Pompeo in India on first leg of Asia trip to bolster allies against assertive China

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

Pompeo was met at New Delhi airport by US Ambassador Kenneth Juster, according to a pool report.

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Joined by Defense Secretary Mark Esper for the two-day visit, Pompeo will hold top-level talks following a spike in tensions between India and China since a deadly border clash in June.

Pompeo is due to meet India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Monday evening, before he and Esper hold a joint summit with Jaishankar and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday.

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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 say.

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 United States.

India is locked in a military standoff with China on their contested Himalayan border.

India has sought US cold weather equipment as the showdown goes into the freezing Himalayan winter and officials said this could be raised when Pompeo and Esper meet Jaishankar and Singh.

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

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.

Pompeo will go on from India to Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia, all of which have a key role in Indian Ocean maritime traffic where China has cast a greater shadow.
The secretary of state said ahead of the trip that his meetings would “include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Pompeo 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.

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