India and the US have intensified intelligence and military collaboration and cooperation at an unprecedented level, more so in the last month.
The two countries have been working quietly to step up information sharing amid the tense military standoff between Indian and Chinese troops — it has been on for 11 weeks now — along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.
After US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo spoke to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the third week of June, at least two high-level phone conversations, key to this cooperation, have taken place.(Read here in Malayalam)
The Indian Express has learnt that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval spoke to US counterpart Robert C O’Brien while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A Milley and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat have had a conversation in the last few weeks.
These conversations have facilitated information-sharing between security, military and intelligence branches of the two countries.
On Monday, the USS Nimitz and warships of the Indian Navy conducted exercises designed to maximise training and interoperability, including air defence. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, the US Navy said, is currently deployed in the Indian Ocean in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Sources said the phone conversation between Pompeo and Jaishankar really set the stage and gave a political push to the already existing security cooperation apparatus in place. Also, Defence Secretary Mark T Esper had called up Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in the second week of July.
The cooperation includes sharing of high-end satellite images, telephone intercepts, and data sharing of Chinese troops and weapons deployment along the entire stretch of the Line of Actual Control. New Delhi, sources said, is watching Chinese movements in “all sectors” of the LAC.
US equipment too has enhanced the capability of the Indian defence establishment. The Indian armed forces are using at least five American platforms in eastern Ladakh: C-17 Globemaster III for military transport, Chinook CH-47 helicopters in the heavy-lift category, the AH-64E Apache attack helicopters which also provide combat cover Army strike corps, P-8I Poseidon for overland reconnaissance, and the C-130J Super Hercules which are essentially tactical airlift transport and special operations aircraft.
On July 5, The Indian Express reported that Pompeo had spoken to Jaishankar after the incident in Galwan Valley where 20 Indian Army personnel were killed in clashes with Chinese troops.
Indian and the US did not make the call public for “strategic reasons” since Delhi and Beijing were engaged in diplomatic and military talks around that time.