Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned Congress of the threat China poses to the Indo-Pacific in an address to a joint meeting of both houses during his state visit on Thursday.
India has been courted by the United States, across the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations, as an ally in efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party, with the country under Modi’s leadership being inducted by the U.S. into the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a naval security forum also consisting of Japan and Australia. In his speech, Modi told Congress that India has a “vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”
“The dark clouds of coercion and confrontation are casting their shadow in the Indo-Pacific,” Modi said, referring to China. He added that the “stability of the region has become one of the central concerns of our partnership.”
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Modi laid out India’s objectives for the region, which include “all nations, small and large, being free and fearless in their choices, where progress is not suffocated by an impossible burden of debt,” referring to China’s practice of offering countries massive loans to pay for Chinese-run infrastructure investment programs that, when countries are unable to repay, China refinances with conditions on use. The practice has been called “debt-trap diplomacy,” previously.
“Our vision does not seek to contain or exclude,” Modi noted, indicating that China’s growth would not be disrupted if it abided by rules, which Modi laid out as “secure seas, defined by international law, free from domination and anchored in ASEAN.” Modi’s reference to international law refers to China’s claims of the South China Sea beyond territorial limits under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, and its rejection of international legal rulings against it.
“Of this, QUAD has emerged as a major force of good for the region,” he added.
India and the U.S. have increased their partnership significantly in response to China’s emergence as a global power, with India’s longstanding historical rivalry with Beijing being seen by the U.S. as an essential counterweight. India currently disputes China’s claims to two territories – Aksai-Chin in its Northwest and Arunachal Pradesh in its Northeast – and border skirmishes between troops from both countries have often turned violent.
Modi’s speech also discussed defense procurement, with India being a large importer of U.S. military equipment, much of which is intended to serve as a counterweight to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Biden and Modi announced new defense deals at their joint press conference earlier on Thursday.
President Joe Biden is hosting Modi for an official visit lasting five days, which will include a state dinner on Thursday evening. Security policy and China have featured heavily as a theme of the visit, with Modi and Biden being joined for a private dinner with their national security advisors on Thursday night, per a White House Pool report.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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