China today made some matter-of-fact comments on the in-principle Indo-US logistics exchange agreement but the issue may figure during Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit here next week.
“We have noted relevant reports on US Defence Secretary Ash Carter’s visit to India,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters when asked about the agreement that enables militaries of India and the US to use each other’s assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.
“India is also an influential country in the world, and India has been upholding independent diplomatic policy. India will make up its diplomatic policies based on its own interests,” Lu said.
Significantly, Lu’s reference to Parrikar’s visit to China from April 18 was seen as a hint that Beijing might raise the issue with him. The two-day visit is yet to be officially announced by either side.
“India’s defence minister will visit China very soon,” the spokesperson said.
India and the US yesterday agreed “in principle” to a series of initiatives, including the logistics exchange agreement, which they hope will strengthen military ties.
Parrikar and Carter, however, made it clear that the agreement, which will be signed in “weeks” or “coming months”, does not entail deployment of American troops on Indian soil.
The two countries also agreed to set up a new bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue between officials from their respective defence and foreign affairs ministries.
This came as India and the US emphasised on freedom of navigation and need for international based order, apparently in reference to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
In a joint statement after their meet, Parrikar and Carter expressed their support for a rules-based order and regional security architecture conducive to peace and prosperity in Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
China, which has the world’s largest 2.3-million-strong army, has been increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean, traditionally India’s backyard, concerning New Delhi.
In its dispatch from New Delhi, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the agreement “will give India and US armed forces access to each other’s bases, and both the countries have been harping on it for nearly a decade.”
Quoting Carter it also said that both the countries would soon ink another agreement on sharing of information on commercial shipping, which is going to bolster security on the seas.