by Tripti Nath in New Delhi;-
Visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary, Stephen E Biegun said in New Delhi that the United States would like to “empower India’s ability to defend its own sovereignty and democracy and to advance Indian interests, across the Indo-Pacific region”
The Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Biegun made a pointed reference to “an elephant in the room: China”’ while dwelling upon emergence of conditions for an organic and deeper partnership and a fundamental alignment across shared security and geopolitical goals, shared interests and shared values.
Speaking at the Ananta Centre India U.S. Virtual Forum, he said that while the United States has increased foreign military sales and intelligence sharing with India, “there is more that we can do, including strengthening India’s ability to defend itself and by promoting interoperability among our militaries through regular exercises and exchanges, common defence platforms, and co-development.”
Mr Biegun painted a very optimistic and future perfect picture of India-U.S. ties regardless of the outcome of the U.S Presidential election in the coming month.
Bringing to the forum unprecedented optimism, he said, “I have never been more optimistic regarding the future possibilities of the India-U.S relationship. Our partnership is now truly comprehensive.”
Biegun’s remarks on the state of India U.S ties are bound to please those who matter- the Indian political leadership and the indispensable and politically active Indian Americans.
He asserted, “ Our deep, historic ties and close collaboration span a number of realms, including defence and security cooperation, mutual law enforcement support, trade and investment ties, energy partnership, scientific and technological collaboration, educational links, strengthening and reforming international organisations and perhaps most critically this past year- unprecedented levels of cooperation to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Biegun concluded his remarks on a super promising note by affirming, “Our two nations are destined for great things. It is up to us to accelerate the momentum.”
He observed that the Quad is a partnership driven by shared interests, not binding obligations, and is not intended to be an exclusive grouping.
It is worth noting that the U.S. Deputy Secretary is devoting equal time to his visit to India and Bangladesh. Biegun is flying out to Dhaka tomorrow. His visit to India, as explained in his remarks at the virtual India-U.S. Forum, is “in advance of, COVID-permitting, Secretary Pompeo as Secretary Esper’s important 2+2 ministerial with Jaishankar and Minister Singh later this year.
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar tweeted: “Pleased to meet US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun. Useful exchange of views on world politics and regional issues. Appreciated the steady progress of our bilateral cooperation. Confident that our Strategic Partnership would continue to deepen.”
Deputy Secretary Biegen also met Fulbright-Nehru exchange program alumni. The U.S embassy acknowledged in a tweet that People-to-people ties are the foundation of the US India relationship.
During his three day visit to Bangladesh, he will meet senior government officers and reaffirm the United States- Bangladesh partnership, according to a media note put out last week by the U.S. Department of State. The note said, “The Deputy Secretary’s engagements in Bangladesh will focus on advancing our common vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region with shared prosperity for all; U.S Bangladesh cooperation on COVID-19 response and recovery efforts; and sustainable economic development.
Dr Rakesh Datta of the Department of Defence and National Security Studies, Punjab University in north India and former member of the National Security Advisory Board, said, “ Well, it is encouraging to read remarks of the U.S. Deputy Secretary Biegun’s comprehensive engagement with India but I think, what is more significant is what we expect from the United States and how the latter will deliver keeping China in view and past practices. The main void is restoring credibility. While the honourable guest hinted at bygone era, both nations still face some uncomfortable legacies. Let’s hope that the Quad forges a new beginning between India and the United States.”
This is how Ms Smruti Patnaik, Research Fellow at the Delhi based Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, looks at Biegen’s visit to Bangladesh. “For the past one decade, the United States and Bangladesh are trying to forge close relationship. Since the two countries have substantial counter terrorism cooperation, Bangladesh has evinced an interest in Indo Pacific. The two countries can think of cooperating on maritime issues and HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief).