A file picture of Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (R) and Indian Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh (L) attend a press conference in New Delhi, India. EFE/EPA/FILE/HARISH TYAGI

India, US seek to reaffirm ties despite disagreement over Ukraine, Palestine

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Nov 9 (EFE).- India and the United States hope to strengthen bilateral ties with a new round of foreign and defense ministerial talks on Friday, despite disagreements over Ukraine or Palestine, in the face of China’s increasing ambitions and influence.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin are scheduled to meet with their Indian counterparts, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh, respectively.

This will be the fifth meeting of the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, which started in 2018, during which the two sides will review “progress being made in cross-cutting aspects of defense and security cooperation, technology value chain collaborations and people-to-people ties,“

said a statement by the Indian Foreign Ministry earlier this week.

US State Department’s deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said “deepening the security cooperation and partnership will be one of the many topics that are discussed.”

These meetings have served India to acquire a growing number of military technologies, an objective sought by Washington, since historically Russia has been the main supplier of military equipment to the Asian country.

“There has been substantive kind of progress,” Director of the Society for Policy Studies, Chitrapu Uday Bhaskar, told EFE.

But the strengthening of bilateral ties goes beyond the defense sector, Bhaskar recalled, with projects “still in the air” such as the creation of an India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor, promoted by the United States as an alternative to the Chinese Silk Road.

The shadow of Beijing, with its expansionist ambitions and quest for a greater global role, has done much to bring New Delhi and Washington closer together over the past decade.

Relations between India and China continue at record lows since at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese military personnel on the disputed Himalayan border, the worst escalation in decades, despite both countries having held about twenty rounds of military talks.

Washington sees China as the most significant challenge in its foreign policy, and New Delhi as a democracy of 1.4 billion people capable of serving as a regional counterweight, despite reports of attacks on critical voices and minorities under the rule of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

This common focus between India and the US, which together with Australia and Japan form the Quad security alliance, has resulted in their relationship surviving multiple disagreements on crucial issues, many of which will figure on Friday’s agenda.

The war in Ukraine is one of the issues that has generated more tension, due to the Indian government’s insistence on defending its neutrality while taking advantage of the conflict to acquire Russian oil at lower prices.

Moreover, while India condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel, the south Asian country has also reiterated its “long and consistent” support for the cause of Palestine as a separate state.

The recent diplomatic dispute between New Delhi and Ottawa, following the assassination of a prominent Sikh separatist leader in Canada, is also expected to figure in negotiations with the US.

“There is enough space for both parties to have a difference of approach and be able to discuss this bilaterally, perhaps quietly, and not in front of the cameras,” said Bhasker. EFE