In the first such public remarks by a senior official of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) grouping, Julianne Smith, the United States Permanent Representative to NATO has said that the alliance is “open to more engagement” with India. In a press briefing with journalists, Smith confirmed that “informal exchanges” have taken place between some NATO and Indian officials on the sidelines of the annual Raisina Dialogue in Delhi.
“There have been some exchanges on the margins of the Raisina Dialogue, which is a start and has opened up the conversation a little bit,” Smith said. She explained, “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.”
NATO currently has 40 different partners around the world. The NATO foreign ministerial meeting will take place in Brussels from April 4-5, and it has invited Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan to attend it. The four countries of the Indo Pacific region have formal partnerships with the mega alliance.
Asked about an invitation to India to attend these meetings and become a member of the grouping, Julianne Smith said, “In terms of the future with India, again, I think NATO’s door is open in terms of engagement. Should India be interested, but we would not want to, at this stage, invite them to a NATO ministerial, until we knew more about their interest in engaging the Alliance more broadly.”
Smith also acknowledged that India plays a crucial role in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
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The remarks come at a time when major geopolitical changes have been seen in Europe and Indo-Pacific region amid the Russia Ukraine conflict and Chinese aggressive actions from Asean to India. Moscow has blamed the current Ukraine conflict on expansion of NATO, something that has been dismissed by the member countries of the alliance.
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