The elephant in the room is no longer invisible—it is now larger than life and very much at the centre stage. Indo-US relations made history with the signing of BECA on Tuesday. But, more than just the promise of closer military embrace, this was also the closing of ranks against China.
“We have a lot to discuss today, from cooperating on defeating the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom, to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,’’ said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his opening remarks at the US-India 2+2 Ministerial dialogue.
The signing of a major agreement—just a few days before the US goes to polls—is unprecedented. While it reflects how wooing India cuts across both the parties, despite them not seeing eye to eye on most issues, it is also a sign of how seriously America views China as a threat. Beyond just India, Pompeo is spending his last few days in office wooing India’s neighbours on their side. Post Delhi, Pompeo will travel to Columbo, Male, and Jakarta. The goal is to promote a “free and open Indo-Pacific’’.
This vision figured at the heart of the joint statement between India and America. Both countries reiterated their commitment to a “free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific built on a rules based international order’’. The two sides “welcomed’’ the growing understanding on the Indo-Pacific among like-minded nations. They also emphasised that the code of conduct in the South China Sea should not “prejudice the legitimate rights and interest of any nation in the accordance with international law.’’
Beyond the Quad, which has now become more effective with Australia joining in the Malabar exercise, India and America hope to rope in a few more countries. The joint statement, clearly expresses support for “strengthening Quad cooperation through expanded activities, including initiating a dialogue among the development organisations of partner countries,’’ the statement read.
America is also trying to build an alternative to China’s mammoth BRI. The two “expressed their support for sustainable, transparent, quality infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region,’’ the joint statement said. India and America hope to collaborate—economically by “undertaking joint projects’’.
If that was not clear enough, the statement added, “Recognising the need to contain the build-up of sovereign debt in developing and low-income countries by ensuring responsible financing practices for both borrowers an creditors, the Ministers looked forward to exploring ways to cooperate under the Blue Dot network.’’