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US to assist India in bolstering its naval force in a bid to counter China: US official

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In a bid to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific and to bolster Indian abilities to project force in the Indian Ocean region in face of increased activity by the Chinese navy, the United States is reported to be working closely with India, according to a senior US government official.

The official further said, on conditions of anonymity that the activities of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in areas ranging from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean is aimed at undermining the rules-based order and trying to change the status quo through coercion.

At the same time, the US is willing to help India modernise its military and support the country’s defence indigenisation agenda as it fits in with American plans to help India’s armed forces move away from dependence on Russian-origin equipment and platforms, the official said.

These efforts will also lead to further integration of defence industries of the two sides.

India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been at odds with the reaction of the other members of the Quad – Australia, Japan and the US. The official however made it clear that this wouldn’t become a “significant hindrance” to cooperation within the grouping.

The US also has concerns about PLA facilities in third countries and “its ability to use economic and military tools for coercive purposes towards regional countries”. The secret security pact signed recently by China and Solomon Islands is “part of a pattern of behaviour” and it is very clear the PLA is “looking for overseas installations wherever it can get them, and that includes South Asia”, the official said.

The official described ties with India as “one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world” and one of the “most consequential” for the Biden administration, and said the American side is very focused on helping India modernise its military and supporting the Indian side’s indigenisation of defence manufacturing.

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