India Is An Important Partner In Rapidly Shifting International Dynamics, Says US Defense Secretary After Talks With Indian Officials

India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said India has reaffirmed its resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, which is in line with the Narendra Modi government’s ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) policy.

The United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, following his meeting with Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh last week, said India is an important ally in the rapidly shifting international dynamics and his visit to New Delhi conveys the Joe Biden administration’s “strong commitment towards their partners in the region”.

“India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics. And I reaffirmed our commitment to a comprehensive and forward-looking defence partnership with India as a central pillar of our approach to the region. As the world faces a global pandemic and growing challenges to an open and stable international system, the US-India relationship is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Austin added.

The US Defence Secretary had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday and conveyed Washington’s “strong desire” to further enhance the strategic partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

“India stands for freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and adherence to international law. This is a resounding affirmation of our shared vision for regional security in the Indo-Pacific. And it’s clear that the importance of this partnership, and its impact to the international rules-based order will only grow in the years ahead. Our work today is grounded in our shared values and converging strategic interests. We discussed opportunities to elevate the US-India Major Defense Partnership, which is a priority of the Biden-Harris administration… through regional security cooperation, military-to-military interactions, and defence trade. In addition, we are continuing to advance new areas of collaboration, including information-sharing, logistics cooperation, artificial intelligence, and cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber sectors,” Austin said.

Giving out details regarding the meeting, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in his statement, said a range of issues was discussed with a focus on “enhancing defence information sharing, cooperation in emerging domains of defence, mutual logistics support, and expanding military to military engagements across services.

“We are determined to expand India-US cooperation from bilateral and multilateral exercises to developing closer bilateral linkages. We intend to pursue enhanced cooperation between the Indian military and US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Command. We also plan to optimize the LEMOA, COMCASA and BECA Agreements and achieve their full potential to contribute to our security and prosperity,” Rajnath added.

With China looking to expand its influence over the region, both Austin and Rajnath said they will be engaging with “like-minded partners”.

The meet comes barely a week after the first Quad summit that was attended by Prime Minister Modi, US President Biden, Japense Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian PM Scott Morrison.

Elaborating on this, Austin said, “We discussed engagement with like-minded partners through multilateral groupings such as the Quad and ASEAN. As the Indo-Pacific region faces acute transnational challenges, such as climate change, and challenges to a free and open regional order, cooperation among like-minded countries is imperative to securing our shared vision for the future. Despite today’s challenging security environment, the partnership between the United States and India, the world’s two largest democracies, remains resilient and strong.”

Rajnath, too, while speaking about the Quad, said, “The summit has emphasized our resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Today, we reaffirmed that closer India-US cooperation in partnership with countries keen to uphold rules-based order, can promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. This is also in line with India’s ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) policy.”

Rajnath also appreciated the participation of the US in Aero India 2021 and expressed hope that “American manufacturers will take advantage of India’s liberalized foreign direct investment policies in the defense sector”.

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