Gen. Austin’s visit: India, US highlight importance of defence ties

The growing importance of defence ties and the Indo-Pacific in the India-US partnership has been stressed by both New Delhi and Washington during US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin’s maiden visit to India.

Gen. Austin, who touched down in Delhi on March 19, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and conveyed Washington’s “strong desire” to enhance the strategic partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Gen. Austin, the first African-American to become the US defence secretary, also conveyed the Biden administration’s “commitment towards strengthening the bilateral defence relations between the two countries”.

PM Modi “outlined his vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries and emphasized the important role of bilateral defence cooperation in India-US ties,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

PM Modi also underlined that ‘the relationship between the two countries is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment to a rules-based order.’

Gen. Austin’s visit came a week after the leaders of Quad countries, including the US, Japan and Australia vowed to expand their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

 “Thrilled to be here in India. The breadth of cooperation between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defense partnership, as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region”, said Secretary Austin.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while welcoming the Indo-US strategic partnership said ‘the relationship between the two countries is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment to a rules-based order.’

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez has asked Gen. Austin to raise concerns about democracy and India’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system which draws US sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

India’s plan to procure around 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones and 114 fighter jets from the US is also expected to figure in the talks.

The deal for purchasing the armed drones could be finalized during the meeting. The military trade between the two countries is expected to touch USD 25 billion in the next couple of years. The acquisition of the drones will strengthen India’s deterrence against China and Pakistan.

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