During a press conference Tuesday in the Indian capital, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh announced the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), enabling greater information-sharing and further defense cooperation between the two countries.
“The defense ties between our two nations remains a key pillar of our overall bilateral relationship,” said Esper. “Based on our shared values and common interests, we stand shoulder to shoulder in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, particularly in light of increasing aggression and destabilizing activities by China.”
The agreement, said Singh furthered the two sides ongoing commitment to the “law and freedom of navigation in the international seas” while “upholding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.”
Speaking to reporters after that meeting, a senior State Department official said that “there’s no avoiding the fact that it’s China and its actions in the region that make the Quad actually matter and function this time around.”
The official said a “sudden turn toward gross aggression by the Chinese government in its entire periphery” had alarmed Beijing’s regional neighbors, and pointed in particular to ongoing tensions between India and China over their shared border in the Himalayas.
Speaking in Delhi on Tuesday, Pompeo said that the Chinese Communist Party was no “friend to democracy, to the rule of law, transparency nor to freedom of navigation — the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
He added that “big things are happening as our democracies align” and said ties between US and India are growing day by day.
The signing of the BECA agreement, as indicated in the joint statement from the defense chiefs, would likely give New Delhi access to US geo-spatial intelligence, potentially improving the accuracy of Indian weapons systems along the frontier.
That attempt at deescalation has not stopped Chinese state media continuing to rail against India, however.
“Border skirmishes with China may prompt India to draw closer to the US side so as to gain more leverage in its negotiations with China. But, blindly following the US’ lead will only push it closer to a head-on conflict with China, which would not be in its interests,” it added.
“Quad members need to realize that attempting to stir up rivalry in the region goes against the trend of the times and will definitely not be accepted by major countries worldwide,” Xinhua said. “Some countries’ attempts to advocate a Cold War mentality and create chaos in the region will only shoot themselves in the foot.”
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Swati Gupta contributed to this report.