US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin arrived in India from Singapore on Sunday to further strengthen the defence partnership between the two nations.
Upon his arrival, US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, received the Pentagon Chief who kickstarted the third leg of his four-nation tour. Taking to Twitter, the US Defence Secretary wrote, “I’m returning to India to meet with key leaders for discussions about strengthening our Major Defense Partnership.”
“Together, we’re advancing a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Austin’s New Delhi visit will prominently focus on advancing India-US new defence innovation and industrial cooperation initiatives and continuing with the efforts to expand operational cooperation between the US and Indian militaries.
The Pentagon, while elaborating on the details of the Defence Secretary’s visit, said, “After Singapore, Secretary Austin will visit New Delhi to meet with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other leaders as the United States and India continue to modernize the US-India Major Defence Partnership.”
“This visit provides an opportunity to accelerate new defence innovation and industrial cooperation initiatives and drive ongoing efforts to expand operational cooperation between the U.S. and Indian militaries,” the statement added.
During his New Delhi visit, Austin is set to meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with an aim to expand the defence-industrial partnership.
The visit holds particular significance considering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming state visit to the White House in June.
Austin attended the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and his first stop was in Tokyo where he met with Japanese Defence Minister Yasukasu Hamada and other senior leaders and visited US troops stationed in Japan.
Later, from Japan, he flew to Singapore, where he addressed plenary remarks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) 20th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
During his stay in Singapore, he also held key bilateral meetings to advance US partnerships across the region.
After New Delhi, the US Defence Secretary will embark on a visit to France.
Also just before PM Modi’s visit to the US, a powerful Congressional Committee has recommended strengthening NATO Plus by including India. This step is a move to deter China.
The suggestion of including India in the five-member grouping has been made by the committee to win the “strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party”.
Presently, NATO Plus 5 is a security arrangement that works towards boosting global defence cooperation and comprises NATO and five aligned countries, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and South Korea.
India getting included in NATO Plus would mean the facilitation of seamless intelligence sharing between these nations and India and access to the latest military technology with a minimal time lag, reported NewsonAir.
Secretary Austin will conclude his four-nation trip in France and will take part in events commemorating the 79th anniversary of D-Day and meet with French and United Kingdom defence leaders.