While the military relationship between the US and India is at its best in years, mistrust between the two countries is at an all-time high, according to a top US admiral, who claims that Beijing’s lack of transparency and duplicitous activities in the Indian Ocean region threaten the region’s stability and security. During a months-long standoff with China, Admiral John C. Aquilino praised India’s efforts to defend its northern border.
“The mistrust between China and India is at an all-time high. In addition to the rupture of bilateral relations as a result of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) skirmish, India is deeply suspicious of Chinese activities as part of the ”One Belt, One Road” initiative,” Mr Aquilino told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday during the confirmation hearing for commander, US Indo-Pacific Command.
“China’s posture initiatives in both Gwadar, Pakistan, and Hambantota, Sri Lanka, also cause India concern. As is the case across the Indo-Pacific, PRC’s lack of transparency and duplicitous actions in the Indian Ocean region threaten stability and security in the region,” he said in a written response to a set of questions from Senators for the confirmation hearing.
In response to Senator Deb Fischer’s question about China’s activities along India’s borders and the future of India-US military cooperation, Mr Aquilino praised India’s efforts to secure its northern border. He also emphasised the importance of cooperation and collaboration with allies and partners in order to construct deterrence.
According to Mr. Aquilino, the US-India military relationship is at its best in years, and the US continues to see an increase in bilateral and multilateral engagements and exercises, high-profile joint operations, and senior-level engagements.
Recent operations by the Chinese have helped highlight the threat China’s actions pose to all nations, including India. “The conclusion of enabling agreements over the past several years has allowed us to operate more closely, and we are able to work together more than ever before to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.
If confirmed, the top US admiral said his top priorities would be to keep the momentum started by his predecessor and expand information sharing and security agreements, support India’s defence transformation efforts through exchanges and exercises, continue to encourage India’s acquisition of US equipment to promote interoperability, and increase military-to-military contacts through exchanges and exercises.