Pompeo in India on first leg of Asia trip over China ‘threats’

US secretary of state on five-day Asia trip aimed at strengthening strategic ties in the face of growing Chinese influence in the region.

Pompeo and US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster greet each other at New Delhi airport [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has landed in India, the first leg of a five-day Asia trip aimed at strengthening strategic ties in the face of growing Chinese influence in the region.

Pompeo is due to meet India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar later on Monday.

On Tuesday, he and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will hold a joint summit with Jaishankar and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Later that day, Pompeo and Esper will call on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to a draft itinerary of the trip released by India’s foreign ministry.

The trip is part of the latest US effort to bolster allies against an increasingly assertive China, which has been making political and military inroads across Asia, analysts said.

Ahead of the trip, Pompeo said his meetings would “include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”.

The world’s two biggest democracies are expected to sign an agreement on sharing geospatial intelligence, paving the way for the US to ship sophisticated missile technology, officials said.

‘Tighter military embrace’

Esper will also be discussing ways to increase cooperation between the two countries’ military forces. This could include intelligence sharing, stepping up joint exercises, and arms sales – including possibly US F-18 fighter jets.

India is locked in a military standoff with China on their contested Himalayan border and has reportedly sought cold-weather equipment from the US as the border showdown between the two Asian giants goes into the freezing winter.

Defence analyst Pravin Sawhney told Al Jazeera that Pompeo’s visit will bring India into a “tighter military embrace of the US”.

“It amounts to India becoming a de facto military ally of the US without any reciprocal US responsibility in Indian wars,” he said.

“India gets to show US strategic support to China at a time when the two nations are locked in military standoff in eastern Ladakh.”

Pompeo is due to travel to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, two Indian Ocean countries where China has financed and built various infrastructure, to the alarm of India and the US.

He will end his trip, which comes in the final week before the US presidential election, in Indonesia, one of several Southeast Asian countries wary of growing Chinese activities in the disputed South China Sea.

Bilal Kuchay contributed to this report.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies