United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said Washington and India must work together to counter the threat posed by China to security and freedom, The Times of India reported. Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper arrived in New Delhi on Monday for the third edition of the 2+2 ministerial dialogue to boost defence and security ties.

“There is much more work to do for sure,” Pompeo said during talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. “We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region.”

Both Pompeo and Esper also held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Tuesday to discuss challenges of strategic importance for the two countries.

The US secretary of state also said there is lot of work to be done. “Today is real opportunity for two great democracies like ours to grow closer, as I said on my trip to India last year when I called for a new age of ambition in our relation,” he added. “I think we’ve delivered on that over the past year.”

Esper also stressed on the threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region. “Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” he said.

Both United States and India also signed a military agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation, or BECA, which will give New Delhi access to advanced American satellite and map data for better accuracy of its missiles and drones.

BECA is the last of the foundational agreements to be signed by India and the US. The two sides have been sharing real-time intelligence under the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, which was signed in 2018. They also signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002, and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.

Meanwhile, Jaishankar said that over last two decades, the bilateral relationship between India and US has grown steadily in its substance, facets and significance, ANI reported.

“Accompanying comfort levels today enable us to engage much more intensively on matters of national security. At a time when it is particularly important to uphold a rules-based international order, ability of India and US to work closely in defence and foreign policy has a larger resonance. Together, we can make a real difference when it comes to regional and global challenges.” 

— S Jaishankar

The comments and agreements come amid heightened tensions with China. Earlier this month, Pompeo had said that the “quad” alliance comprising of India, US, Japan and Australia could be a “fabric” to counter Chinese threat. “Once we’ve institutionalised what we’re doing – the four of us together – we can begin to build out a true security framework,” Pompeo had told Nikkei Asia ahead of the Second Quad Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo.

In June, Pompeo had called on India and said the border clashes initiated by the Chinese military against India in Ladakh were the latest example of the “unacceptable behaviour” of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

On October 19, India invited Australia to join high-level Malabar naval exercises it holds each year with the United States and Japan, dismissing Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

Military heads of India and China have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15. However, these talks have failed to break the impasse.