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US Defence Secretary to visit India, meet Modi, Sitharaman

IANS | New Delhi |

India-US defence cooperation is set to get a boost when US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis visits India next week during which he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hold talks with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The visit, from September 26-28, is the first Cabinet-level visit to India under the Trump administration.

It will help underscore the enduring US commitment to strategic partner India, said a US Embassy press release.

Mattis will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the India Gate, meet Sitharaman, and also Prime Minister Modi.

“The Secretary will emphasize that the United States views India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia. The Secretary will also express US appreciation for India’s important contributions toward Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity, and security,” a Pentagon press release said.

His visit comes after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in New York earlier this week on how their two countries can jointly fight terrorism and promote security in the Indo-Pacific region.

This follows President Donald Trump’s announcement last month that strategic partnership with India would be “a critical part of the South Asia strategy for America,” placing those issues high on the bilateral agenda.

The two “discussed regional issues, with a focus of Pakistan, Afghanistan and terrorism” and “reviewed all aspects all the bilateral relationship, including expanding our trade and investment relations.”

In his speech on new Afghanistan policy last month, Trump had said a “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India” and asked for more help from India in Afghanistan, where he was recalibrating US policy.