Stephen Biegun emphasised on a free Indo-Pacific for which he talked about expansion of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

There is an ‘enormous opportunity’ in India and the United States relationship, the US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E Biegun said during the 4th India-US Forum Event hosted by Ananta Centre in New Delhi on Monday. Biegun arrived in India on October 12 on a two day visit ahead of the 2+2 India-US dialogue later this month.

The top US diplomat said that Washington appreciates India’s autonomy saying that both nations have ample opportunities in the sector of security. He said that the US is looking forward to a ‘fundamental alignment’ based on ‘shared interests and shared goals,’ with India.

Biegun said, “In thinking about the future, it is no secret that I see enormous opportunity in the United States' security relationship with India. India has a strong and proud tradition of strategic autonomy, and we respect that.”

Stephen Biegun also met with the External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla during his visit and discussed bilateral ties.

EAM S Jaishankar later shared a photograph with Stephen Biegun on twitter and wrote, “Pleased to meet US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun. Useful exchange of views on world politics and regional issues. Appreciated the steady progress of our bilateral cooperation. Confident that our Strategic partnership would continue to deepen.”

During the 4th India-US Forum Event, Biegun said that the US actually benefits from India which is strong and prosperous. The countries can explore cooperation in an era which is seeing continuous technology advancements, shifts in global economic influence and geopolitics. He said that the US does not want to change India’s ‘traditions’ but wants to empower India's ability to defend its own sovereignty and democracy.

“We want to explore how to empower them and India's ability to defend its own sovereignty and democracy and to advance Indian interests, across the Indo-Pacific region. As the United States assesses our own interests and how they intersect with India's, we have seen the conditions emerge for an organic and deeper partnership - not an alliance on the post-war model, but a fundamental alignment along shared security and geopolitical goals, shared interests, and shared values,” he said.

Stephen Biegun also emphasised upon a free Indo-Pacific. For which, he said, the expansion of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue to other countries as well. Quad comprises India, Japan, the US and Australia.

“Any country that seeks a free and open Indo-Pacific and is willing to take steps to ensure that should be welcome to work with us,” the top diplomat said.

The United States Embassy in India later took to twitter and wrote, “At the India-US Forum, Dep Sec Biegun reinforced the #USIndia Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership and laid out the US vision of a Pax India-Pacifia, made prosperous in equal measure by those who seek to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

He said, to advance in this direction, the countries need to address the ‘elephant in the room,’ China. He said that he agreed with the views of retired Indian diplomat Ashok Kantha that nations have been ‘far too cautious’ of China when it comes to developing relationships.

Stephen Biegun quoted Kantha and said, “I read remarks by the esteemed, retired Indian diplomat Ashok Kantha. I was particularly struck by a comment he made. He said, “Frankly, we have been far too cautious when it comes to developing the Quad or when it comes to developing our own strategic linkages with the United States by asking how China would react.””

Kantha had written, “A relationship with the United States helps in our dealings with China, more so in a situation where the capability gap between India and China is increasing day to day. We have to work with like-minded countries, and that includes the United States, Japan, Australia and many other countries.”

“At the same time, we have to recognize that what we can achieve through the Quad is limited, it’s still a work in progress. So much more effort needs to be put in, to flesh out the idea of the Quad and see how it can become an effective lateral grouping,” he had written.

Biegun’s remarks come ahead of the 2+2 India-US dialogue which will be held between October 26 and October 27. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper will be meeting their counterparts, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh respectively.