Some of the steps being taken by Beijing along the India China border has been “provocative”, a top White House official has said while reaffirming that the United States is “destined” to work more closely with India. Kurt Campbell, the Deputy Assistant to the US President and Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, told a Washington-based think-tank on Thursday that India is not an ally of the United States and will never be so.
“But it does not mean that we will not be close partners and share many things. That’s how we need to understand the role that India will play as a great nation on the global stage.
“We want to encourage that and support that and deepen this relationship, which is already very strong, probably the strongest people-to-people relationship of any country that the United States has on the global stage,” he said.
Campbell said that the India-US relationship “is the most important bilateral relationship for the United States in the 21st century”.
“I believe we are destined to work more closely together. I believe that our people-to-people ties are strong, animate in a relationship that is becoming deeper, richer and more strategically important,” he said.
The think tank — Centre for a New American Security (CNAS) — in a report said that the India-China border intrusions and clashes have become more frequent and threaten to lead to all-out conflict.
The increased prospect of India-China border hostility has implications for the United States and its Indo-Pacific strategy between the two Asian giants, it said.
India’s engagement with China is “complex” and Chinese attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh starting from April-May 2020 seriously disturbed the peace and tranquillity in border areas and impacted overall ties, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a report this month.
In its annual report for 2022, the MEA said the External Affairs Minister conveyed to his Chinese counterpart that the restoration of normalcy in ties will require the restoration of peace and tranquillity along the frontier.
“India’s engagement with China is complex. The two sides have agreed that pending the final settlement of the boundary question, maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is an essential basis for the overall development of the bilateral relationship,” the MEA’s annual report said.
Meanwhile, the CNAS report said that Indian officials believe China is trying to contain India by forcing it to divert more resources into defending simultaneously both its western border with Pakistan and eastern flank with China and by weakening its willingness and ability to challenge Chinese ambitions to dominate the region.
Campbell told the think-tank, “Some of the steps that China has taken along this vast 5,000-mile border had been provocative and deeply concerning to Indian partners and friends.”
The think-tank’s report, authored by Lisa Curtis and Derek Grossman, has made several recommendations to help deter and respond to further Chinese aggression along the border with India.
Prominent among them include the United States should elevate Indian territorial disputes with China on par with Beijing’s assertiveness against other US allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific and ensure this is reflected in all national security-related documents and speeches.
It also recommended that the US offer India the sophisticated military technology it requires to defend its borders and initiate the co-production and co-development of military equipment and assist India in strengthening its maritime and naval capacity.
The think-tank also urged the US to conduct joint intelligence reviews with India to align assessments of Chinese plans and intentions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and enhance coordination with Indian officials on contingency planning in the event of a future India-China conflict.
It asked the US to criticise Beijing’s “efforts at land-grabbing” in multilateral forums, including the UN, Shangri-La Dialogue, G20, and East Asia Summit and be prepared to extend full support to India in the event of another border crisis or conflict.
Message Pakistan and enlist help from its other important partners to convey similar points about the need to stay neutral in the event of a potential future India-China border flare-up, the report said.
Responding to a question, Campbell said there has been an exponential increase in engagement in virtually every area.
“We just concluded discussions in a form called ICET in which the Indian National Security Advisor brought the highest-ranking group of Indian technologists ever to come to any country, and came to the United States to talk about how to partner on areas going forward,” Campbell said.
“We’re working more on defence-related issues on people to people. We want more Indian students in our universities. We want more American students in Indian universities. We want more people-to-people, university partnerships more generally, and health partnerships. We have just announced efforts to work together in space. So the agenda is extraordinarily rich. The ambitions are high,” he added.