US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Wednesday spoke to Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to discuss bilateral ties and a broad range of issues including the COVID pandemic and the situation in the strategic Indo-Pacific.
"Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla today," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a readout of the call.
"They discussed a broad range of issues including Russia's concerning military build-up on Ukraine's borders and regional issues," Price said.
The US has warned that Russia, which has amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukrainian borders, could launch an invasion at any point.
Sherman and Shringla agreed to remain closely coordinated on shared goals and priorities and reiterated the importance of a strong US-India partnership to mitigate the COVID-19 Omicron variant's rapid advance, the spokesperson said.
In New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said they reviewed upcoming bilateral engagements and the COVID pandemic, including supply of vaccines and exchanged views on Indo-Pacific, Middle East, UN Security Council and India's neighbourhood.
"FS @harshvshringla had a wide-ranging telecon today with the US @DeputySecState Wendy Sherman. Inter alia reviewed upcoming bilateral engagements and the COVID pandemic, including supply of vaccines, and exchanged views on Indo-Pacific, Middle East, UNSC, India's neighbourhood, etc," he said in a tweet.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.
The Chinese military is also actively eying the strategic Indian Ocean region to step up Beijing influence. China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.
Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
In 2017, India, Australia, Japan and the US gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China's aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.
Sherman travelled to India in October last year on a three-day visit. She held extensive talks with Shringla and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval during which the recent developments in Afghanistan, the need to counter cross-border terrorism and ensure peace and stability in that country, including through implementation of a UN Security Council resolution figured prominently.
According to a US official, her visit to New Delhi was seen as an opportunity for the US to deepen its strategic partnership with India and engage substantively with some of the key interlocutors on pressing regional and global security challenges like the situation in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
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