India is an increasingly important partner in rapidly changing international dynamics. Austin said I reiterate our commitment to a comprehensive, forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar of our approach to the Indo-Pacific region.
Austin is making the first visit to India by a senior member of President Joe Biden’s administration. His visit comes on the heels of a meeting last week between the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, which together make up the four countries located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans known as the Quartet.
The Quartet is seen as a counterweight to China, which critics say is displaying its military might in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and along its northern border with India.
China described the Quartet as an attempt to contain its ambitions.
Singh, Austin’s Indian counterpart, said the talks focused on “expanding military engagement between the two sides.”
“We are determined to realize the full potential of the comprehensive global strategic partnership,” Singh said.
Austin arrived in New Delhi on Friday and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Duval.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi made clear his “vision of the strategic partnership between the two countries and stressed the important role of bilateral defense cooperation in Indian-American relations.”
Prior to the talks on Saturday, Austin visited the National War Memorial and was awarded a guard of honor.
The timing of Austin’s visit, which comes after talks between senior US and Chinese officials in Alaska amid a bitter exchange of words, indicates the importance Biden attaches to New Delhi as a security ally.
The United States and India have steadily strengthened their military relationship in recent years, signing a series of defense deals and deepening military cooperation. In 2019, the two sides struck more than $ 3 billion in defense deals. Bilateral defense trade increased from nearly zero in 2008 to $ 15 billion in 2019.
The security partnership between the United States and India enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington, and has grown significantly since the early 2000s although trade agreements have been a sticking point. But in recent years, interstate relations have been driven by a convergence of interests to counter China.
Recently, India approached the United States after the months-long military confrontation with China along their disputed border in East Ladakh, where deadly clashes erupted last year. Tensions between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants eased after the two countries withdrew their forces from the same conflict zone.
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