U.S. Offers Advanced Fighter Jets to India amid Border Tensions with China

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 14: A RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) F/A-18F Super Hornet conducts a 'show of force' as part of Exercise Nigrum Pugio on October 14, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. Exercise Nigrum Pugio 20-2 is a biannual, joint live fire exercise which enables the Australian Army’s Joint Terminal …
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The United States offered advanced F-18 naval fighter jets to India during Tuesday’s “2+2” meeting in Hyderabad between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and their Indian counterparts.

India and America signed a major defense agreement at the meeting. Pompeo said the agreement reflected that the governments and people of America and India “see with increasing clarity” that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 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.”

“The United States will stand with the people of India as they confront threats to their sovereignty and their liberty,” Pompeo said.

“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 added.

Indian government sources said on Wednesday the U.S. offered F-18 naval fighter aircraft to the Indian navy at the 2+2 meeting. 

India has long desired F-18s, Sea Guardian unmanned aerial vehicles, and other systems interoperable with the equipment used by American and allied forces, as well as the American aircraft it already uses for transport and reconnaissance. India has considered the latest generation of French-built Rafale fighters and Eurofighter Typhoons as alternatives if it cannot obtain F-18s.

India’s first indigenously-built aircraft carrier, the Vikrant, is currently undergoing sea trials. The Vikrant will be capable of carrying 26 fighter jets. The Indian navy has one operational carrier, the Vikramaditya, which it purchased from Russia in a deal that went about 600 percent over budget. Another indigenously-built carrier is in the planning stages. 

Rafale and F-18 fighters have both demonstrated the capability to take off and land on the Vikramaditya. The F-18 was recently equipped with a new missile dubbed the “StormBreaker” that can hit targets at long range during bad weather conditions.

China once again objected on Wednesday to U.S. involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, insisting that “border affairs between China and India are matters between the two countries.”

“Now the situation across the border is generally stable and the two sides are in resolving relevant issues through consultations and negotiations,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. 

The Chinese embassy in India issued a statement on Wednesday attacking Pompeo and demanding U.S. officials stop hyping the “China threat.”

“The repeated lies of people like U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, and their attacks and criticism against China … sow discord between China and regional countries, and has once again proven its cold war mentality and ideological bias. The Chinese side expresses its resolute opposition to that,” the embassy said.

The embassy claimed American strategy for the Indo-Pacific region will exacerbate “geopolitical rivalry” while “preserving the leading status of the U.S. and creating a closed ideological ‘small circle’ to exclude others.”

“China and India have the wisdom and ability to resolve our differences and don’t need the intervention from any third party,” the Chinese statement insisted.

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