U.S., India have “close cooperation” on LAC action by China: Kenneth Juster

It’s for Indian govt. to give details of the nature of military cooperation, says American envoy

Updated - January 06, 2021 08:31 am IST

Published - January 05, 2021 09:27 pm IST - NEW DELHI

US Ambassador Kenneth Juster delivers his farewell speech at the end of his tenure in New Delhi at an event organised by thinktank ORF, January 5, 2021

US Ambassador Kenneth Juster delivers his farewell speech at the end of his tenure in New Delhi at an event organised by thinktank ORF, January 5, 2021

The U.S. has cooperated with India to counter ‘aggressive’ Chinese actions at the Line of Actual Control , confirmed its Ambassador Kenneth Juster, saying it was for the Indian government to give details of the nature of military cooperation during the ongoing eight-month standoff between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army.

“Our close coordination has been important as India confronts, perhaps on a sustained basis, aggressive Chinese activity on its border,” said Mr. Juster in a farewell address at the end of his tenure in Delhi to an audience including diplomats and journalists, at an event organised by thinktank ORF.

Mr. Juster said the government of India would decide whether to release the details of the cooperation. While this is the first time an official is confirming the cooperation over the standoff, The Hindu had reported earlier that over the past few months, America has assisted India with geospatial data, satellite maps and emergency procurement of extreme weather clothing. Officially, India has maintained that it is resolving the situation with China “bilaterally and diplomatically”.

The U.S. Ambassador refused to comment on a specific question on whether the U.S. had alerted India to China amassing troops along the border earlier this year, when the PLA is believed to have transgressed over the LAC and claimed Indian territory.

“I appreciate the question and the interest in the internal discussions on China, but it’s not really something I’m at liberty to get into here. If the government of India wants to comment on that, that’s for the government of India. Suffice it to say that we have cooperated,” Mr. Juster said.

In an hour-long talk entitled “Ambition and Achievement in the U.S.-India Partnership” detailing developments in the bilateral relationship from 2017, Mr. Juster said “no bilateral relationship in the world is as broad, complex and rich in substance as that of the United States and India”. He said bilateral defence and strategic cooperation had been particularly focussed on the Indo-Pacific region during the Trump administration, where the U.S. military renamed its Pacific command Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) and the Ministry of External Affairs established a new Indo-Pacific Division.

“We both share a vision of the Indo-Pacific region that provides opportunities for all countries to grow and prosper, but also wants to avoid incursions of any type, intimidations, predatory financing and when there is a situation that is indicative along those lines, we’ve cooperated to try to resist that,” he said, in a veiled reference to Chinese actions at the LAC, the South China Sea and debt from Belt and Road Initiative projects.

While he declined to comment on whether the U.S. would proceed with CAATSA sanctions against India for its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile systems, the U.S. Ambassador said India should consider the impact of such purchases that constrain “technology transfers” and other defence cooperation between India and the U.S.

Mr. Juster reserved his sharpest comments for the failure of India and the U.S. to conclude even “a small trade package” despite efforts by the US Trade Representative and the Indian Commerce Minister. Criticising the Modi government for “growing restrictions in India on market access for certain U.S. goods and services, increasing tariffs, new limitations on the free flow of data, and a less-than-predictable regulatory environment for investors,” Mr. Juster raised questions over whether the government’s “Aatmanirbhar” or “Self-Reliance policy” would lead to higher tariffs, and restrict India’s access to global supply chains.

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