A leading U.S. official has said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is “open” to deepening ties with India. Speaking at a virtual press briefing on Friday, Ambassador Julianne Smith, U.S. envoy to NATO, said Russia should withdraw from Ukraine and that NATO is watching China-Russia relation in the backdrop of Russia’s continued military operation in Ukraine.
“NATO’s door is open to more cooperation if India seeks that. NATO is more than happy to sit down anytime with India,“ said Ambassador Smith confirming that officials of NATO held “informal” exchanges with Indian counterparts on the sidelines of the recently held Raisina Dialogue in Delhi.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had last year confirmed that the two sides had maintained contact at various levels for some time. “India and NATO have kept in touch in Brussels at different levels for quite some time now. This is part of our contacts with various stakeholders on various issues of mutual interest,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi last August in response to a question during a weekly briefing.
On the evolving relationship between Russia and China, Ambassador Smith noted that the U.S. is keeping a close watch on the relationship between the two Eurasian neighbours and warned China against getting drawn into Russian war efforts against Ukraine. Ms. Smith announced that a NATO Ministerial will be held on April 4-5 but she also confirmed that NATO hasn’t invited India for the meeting.
The U.S. official however informed that the Ministerial will see participation from Japan and Australia, two members of the ‘Quad’ that also includes India and the US. She explained participation of Australia and Japan in the Ministerial is due to NATO having a “more advanced relationship” with Tokyo and Canberra.
Ambassador Smith said NATO is open to exchanging ideas with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. “We expect Indo-Pacific partners to share their experiences with NATO,” she said.