WASHINGTON: The United States had extended essential security related assistance to New Delhi during India's border clashes with Chinese troops two years ago.

The US "did rapidly provide certain intelligence and capabilities" to the Indian government during its June 2020 border conflict with China, a senior Pentagon official revealed here.

During a hearing on the ‘National Security Challenges’ held by the US House Armed Services Committee, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Dr Ely Ratner told lawmakers that in the last several years, whenever the Indian government faced "aggression from China on the Line of Actual Control," the US rapidly provided "certain capabilities and intelligence," and that in the context of trying to improve trust and the nature of defence relationship with India. He also said that the US will come to India’s defence in case of a crisis.

Calling the security-related cooperation with India as a "defining moment" between the two countries, Dr Ratner said that the US-India defence relationship was one with incredible momentum.

"We are going to hold our highest, most senior level engagement with them [India] in early April. and that meeting will discuss a number of activities that not only are unprecedented but are kind of things that would have been unimaginable ten years ago - even five years ago," he said, adding that there were challenges with the relationship with India but those challenges were manageable and the two sides were moving forward very rapidly in deepening partnership."

Given the American support to India, a handful of members of the committee from both sides of the isle questioned New Delhi's stance on Russia's actions against Ukraine at the United Nations. The Modi government abstained from condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine. When questioned on India's dubious loyalty, the US defence official maintained that the US has been engaged with the Indian leadership about the issue.

He said that the US has been in a deep strategic conversation with India about the future of its partnership. "We recognise that India has a complicated in relationship with Russia - that majority of their weapons they have are from the Russians," Dr Ratner said, adding that India now was in a multi-year process of diversifying its arms purchases away from Russia. He further said that the US should also support India in increasing indigenisation of its defence industry.

Answering another related question, the assistant secretary maintained that India was an absolute essential partner as the US think about its Indo-Pacific strategy. "We are looking for them to purchase more US systems, more European systems and develop their own indigenous capabilities as well. And the trends are moving in the right direction," he said.