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US signs satellite data-sharing pact with India, warns of Chinese threats

US signs satellite data-sharing pact with India, warns of Chinese threats
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The United States and India signed an agreement on Tuesday to share sensitive satellite and map data, bolstering ties between the two countries amid rising tensions with China.

“I’m glad to say that the United States and India are taking steps to strengthen our cooperation against all manner of threats,” said Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE, who is in India with Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition Brennan takes final shot at Trump: 'I leave his fate to our judicial system, his infamy to history, & his legacy to a trash heap' MORE for talks with their Indian counterparts.

“Our leaders, and our citizens, see with increasing clarity that the [Chinese Communist Party] is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation, the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” he added.

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Pompeo and Esper are in New Delhi for annual security talks meant to counter Chinese influence in the region and to sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement.

The agreement will give India access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical intelligence that is necessary for targeting missiles and armed drones.

It will also allow for the sharing of sensitive information and communications, a move that proponents argue will lead to better use of billions of dollars in weapons that U.S. companies have sold to India in the past decade.

Esper added that Washington plans to sell more fighter aircraft and drones to India.

Beijing criticized the move, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying on Tuesday that Pompeo should “abandon his Cold War mentality, zero-sum mindset, and stop harping on the ‘China threat.’”

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The meeting in New Delhi comes as India and China are engaged in a military standoff over the disputed Himalayan border. A clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in June led to at least 20 casualties in the contested region, the first deadly incident between New Delhi and Beijing at the border in decades.

U.S.-China relations have also deteriorated in recent months, due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing's aggression in the South China Sea.

Following talks on Tuesday with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, Esper told reporters that the new military pact was a “significant milestone” between the countries.

“The defense ties between our two nations remain a key pillar of our overall bilateral relationship based on our shared values and common interests. We stand shoulder to shoulder in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all. Particularly in light of increasing aggression and destabilizing activities by China,” Esper said.