US NATO envoy says door open to region
US NATO Ambassador Julianne Smith, while speaking about NATO and strengthening relations with South Asia and the Indo-Pacific, practically said that the Atlantic Treaty Organization Nord was ready to engage further with India if she was interested. The ambassador, however, pointed out that there are currently no plans by the alliance to extend this to a broader global military alliance.
“The NATO alliance is open to more engagement if India wishes. NATO currently has 40 different partners around the world and each individual partnership is different. Various countries come to the door seeking different levels of political commitment, sometimes countries are much more interested in working on interoperability and standardization issues. So they vary. But the message that has already been sent to India is that the alliance of the NATO is certainly open to increased engagement with India, if that country is interested,” Julianne Smith said during a virtual press briefing.
“Membership is not something we have really considered with anyone in the Indo-Pacific or Asia-Pacific. The alliance remains the Euro-Atlantic military alliance. Its door is open to the region. But there are no plans from the alliance to expand this to a broader global military alliance,” she added.
Furthermore, speaking on the meeting of NATO foreign ministers, which will take place on April 4-5, 2023 at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the ambassador said “at this stage, we would not like not invite them (India) to NATO ministerial until we know more about their interest in engaging the alliance more broadly”.
“As for the ministerial meeting next week, 4 countries that I mentioned (Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Japan), are four countries that have already established formal partnerships with the alliance for many years. many years. They have worked closely with the NATO alliance on security challenges. Those relationships continue. We have worked to strengthen those relationships. These are four countries that joined us at last year’s summit in Madrid,” Smith said.
“As for the future with India, I think the NATO door is open in terms of engagement if India is interested. But we would not at this stage want to invite them to the ministerial meeting. from NATO until we know more about their interest in engaging the alliance more broadly,” she added.
Appreciating India’s role in the Russian-Ukrainian war, the envoy said she was grateful for the humanitarian aid India was able to provide to the country and appreciated India’s appeal to the immediate end of the war in Ukraine.
“We in both NATO and the United States salute what India has been able to do for the people of Ukraine. We are very grateful for the humanitarian assistance that India has been able to provide, which is essential in this moment and these needs are only increasing. We certainly appreciate the calls coming from India for some sort of immediate end to the war in Ukraine. This is important. And we have been in constant communication with India on what more we can do together to hold Russia accountable and we have done that and worked with India, talked with India many times since Russia started this war inside the ‘Ukraine,” Smith said.
“The United States and India don’t always share exactly the same policy approaches, but we do share a commitment to upholding the rules-based order and ensuring that key principles, particularly regarding sovereignty and territorial integrity, these principles are respected. I think this is the most important part of our relationship,” she added.
Speaking about the change in NATO, the envoy highlighted how the alliance has started mentioning Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific in some of its strategic documents.
“NATO has really changed in a pretty noticeable way in terms of how it conducts outreach and engages with its partners in the Indo-Pacific. If you go back 5-6 or 7 years in back, you would find an alliance that doesn’t necessarily have a rich agenda with Indo-Pacific countries.Yet in recent years what NATO has started to do is include mention of Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific first in some of its strategic documents,” she said.
“This is the first time the alliance has recognized the importance of focusing on the PRC as a challenge for the alliance and why it is important for NATO allies to strengthen and deepen their relationships with partners in the region and NATO just did. We bring our friends from the Indo-Pacific to NATO headquarters in ministerial summits, what we call the North Atlantic Council, so that we can learn from our partners in terms of their experiences, from challenges to security,” she added.
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