About two weeks after US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo made a quiet call to External Affairs minister S Jaishankar after the June-15 Galwan clash, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla met with his American counterpart, Under Secretary of State (Political Affairs) David Hale, Tuesday evening through a video call.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that Foreign Secretary Shringla and Under Secretary Hale exchanged views on a “number of regional and global issues of shared interest” — in a reference to the border stand-off. “They reaffirmed their commitment to work towards ensuring a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” it said, in what can be seen as a clear signal to Beijing.
The two reviewed the entire gamut of engagements under the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, including political, economic, commercial, regional and international cooperation, the MEA statement said.
It also said that they agreed on the need to deepen cooperation in the United Nations, especially during India’s membership of the United Nations Security Council for the period of 2021-2022.
“They discussed ways to further enhance mutually beneficial trade and people-to-people ties, including through visa facilitation for students and professionals,” the statement said, alluding to the recent decision on student visas.
They agreed to remain in touch and move forward on the bilateral agenda through a range of mechanisms like the 2+2 Ministerial that India will host later this year.
While there is some disengagement taking place between the troops of both sides in eastern Ladakh, the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Tuesday that the US military “will continue to stand strong” in a conflict between India and China or anywhere else.
“The message is clear. We’re not going to stand by and let China or anyone else take the reins in terms of being the most powerful, dominant force, whether it”s in that region or over here,” White House Chief of Staff Meadows told Fox News.
“And the message is clear. Our military might stands strong and will continue to stand strong, whether it’s in relationship to a conflict between India and China or anywhere else,” Meadows said in response to a question.
This is in line with the US thinking to counter the growing Chinese military threat perception.
On June 26, Pompeo had said that the US is reviewing its global deployment of forces to ensure that it is “postured appropriately” to counter the growing Chinese military threat to countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
At the virtual Brussels Forum 2020 of the German Marshall Fund, the US Secretary of State had said, “We’re going to make sure we’re postured appropriately to counter the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). We think that the challenge of our times, and we’re going to make sure we have resources in place to do that.”
The force posture review is being done at the direction of President Donald Trump, as part of which the US is reducing the number of its troops in Germany from about 52,000 to 25,000, he said.
Pompeo said that the force posture would be dictated by ground realities. “In certain places there will be fewer American resources. There will be other places – I just talked about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party, so now threats to India, threats to Vietnam, threats to Malaysia, Indonesia, South China Sea challenges, the Philippines,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Pompeo — who has been leading the charge against China from the front after the initial statements from Washington, which were perceived as neutral in nature — said the US is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.
“I don’t want to get out in front of the President (Donald Trump), but it’s something we’re looking at,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News.
US lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Last week, the White House spokesperson had said that US President Donald Trump believes that China’s “aggressive stance” against India and other countries in the region confirms the “true nature” of the ruling Communist Party of China.
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