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US Defence Secretary calls on PM Modi, conveys his country’s strong desire to boost strategic ties

India is the third stop of Austin's three-nation overseas tour, and the visit is seen as a strong commitment of the Joe Biden administration to its close allies and partners in the region.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
Updated: March 19, 2021 9:32:52 pm
Narendra ModiPrime Minister Narendra Modi meets US Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin in New Delhi on Friday. (Source: Twitter/@narendramodi)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday and expressed his country’s strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership with India for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

During the meeting, Modi outlined his vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries and emphasised the important role of bilateral defence cooperation in Indo-US ties, a PMO statement said, adding that he asked Austin to convey his best wishes to American President Joe Biden.

The Prime Minister welcomed the warm and close relationship between the two countries which is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment to a rules-based order, the statement said.

“Secretary Austin reiterated the US government’s continued commitment towards strengthening the bilateral defence relations between the two countries. He expressed America’s strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” the statement read.

On his first official visit to India as Defence Secretary, Austin, who arrived earlier in the day, also conveyed Biden’s greetings to the Prime Minister.

India is the third stop of Austin’s three-nation overseas tour, and the visit is seen as a strong commitment of the Joe Biden administration to its close allies and partners in the region.

Ways to further accelerate India-US strategic ties, boosting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, China’s aggressive behaviour in eastern Ladakh, challenges posed by terrorism and the Afghan peace process are expected to be focus of the talks between the two sides, people familiar with the visit preparation and agenda said.

They added that India’s plan to procure around 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the US for the three services at an estimated cost of over USD 3 billion is also expected to figure in the talks.

The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Predator-B drones, manufactured by US defence major General Atomics, are capable of remaining airborne for around 35 hours and can hunt down targets at land and sea, they said.

Secretary Austin is expected to meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Friday evening while he will hold extensive talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday.

He is also likely to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

His visit to India came days after the top leadership of the four-member Quad — India, the US, Japan and Australia — vowed to expand their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US defence secretary visited Japan and South Korea before arriving in India.

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