The North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) is keen to engage more with India provided New Delhi is interested, the US permanent representative to the military alliance, Julianne Smith, said on Friday while confirming informal contact between the two sides.
She was responding to questions during a virtual briefing where she was repeatedly asked if Nato was interested in having a more robust engagement with India.
Confirming informal contact with India at the Raisina Dialogue, organised by the Observer Research Foundation under the aegis of the external affairs ministry, Smith described this as a start.
“But certainly, the Nato alliance is open to more engagement should India seek that. Nato currently has 40 different partners around the world, and each individual partnership is different.
Various countries come through the door seeking different levels of political engagement or sometimes countries are much more interested in working on, say, interoperability or standardisation questions. So they vary.
“But I think the message that has already been sent back to India is that the Nato alliance certainly is open to more engagement with India should that country take an interest in pursuing that,’’ Smith said in response to a question.
Asked if the US would want India to be a member of Nato, the ambassador clarified: “No, membership is not something that we’ve really considered with anyone in the Indo-Pacific or the Asia Pacific.’’
Earlier, the ambassador said there has been a shift in the manner Nato engages with its partners in the Indo-Pacific.
“If you go back... say five, six, seven years, you would find an alliance that didn’t necessarily have a particularly rich agenda with the countries in the Indo-Pacific. But in recent years, what Nato has started to do is to include mention of the Asia Pacific and the Indo-Pacific first and foremost in some of its strategic documents.
“And so there I would cite Nato’s Strategic Concept, which was rolled out last summer at the Madrid Summit, and many of you know this is the first time that the alliance acknowledges the importance of focusing on the PRC (People’s Republic of China) as a systemic challenge for the alliance, and why it’s important for Nato allies to enhance and deepen its relationship across the board with partners in the region – and Nato has done just that.’’