By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI, India (AA) – After signing a key defense agreement with India, the visiting US secretary of state on Tuesday said the US and India are better aligned to protect “our democracies and shared values."
Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper in New Delhi.
Earlier, India and the US signed a landmark defense pact, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, which will allow the two militaries to "share geospatial information, high-end military technology and classified satellite data helpful for defense-related issues."
In a joint statement, Pompeo said: “Our leaders and citizens see with increasing clarity that the Chinese Communist Party is no friend to democracy, rule of law, transparency.”
"I am glad to say India and the US are taking all steps to strengthen cooperation against all threats," he said.
The agreement comes at a time when India is locked in a tense standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
Esper said "the India-US partnership is more important than ever to ensure security, stability and prosperity of the region and the world."
“Based on our shared values and common interests, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, particularly in light of increasing aggression and destabilizing activities by China,” he said.
Singh said bilateral cooperation is progressing well, and the two-day meeting also explored probable capacity building and other joint cooperation activities.
"We also agreed that upholding rules-based international order respecting rule of law and freedom of navigation in the international sea and territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states are essential," he said.
Singh and Esper held talks over a range of issues. Pompeo and Esper also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The US officials arrived in India on Monday on a two-day visit, just a week before the US presidential election.
In an immediate reaction to the deal, Pakistan said: "India’s massive acquisition of armaments and expansion of its nuclear forces, including introduction of new destabilizing weapon systems, are developments with serious repercussions for peace and stability in South Asia."
"Pakistan has been consistently highlighting the threats posed to strategic stability in South Asia as a result of provision of advanced military hardware, technologies and knowledge to India," Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement.
*Islamuddin Sajid contributed to this story from Islamabad, Pakistan