The defence minister defined “Neighbourhood First” as the cornerstone of India’s culture from time immemorial.
The United States today dismissed China’s claim that it was trying to establish a NATO-like alliance in the Indo-Pacific.
”We are absolutely not trying to establish a NATO in the Indo-Pacific. We continue to work with like-minded countries to ensure the region remains free and open so that commerce can prosper and ideas can continue to be exchanged,” visiting US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said after talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Austin said India and US shared the same vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
His statement came days after Beijing expressed apprehension that the US was planning a NATO-like bloc with its allies in the Quad to encircle China.
Regarding the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Austin said: ”I don’t want to get into speculation…a number of things can always happen. I want to make sure we do everything we can to ensure things don’t happen. And part of that is to communicate with each other and prevent any incidents from escalating out of control.”
Earlier at their meeting this morning, Rajnath and Austin chalked out a roadmap for defence-industrial cooperation which shall guide the policy direction for the two countries over the next few years.
Austin’s visit to India comes a fortnight before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to the US during which defence accords are expected to be signed between the two countries.
The two ministers explored ways of building resilient supply chains. Both sides will identify opportunities for the co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and facilitate increased collaboration between defence start-up ecosystems of the two countries.
Both sides reviewed the robust and multifaceted bilateral defence cooperation activities and agreed to maintain the momentum of engagement. They welcomed the inaugural dialogues held recently focusing on defence artificial intelligence and defence space. They also discussed the regional security issues given their shared interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
”Great to meet again with my friend @rajnathsingh and thank him for his unwavering commitment to U.S.-India defence relations. His leadership has helped paved the way for deeper collaboration, joint exercises, and technology sharing between our two countries,” Secretary Austin tweeted after the meeting.
”Delighted to meet my friend, @SecDef Austin in New Delhi. Our talks revolved around enhancing defence cooperation in several areas including convergence of strategic interests and enhanced security cooperation,” Rajnath tweeted.
In another tweet, he said: ”India-US partnership is critical for ensuring a free, open and rules-bound Indo-Pacific region. We look forward to closely working with the US across the domains for capacity building and further consolidating our strategic partnership.”
Austin also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The two leaders discussed cooperation in specific niche technologies in maritime, military and aerospace domains to boost capabilities. They also spoke on the greater transfer of technology, co-production and building indigenous capacities in line with India’s Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiatives.