official.
Responding to a question, the senior administration official said that the US cut security aid and reimbursements to Pakistan in January 2018. There have been some exceptions, such as for things that are in the US interest.
“Some minor exceptions. But the suspension remains in effect. We continue to look to Pakistan to crack down on terrorists and militants on its territory. We've seen some progress on that front. But we certainly need to see more. We need to see a decisive crackdown, and sustained measures to rein in these terrorists and militant groups,” said the official.
“We have received cooperation from Pakistan on the Afghan peace process. We value the cooperation that we have received from Pakistan. We continue to work with Pakistan and look to them to help when it comes to convincing the Taliban to reduce violence, for example.
“We were glad to see that the two sides are sitting down in Doha, and have been for the last several months, but we are very troubled by the high levels of Taliban violence that continues. So, we do look to Pakistan to help us move the peace process forward. And right now, that means to see a reduction in violence from the Taliban,” the senior administration official added.
His remarks came as a high-level delegation of the Afghan Taliban, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, met Pakistan''s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Wednesday and discussed the Afghan peace process, amid growing incidents of violence in the war-torn country.
The delegation is visiting Pakistan at a time when President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of more American soldiers from Afghanistan, leaving around 2,500 troops behind in the strife-torn country.