Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 23
The situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) will be discussed during the simultaneous visit to India next week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, said senior state department officials at a media briefing late on Thursday.
“We’re watching the situation closely. I think both sides have expressed a desire to de-escalate violence, ”he added. The two sides are in the process of finalizing several agreements with a military pact called Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geo-spatial cooperation also in the works.
Officials said instead of talking of countering China, the US would prefer to frame a discussion in a more positive trajectory with the end goal to “empower these countries to push back”.
Like the MEA here, US diplomats sought to convey the impression that the diplomatic calendar has its own dynamics.
Pompeo and Esper, possibly accompanied by their spouses, will hold a series of meetings in Delhi. They will call on PM Narendra Modi and NSA Ajit Doval, separately meet their counterparts and hold the 2 + 2 meeting that is “reserved for our closest friends and partners”, said Dean Thompson, State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs. “LAC tensions will figure at some point during these meetings,” he elaborated.
Pompeo will carry on to Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia in a bridge building exercise with Asian countries sitting astride key shipping lanes.
The focus areas of the Pompeo-Esper visit listed by the US side were similar to those mentioned by the MEA. The US side mentioned global cooperation, challenges in the Indo-Pacific, people-to-people ties and security cooperation as the priority areas.
In case of Sri Lanka, which is close to China, the message from the US will be stark. Colombo will be asked to review “the options we offer in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices” (by China). “We want to partner on sustainable economic development and a free Indo-Pacific,” said Thompson.