By SHEIKH SAALIQ, associated Press
New Delhi (AP) – Top defense officials of India and the US on Saturday resolved to expand their military engagement, underscoring the strong defense ties between the two countries related to China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh met in New Delhi and agreed to deepen defense cooperation, intelligence sharing and logistics.
“India is an important partner in rapidly changing international mobility. I reaffirm our commitment to a broad-based defense partnership with India as a central pillar of our vision for the Indo-Pacific region.
Austin is making his first visit to India by a top member of President Joe Biden’s administration. His visit came after a meeting held last week between leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, together with four Indo-Pacific countries known as the Quad.
The outpost is seen as a retaliation for China, which critics say is flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea, East China Sea, the Strait of Taiwan and its northern border with India.
China has called the quad an attempt to keep its ambitions.
Austin’s Indian counterpart, Singh, said the talks focused on “expanding military-to-military engagement”.
“We are determined to realize the full potential of a comprehensive global strategic partnership,” Singh said.
Austin arrived in New Delhi on Friday and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi “outlined his vision for a strategic partnership between the two countries and emphasized the important role of bilateral defense cooperation in Indo-US relations.”
Prior to the talks on Saturday, Austin visited the National War Memorial and was honored for a ceremonial honors ceremony.
Austin’s visit time, which amidst bitter exchanges of words following talks between high-ranking American and Chinese officials in Alaska, indicates Biden places importance on New Delhi as a security aide.
The US and India have steadily increased their military ties in recent years and signed a string of defense deals and deepened military cooperation. In 2019, both sides concluded defense deals worth more than $ 3 billion. Bilateral defense trade increased from near zero in 2008 to $ 15 billion in 2019.
The US – India security partnership has strong bipartisan support in Washington, and has grown significantly since the early 2000s, although trade agreements have been an important point. But in recent years relations between countries have been driven by a convergence of interests to counter China.
Recently, India along with its disputed border in eastern Ladakh came close to the US after months of ongoing military deadlock with China, where a deadly conflict took place last year. The two countries have pulled back troops from an area of dispute following tensions between Asian veterans armed with nuclear weapons.
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