In a latest, India got an important message from the United States that it will continue to support India with equipment and other things it needs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, a top American admiral has told lawmakers, asserting that Washington and New Delhi share a ‘tremendous partnership’.

In the backdrop of the current crisis in Ukraine and India’s stand, the US Admiral’s remarks assume huge importance as India and China on Friday held another round of military dialogue to resolve the 22-month-long standoff in certain remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on ‘Military Posture in the Indo-Pacific Region’ this week, Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said that the military-to-military relationship between the two countries is probably at its highest point.

“The Malabar exercise with Japan, Australia, the United States, and India is critical. Increased mini lateral and multilateral engagements with the Indians, and ultimately continue to sell them equipment so we can be more interoperable and more effective together in the military sphere,” he said.

On Wednesday, Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told members of the House Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on the Indo-Pacific region that he perceives the US-India defence relationship as one with ‘incredible momentum’.

How seriously should India take the US statement in view of US failure in helping and protecting Ukraine against Russian attack? India fully understands it cannot depend on any foreign power in the matter of its security and it has to deal at its own strength.

The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.

China has always taken India and its other neighbour for granted and always demonstrated its hegemonic conduct when it comes to the land and sea territorial issues with its neighbours. Emboldened by its conduct and docile response of India in the past, the Chinese transgression in April-May 2020 unilaterally disturbed the status quo of the Line of Actual Control and resulted in a major physical clash between the Indian and Chinese troops.

The Chinese got a bloody nose and were surprised by the Indian response both in intensity and speed of build-up of forces to deny any further gains.

Secondly, the Indian Army’s counterstroke to dominate the Kailash range in August 2020 operationally dislocated China both physically and psychologically. It put them at a disadvantageous position particularly in the Pangong Tso sector and their global military image got a dent.

The stand-off over LAC in Ladakh is deliberately being dragged too long by China itself with rigidity while shrewdly manoeuvring the consolidation strategically and militarily while engaging India in the unproductive talks round after round.

Possibly, we had underestimated the intent and magnitude of the threat on the northern border. This could be because of our primary focus on the western border against Pakistan and counter-terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. India always tried to keep Beijing in a good mood by keeping a low profile toward it.

What clearly emerged by the end of 2020 was the realisation by both sides that war was not the solution, yet there were flashpoints which could flare up. Hence there was a need to de-escalate. It could only happen by strong and matching responses to China.

There was partial de-escalation in February 2021 after several rounds of diplomatic and military talks. Both sides pulled up on their sides of the perception and a buffer zone was created in North Pangong Tso and Galwan. Further de-escalation had to be done so that it could be a face-saving exercise at both ends — and that was a challenge.