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Pompeo, Esper Reinforce U.S.'s Anti-China Message In India

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper are both in India's capital today. They signed military agreements and pushed the Trump administration's anti-China message. NPR's Lauren Frayer has details.

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LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Secretary of State Pompeo and Defense Secretary Esper laid wreaths at a war memorial in New Delhi. Later, Pompeo said he was thinking of the 20 Indian troops killed in a fight with Chinese soldiers this summer on the two countries' Himalayan border. And he used his visit to rail against the Chinese Communist Party or CCP.

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MIKE POMPEO: The CCP is no friend to democracy, the rule of law...

FRAYER: Pompeo and Esper signed a pact with India to share sensitive satellite data often used to steer missiles and drones.

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POMPEO: Big things are happening, as our democracies align, to better protect the citizens of our two countries and indeed of the free world.

FRAYER: The U.S. has long seen India as a bulwark against China, and the Trump administration has pushed India to buy more U.S. weapons. But there was an awkward moment when India's defense secretary was asked whether he's willing to stop buying Russian weapons.

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RAJNATH SINGH: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "That depends on negotiations," he demurred. Tanvi Madan at the Brookings Institution says it's significant that India hosted Pompeo and Esper while tensions are so high with China after that border crisis this summer.

TANVI MADAN: At another time, India might have declined to do a high-profile visit like this with American officials during a time of crisis in case China was provoked further.

FRAYER: At a press conference, Indian officials did not mention China by name. Pompeo heads next to Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia, where the main topic once again will be China. Lauren Frayer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.