China is provoking India at every turn just as it is doing with the United States and Washington is committed to accelerating progress in strengthening India’s defence capacity to deter Chinese provocations, a senior Biden administration official has told lawmakers.
India’s relationship with China is right now going through a very difficult phase after Beijing violated agreements not to bring the military forces to the eastern Ladakh border.
“Just as an increasingly provocative China is challenging the United States, it is also provoking India at every turn,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central India, Donald Lu, told members of the Senate Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism on Wednesday.
“India staged a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games after China selected the regiment commander responsible for the attack on the Indian border that resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers in 2020 as an Olympic torchbearer,” he said.
Beijing also recently published new China maps reiterating claims to large swaths of territory in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, renaming its cities with new Chinese names.
The border standoff in eastern Ladakh erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area. The face-off escalated after the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15, 2020.
India is engaged in talks with China on the eastern Ladakh border standoff with absolute clarity that it will not agree to any change in the status quo or any attempt to unilaterally alter the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the region.
Lu also told the lawmakers that the US was also working with India on bolstering its defence capabilities.
“We remain committed to accelerating progress in our Major Defence Partnership and strengthening India’s capacity to deter Chinese provocations, through robust naval cooperation, enhanced information and intelligence sharing, and increased cooperation in emerging domains such as space and cyberspace,” Lu said.
Referring to the recent Quad ministerial in Melbourne, Lu said he was struck by how much the Quad is accomplishing and the determination of all Quad partners to support a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Quad is a four-member grouping of the US, India, Australia and Japan that has been formed to further the shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, amidst China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
The Quad is making huge strides in achieving the goal of delivering 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the world, Lu said.
The US International Development Finance Corporation provided USD50 million in long-term financing to Biological E Ltd to develop manufacturing capacity to produce at least one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022,” he said.
“We have held discussions via the Quad on critical and emerging technologies and are also cooperating to support clean energy and decarbonization efforts in the Indo-Pacific region, including through green shipping and clean hydrogen initiatives,” he added.
“The Quad is also working together on maritime cooperation and security. We are sharing data on maritime domain awareness, fighting illegal fishing together, and our four countries have conducted a complex and large-scale naval exercises in the annual Malabar exercise,” Lu said.
He refuted the allegations from Senator Ted Cruz that the Biden Administration has deprioritised countering China in the Quad.
“I sat in on every session of the Quad discussions, and in every session of those discussions, together with our three Quad partners, we’re talking about countering China. We’re talking about China countering China with security and defence activities.
“We’re also talking about countering China with COVID vaccines as we know that this is part of China’s reach into the Indo Pacific. So I take exception to that statement. That is not what I witnessed,” Lu said.
In November 2017, the US, Australia, India and Japan gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence, amidst China’s growing military presence in the strategic 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. Beijing is also involved in a maritime dispute with Japan over the East China Sea.