The situation in the IndoPacific region, China’s aggressive behaviour against its neighbours and a strong India-US defence and strategic partnership are likely to figure prominently during US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin’s talks with Indian leaders, sources said today.
Mr Austin arrived here this evening on a three-day visit, becoming the first top American leader to visit India since the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration in January.
Mr Austin will hold talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tomorrow and also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat and the three services chiefs are likely to be part of the Indian delegation at the talks.
Mr Austin was scheduled to meet National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval late in the evening.
Mr Austin is the first US Secretary of Defence to include India on his maiden foreign trip, reflecting the importance the new administration in Washington gives to ties with New Delhi.
The visit comes days after the virtual summit of four ‘Quad’ countries attended by Prime Minister Modi, President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The leaders decided to work towards an “open and rule-based” Indo-Pacific region in the backdrop of the aggressive posturing by China on maritime and territorial issues. Sources said China’s aggression in Eastern Ladakh is also likely to come up during the talks since Mr Austin is arriving in New Delhi after visits to Japan and South Korea, two of Washington’s key allies which have their own disputes with Beijing.
India and the USA may also discuss measures to encourage American companies to set up local manufacturing facilities for defence equipment, including possibilities of joint ventures with Indian partners.
India’s decision to purchase S-400 Triumf air defence systems from Russia may also come up. However, India is yet again expected to convey to the US administration its decision to continue diversifying its defence imports keeping in mind the country’s security needs in a volatile region.