Building alliances and partnerships top priority: U.S. Deputy Defence Secy tells NSA Doval

The U.S. has indicated solidarity with several Asian nations, several of whom have conflicts with an aggressive China which is flexing its muscles in the strategic Indo-Pacific region

Updated - February 02, 2023 08:08 am IST

Published - February 01, 2023 07:16 pm IST - Washington

NSA Ajit Doval attending the first iCET meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

NSA Ajit Doval attending the first iCET meeting in Washington on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: ANI

U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Dr. Kathleen Hicks told National Security Advisor Ajit Doval that building alliances and partnerships are a "top priority" for her department, the Pentagon has said, amidst the Indo-Pacific region's increasingly contested strategic environment and China's aggressive behaviour.

Ms. Hicks said this during a meeting with Mr. Doval in Washington and discussed priorities for the U.S.-India bilateral defence partnership, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

It said the discussions also included strengthening policy and operational coordination in the Indo-Pacific region and increasing defence industrial cooperation between the two countries.

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"They discussed a range of topics including U.S.-India defence cooperation and regional security issues," the Indian Embassy said in a tweet Tuesday.

"I met today with #India Nat’l Security Advisor #AjitDoval to discuss priorities for the U.S.-India defense partnership, thank India for leadership in the Indo-Pacific region & discuss ways to deepen defense industrial cooperation," Ms. Hicks tweeted.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon, in a readout of the meeting, said Ms. Hicks reiterated that building alliances and partnerships is a top priority for the department, and integral to the ongoing implementation of the U.S. National Defence Strategy.

The U.S.' 2022 National Defence Strategy calls China a "growing multi-domain threat."

The U.S. has indicated solidarity with several Asian nations, several of whom have conflicts with an aggressive China which is flexing its muscles in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.

Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. China also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.

The South China Sea and the East China Sea are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade.

Although the U.S. lays no claims to the disputed waters, it has challenged China’s growing territorial claims in the South China Sea by deploying warships and fighter jets to assert freedom of navigation and overflight patrols in the strategically vital region.

During the meeting, Ms. Hicks thanked Mr. Doval for India’s leadership in the region and discussed avenues to deepen coordination between the U.S. and Indian militaries to address the "region’s increasingly contested strategic environment," Mr. Pahon said.

The two sides also discussed opportunities to increase bilateral defence industrial cooperation through innovative joint endeavours between U.S. and Indian firms that support India’s "unique operational requirements,” he said.

Ms. Hicks and Mr. Doval said they look forward to making progress towards advancing the U.S.-India defense partnership, according to the readout of the meeting.

The U.S. and India, along with Japan and Australia, are members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — known as the Quad — an informal group focused on security. The grouping has become more active in recent years as part of efforts to counter China’s growing influence and territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific.

On the sidelines of a Quad summit in Tokyo last May, U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET).

The meetings in Washington on Monday and Tuesday were the first under the scheme and brought together dozens of sernior government officials, industry CEOs and senior academics from both countries.

In addition to defence technologies, the U.S. and India would work to "expand international collaboration in a range of areas — including artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and advanced wireless," the White House said in a fact sheet.

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