Hagel began a three-day trip to India August 7. Hagel is expected to discuss defence deals worth over Rs 20,000 crore (over $3 billion), intelligence sharing on counter-terror activities and measures to enhance military ties during his wide-ranging interactions in Delhi.
Ahead of his trip, Hagel spoke of the US’ efforts to seek new partners and relationships in the Asia-Pacific region, and opportunities and challenges it presented. “When we look at the Asia-Pacific region, areas of operation, too, represents tremendous new opportunities, but challenges as well. We need partners. We need relationships. That’s the kind of world we live in, and that’s the kind of world that we’re going to be living in,” said Hagel.
Discussions on defence deal are likely to focus on procurement of 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers along with four P-8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
The defence secretary, whose visit follows that of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, arrives in India at a time when Washington and New Delhi are trying to reset relations, and pave the way for the much- awaited meeting between US President Barak Obama and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.
“India represents the largest democracy in the world. They just had an election. They have a new government. The new prime minister is coming to Washington to see President Obama next month. So I’ll be there, working, yes, our specific issues, but it’s larger than that,” said Hagel.
During his visit, Hagel is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Defence Ministry officials said.
In a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in May, Hagel had spoken about how India and the US could engage in transformational cooperation, as India seeks to play an “active role” in improving security in Asia. “We welcome India’s increasingly active role in Asia’s regional institutions, which strengthens regional order. We also welcome India’s growing defence capabilities and its commitment to freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean.”
Some experts contend that given the growing concerns over China’s aggressive positioning in the region, the US and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region are seeking enhanced cooperation with India and see Delhi as a counterbalance to Beijing.
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