Smith also said the two sides had informal exchanges on the margins of the Raisina Dialogue in early March this year. She, however, ruled out an invite to India for the Nato ministerial in Brussels next week saying the alliance would first like to know more about India’s interest in engaging the alliance ‘more broadly’.
The Indian government had said last year that it had been in touch with Nato as a part of its initiative to engage with various stakeholders on global issues of mutual interests. The informal meeting in March this year though was possibly the first on Indian soil and came in the middle of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Unlike the treaty allies of the US like Japan, South Korea and Australia, India has reservations about working with Nato but realises perhaps there’s potential to work with the organisation without getting involved in any military cooperation. Smith said that NATO didn’t in the past have a particularly rich agenda with countries in the Indo-Pacific but in recent years the alliance had started to mention the Indo-Pacific in some of its strategic documents and also recognised the importance of focusing on China as a systemic challenge.
“There has been just some informal exchanges between Nato officials and Indian representatives on the margins of the Raisina Dialogue and it has certainly opened up the conversation a little bit. But certainly, the Nato alliance is open to more engagement should India seek that,” said Smith.
PM Modi, President Biden discussed strategic tech ties on the sidelines of Air India-Boeing deal
“Nato is more than happy to engage in other ways and other forms as the opportunities present themselves. I think there’s certainly a willingness here to sit down at any time should India desire to do so,” added Smith.
Smith, however, ruled out any expansion of Nato – which has been working closely with countries like Japan, Australia and South Korea and New Zealand in the Indo-Pacific – to include India. “We haven’t considered membership for anyone in the Indo-Pacific. Nato remains a Euro-Atlantic military alliance and there’s no plan to expand it into a broader, global alliance,” said Smith.
Smith also thanked India for the humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and for the call for an immediate end to the war in Ukraine. She also said Idia and the US were in constant touch about what the 2 countries could do more to hold Russia accountable. “We may not share the same policy approaches but we do share the commitment to uphold the rules-based order, UN Charter and sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said.
On concerns in India about Russia’s growing proximity with China, Smith admitted that their relationship had evolved and deepened, and that the US had been disheartened by China’s political support to Russia. She said the US had been very clear in warning China about the risks of providing any sort of material support to Russia in its war against Ukraine but added there was no indication so far of Russia using tactical nukes in Ukraine.