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US-India relationship has bipartisan support; important to any administration: Top US official

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US-India relationship has bipartisan support in this country and it will be important to any administration as Americans fundamentally believe that the two nations are strong, more secure and prosperous when they are working together on global challenges like ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, a top US official has said ahead of the presidential election.

In an interview with PTI, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the US recognizes that it cannot address the global challenges alone and needs partnership with countries like India to tackle them.

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“For the first time in a while, I think that the world is really confronting, what it’s like whenever other great powers have values that are counter to ours. You know, democracy isn’t perfect by any means, but it does involve accountability, involves transparency, she said.

“We know that in order to face the global challenges that we will face in the next five to 10 years, the US can’t do it alone. We have to work with our partners. We know that as it relates to a myriad of challenges on the world stage, our global partnership with India is going to be so important because it’s really all about the United States and India confronting these global challenges together,” she said.

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Ortagus said the relationship between the US and India is definitely strong and it will remain so in the future.

The US-India relationship “crosses across political party lines, and will be important to any administration, she said, ahead of the November 3 presidential election where incumbent President Donald Trump, a Republican, is being challenged by former US vice president Joe Biden, a Democrat.

“The reason is because we know that fundamentally Americans believe that the United States and India are stronger, more secure, more prosperous, when we’re working together towards things like a free and open Indo-Pacific, and more importantly, I think what’s been really exciting for many Americans to watch is India’s increased leadership role in the region and in the world, she said, days after the conclusion of the third 2+2 ministerial between India and the US.

The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China’s increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers. During the Indo-US dialogue held in New Delhi, the two sides deliberated prominently upon the Sino-India border row and situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper had travelled to New Delhi for the ministerial with the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Observing that the world’s oldest and largest democracies share common values, she underscored that these values are critical to the security and prosperity of the two countries.

Responding to a question, Ortagus said the historic ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Houston last year “was such a cool visual representation” of the US-India ties.

Obviously there’s much more to it than just that, but, President (Donald) Trump has had a very successful relationship and partnership with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, she said.

While the focus remains on defence and security cooperation, the two countries are working even more together on things like COVID-19 and increasing economic ties, Ortagus noted.

“One of the things that I think is unique about the US-India bilateral relationships is our people-to-people ties. Indian culture has really permeated and become part of the American culture in so many ways. What’s fascinating about being an American is having a good Indian restaurant in your neighbourhood is just as much a staple now is having a good pizza joint,” she said.

I think that’s really cool to show how far our cultural and people to people ties have come and how much Indian diaspora has been fully integrated culturally into American society, said the State Department spokesperson.

Ortagus said one of the most important things that the US is going to continue to focus on is free and open Indo-Pacific, freedom of navigation, freedom of the seas, and like-minded democracy standing up for their values.

India and the US, she said, have expanded the interoperability of their forces through joint military exercises. We are also pleased that Australia is going to join the 2020 Malabar Naval exercise that will be with the United States, India, Japan, she said.

India on October 19 announced Australia’s participation in the upcoming Malabar exercise, effectively making it the first military-level engagement between the four-member nation grouping — the Quad.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia 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. The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China’s growing assertiveness.

Ortagus said India-US defence trade has increased significantly over the past two decades. The US has authorised over USD 20 billion in defence sales to India which is an incredibly significant number, she said.

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