While the US-India military relationship is at its best level in years, the mistrust between China and India is at an all-time high, a top US admiral has said and alleged that Beijing’s lack of transparency and duplicitous actions in the Indian Ocean region threaten stability and security there.
Admiral John C Aquilino also commended India’s efforts to protect its northern border during a months-long standoff with China.
“The mistrust between China and India is at an all-time high. In addition to the rupture of bilateral relations as a result of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) skirmish, India is deeply suspicious of Chinese activities as part of the ”One Belt, One Road” initiative,” Aquilino told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday during the confirmation hearing for commander, US Indo-Pacific Command.
“China’s posture initiatives in both Gwadar, Pakistan, and Hambantota, Sri Lanka, also cause India concern. As is the case across the Indo-Pacific, PRC’s lack of transparency and duplicitous actions in the Indian Ocean region threaten stability and security in the region,” he said in a written response to a set of questions from Senators for the confirmation hearing.
Replying to a question from Senator Deb Fischer about China’s actions along India’s borders and the future of the India-US military cooperation, Aquilino commended the work done by India to protect its northern border. He also highlighted the need for cooperation and working with allies and partners to build deterrence.
Aquilino said the US-India military relationship is at its best level in years, and the United States continues to experience growth in both bilateral and multilateral engagements and exercises, high-profile joint operations, and an increased number of senior level engagements.
Recent operations by the Chinese have helped highlight the threat China’s actions pose to all nations, including India. “The conclusion of enabling agreements over the past several years has allowed us to operate more closely, and we are able to work together more than ever before to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.
If confirmed, the top US admiral said, his priorities would be to maintain the momentum that has been generated by his predecessor and build information sharing and security agreements, support India’s defence transformation efforts through exchanges and exercises, continue to encourage India’s acquisition of US equipment to promote interoperability, and increase military-to-military contacts throughout standing dialogues, senior leader contacts, and working-level exchanges.