New Delhi, Apr 13 (EFE).- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday urged India to collaborate with the bloc to counter China’s military expansion, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, which has become increasingly important for the United States.
“We must be clear headed about the challenges that comes with China’s rise. China is matching its military power to its economic power. It has tripled its military expenditure over the last decade,” Stoltenberg said in a video-conference during the Raisina Dialog, an annual political and economic forum organized by the Indian government in New Delhi.
The secretary-general hit out at Beijing’s “assertive moves” to challenge “rules-based international order” and persecution of “ethnic and religious minorities such as Uighurs,” the suppression of human rights in Hong Kong and the use of “new and advanced technologies to monitor and control its own people.”
Warning of a security threat for its members from China, Stoltenberg hailed the “real potential” of stepping up dialog with India.
The leader said that NATO and India could work together in different ways even without direct military cooperation such as military operations and missions.
Ties between India and China have hit a historical low due to their border conflict along the Himalaya, with the two countries witnessing their worst clash in June 2020, in which at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed.
In recent years, New Delhi has strengthened ties with counties such as the US, which increasingly sees India as a key ally against China’s expansionist goals in the region.
In this regard, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had in March stressed the strength of the bilateral defense ties.
Austin became the first high-ranking US official to visit India since President Joe Biden assumed office, and his visit came a week after the first-ever visit of the leaders of the “quad,” an alliance between the US, India, Japan and Australia established in 2007 to counter China’s military rise.
India has also boosted ties with other NATO members such as France, which took part in a naval exercise earlier this month along with India, the US, Japan and Australia in the Bay of Bengal.
Historically, India had kept its distance from the NATO as part of its policy of non-alignment during the Cold War, and even now New Delhi maintains important defense ties with Russia, one of its largest weapons supplier.
Probably keeping this in mind, Stoltenberg made only a passing reference to Moscow, claiming that China and Russia were “to some extent working together to undermine the rules based order, which has served us well for so many decades.” EFE