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India standing up to a bully in a very determined fashion: Defence Secretary on China

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Giridhar Aramane speaking at the INDUS X meeting held in New Delhi. U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. John Aquilino is also in the picture.
| Photo Credit: Dinakar Peri

Stating that the possibility that India “may encounter” a similar situation as the 2020 standoff with China, is “keeping us active all the time”, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane said on Wednesday that “we are standing against a bully in a very determined fashion.”

Acknowledging the quick intelligence support from the U.S., he said the “strong resolve that we support each other in the face of a common threat is going to be of critical importance to us.”

“India is giving a face-off to our (northern) neighbour in almost all the fronts we have with them. Wherever there is a mountain pass, we are stationed there to face the eventuality. Wherever there is a road, we have to be ready there. So that way we are there, we are standing against a bully in a very determined fashion. And we expect that our friend, the U.S., will be there with us in case we need their support,” Mr. Aramane said. He was speaking at the second India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) summit along with U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. John Aquilino.

“It’s a must for us, we have to do it whether we can or we can’t, we have to do that. We greatly appreciate the support and the resolve from our friends in supporting us in such an event, basically the information, intelligence and any support by way of equipment will be of great use to us,” Mr. Aramane said.

Talking of the 2020 stand-off in eastern Ladakh, he said the one thing that helped India very quickly was the “intelligence, the situation awareness, which the U.S. equipment and the U.S. government could help us with.”

In this regard, Mr. Aramane said India has utilised intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in recent conflicts on the northern borders. To address the common threats, interoperability was very important, he stressed, a point also reiterated by Adm Aqualino.

“The Indo-Pacific, especially in the Indian Ocean Region, where we have an emerging threat from an emerging power… it is essential that we have greater collaboration in underwater domain awareness. It’s going to be crucial to ensure that this part of the region will remain safe and secure for trade, commerce and prosperity,” the Defence Secretary stated.

“Today, we are witnessing a pivotal moment in the history of the Indo-Pacific region. The Indo-Pacific, with its vast expanse of oceans and strategic waterways, stands as the crossroad of global commerce, geopolitics, and security. In navigating the complex dynamics of this region, India and the United States find themselves as key stakeholders, bound by shared values and common interests,” he said.

Information sharing

In his remarks, Adm Aqualino noted that despite having problems with its economy, China was not diverting any money from defence. He stressed on information exchange and interoperability in facing the challenge from China.

Since the 2020 stand-off in eastern Ladakh, over one lakh soldiers continue to be deployed along the Line of Actual Control in the area while the two sides have held 21 rounds of senior military commander level talks for disengagement and de-escalation, the latest round on Monday.

INDUS-X was launched in June 2023 during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.S. to expand a strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between governments, businesses, and academic institutions of India and the U.S. Two defence innovation challenges related to the maritime domain were launched under INDUS-X last year — underwater communications for the Indian Navy and oil spill detection for the Coast Guard.

The winners for the two challenges were announced at the summit. For the undersea communication challenge, the winners were AlKairos, Airbotix and Sea Gal Technologies.

The winners for the oil spill detection challenge were SAR Space Pvt Ltd and Zeus Numerix Pvt Ltd; and Pixxel Space along with PIERSIGHT.

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