WASHINGTON: The US on Tuesday said it supports India's emergence as a leading global power and a vital partner in efforts to ensure that the strategic Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity and economic inclusion, as America's top diplomat arrived in New Delhi on his first visit.
In a fact sheet, the State Department said the defence cooperation between the US and India was reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, and increasingly complex exercises like Malabar.
"The United States supports India's emergence as a leading global power and vital partner in efforts to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity and economic inclusion," it said after Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in New Delhi on a two-day visit.
During his maiden visit to India as the top American diplomat, Blinken will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to discuss a wide range of issues, including continued cooperation on COVID-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis.
"US-India defense cooperation is reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, increasingly complex exercises like Malabar, and defense enabling agreements, such as the secure communications agreement COMCASA.
As of 2020, the United States has authorized over USD 20 billion in defense sales to India, the State Department said.
Through the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, the United States and India work together on co-production and co-development of defence equipment.
The United States and India are also closely coordinating on regional security issues, such as Afghanistan, it said.
According to the fact sheet, the two countries cooperate on a wide range of diplomatic, economic and security issues, including defence, non-proliferation, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, shared democratic values, counterterrorism, climate change, health, energy, trade and investment, peacekeeping, the environment, education, science and technology, agriculture, space, and oceans.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.
The Chinese military is also actively eying the strategic Indian Ocean region to step up Beijing's influence.
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.
In 2017, India, Australia, Japan, and the US gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the 'Quad' or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China's aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.
In 2008, the United States and India signed an agreement, making India a full partner in the governance and funding of the Fulbright Programme.
An increase in exchanges under the agreement has allowed for the development of new and innovative programmes, and India now has the largest Fulbright Scholar (faculty) programme in the world.
In FY 2019, this funding provided opportunities for 61 US Scholars, 66 Indian Scholars, 80 US students, including 29 English Teaching Assistants, and 55 Indian students, including 13 Foreign Language Teaching Assistants.
The United States and India are working to expand cooperation in international organisations.
America welcomed India joining the UN Security Council in January 2021 for a two-year term.
In October 2020, India hosted the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, and the United States looks forward to the next 2+2 later this year, the fact sheet said.
Asserting that India is a leading global power and a key US partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, the State Department said at the inaugural Quad Leaders' Summit in March, President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Modi joined their Japanese and Australian counterparts in pledging to respond to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.
The four leaders also agreed to combat the climate crisis, and address shared challenges, including in cyber-space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime security.
Noting that the US stands with the people of India as they continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it said the US has contributed more than USD 200 million for India's COVID-19 relief and response efforts since the pandemic began, including more than USD 50 million in emergency supplies and training for more than 218,000 frontline health workers on infection prevention and control, benefitting more than 43 million Indians.
"Earlier this year, the US and India initiated renewal of a memorandum of understanding to collaborate through an International Center of Excellence in Research focused on infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and other emerging threats.
"The United States and India are partnering to strengthen the global response to COVID-19, on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains, said the fact sheet.
US pharmaceutical companies have coordinated with Indian companies since the beginning of the pandemic.
This cooperation includes voluntary licensing and technology transfer agreements to increase global manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, therapies, and conducting clinical trials, it said.
The State Department said that it looks forward to furthering cooperation with India on tackling the climate crisis and raising global ambition ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom, in November.