US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday said that he has discussed with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh the future steps needed to be taken by the two strategic partners to work more closely. Esper, who took office last month, had his first conversation with Singh over the telephone on August 20.
“We had a very warm conversation. We talked about our mutual strategic interest and discussed some next steps by which we can work together more closely,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon.
However, he did not divulge any further details of their telephonic conversation.
Earlier, a spokesperson of the Defence Ministry in New Delhi had said that Esper appreciated the central government’s position that the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir are an internal matter of India and he hoped that any issue between India and Pakistan would be resolved bilaterally. Singh told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday that Esper during their telephonic conversation told him that the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 was an internal matter of India.
Singh had also raised with Esper the issue of cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and appreciated the US support for India’s effort to maintain peace and stability in the region, the Defence Ministry spokesperson had said.
“They exchanged views on a range of issues related to military-to-military cooperation, defence policy, research and development, defence trade, technology and industrial cooperation,” the official had said.
Esper and Singh are likely to meet in Washington DC later this year as part of the ‘2+2’ India-US dialogue. They will be joined by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the strategic talks.
India and the US held 4th round of the India-US Maritime Security Dialogue was held on August 23 in Monterey, California.
During the Dialogue, the two sides discussed regional maritime security issues and exchanged views on ways to further strengthen bilateral maritime security cooperation. They also reviewed the implementation of the decisions taken during the earlier three rounds of Maritime Security Dialogue, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press release.
Before this meeting, India and the US held a round of the bilateral 2+2 Intersessional Meeting on August 22 in Monterey. The two sides reviewed the progress and development of bilateral relations in cross-cutting defence, security, and foreign policy areas since the inaugural 2+2 Ministerial meeting of September 2018, and explored further possibilities of cooperation in these fields based on common interest.
The two sides also discussed regional developments, and agreed to pursue their quest for a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific, a separate MEA statement said.