India-China standoff: Relationship with India important, monitoring LAC very closely: US defense secretary Mark Esper

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Jul 21, 2020, 05:38 PM IST


Story highlights

India and US navies conducted a naval exercise on Monday called the Passage Exercise (PASSEX) in the Indian Ocean.

US defense secretary Mark Esper said today that the "relationship with India is "one of the all-important defense relationships of the 21st century.

Esper speaking on the India-US naval exercise at Andaman and Nicobar islands which took place on Monday, said that the current exercise demonstrates "our shared commitment to stronger naval cooperation and a free and open Indo-Pacific."


India and US navies conducted a naval exercise on Monday called the Passage Exercise (PASSEX) in the Indian Ocean. Units of US Navy Nimitz Carrier Strike Group took part in the exercise amid growing tensions between India and China after the clash at Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers had died in action. 

Four US navy and Indian ships took part in the drill with the Indian fleet consisting of Rajput-class destroyer, Shivalik class frigates and Kamorta-class anti-submarine warfare corvette. 

"We are monitoring very closely what's happening on the Line of Control(LAC)," Esper said, adding,"we are pleased both sides are trying to de-escalate the situation."

"The smaller the country, your arms gets twisted," Esper said referring to China. "Our carriers have been in South China Sea and Indo-Pacific since World War-II. We will back sovereignty of our friends and partners," Esper asserted.

Esper said there was "great multilateral cooperation" in recent months while adding that he views bilateral and even multilateral FONOPs(Freedom of Navigation Operations) taking place in the South China Sea as a show of force against China.

"China's action on coronavirus is a whole other discussion about China's bad behaviour," he added.

"I was in Hong Kong in 1997 for the handover, I don't believe anyone in Taiwan believes that China has any intention of living up to its One Country, Two Systems promise, so it is a problem," he said on the recent Hong Kong crisis after China imposed the national security law, while adding that the United States would continue to conduct arms sales to Taiwan and FONOPs in the Taiwan Strait.