US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Saturday said that India is an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics, and added that the ties between Washington and New Delhi are a “stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region”.
“I’m pleased to report that Minister Singh and I had a very productive discussion on a number of security issues important to our two countries. And at the top of my agenda, I wanted to convey the Biden-Harris administration’s message of our strong commitment to our allies and partners. India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics,” Austin said while making the joint statement along with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Austin, who arrived in New Delhi on Friday, is on a three-day official visit to India. It is the first visit to India by a top official of the Biden administration.
Austin also reaffirming Washington’s support to India’s call for an open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region and said: “As the world faces a global pandemic and growing challenge to an open and stable international system, the U.S.-India relationship is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
“Prime Minister Modi has stated that India stands for ‘freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and adherence to international law.’ This is a resounding affirmation of our shared vision for regional security in the Indo-Pacific. And it’s clear that the importance of this partnership and its impact to the international rules-based order will only grow in the years ahead,” he said.
The US Secretary of Defense further said that he and Singh discussed opportunities to elevate the U.S.-India Major Defense Partnership that, he said is “a priority of the Biden-Harris Administration through regional security cooperation, military-to-military interactions, and defense trade.”
“In addition, we are continuing to advance new areas of collaboration, including information-sharing, logistics cooperation, artificial intelligence; and cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber,” he said.
“Despite today’s challenging security environment, the partnership between the United States and India — the world’s two largest democracies — remains resilient and strong. And we will seek every opportunity to build upon this major partnership,” Austin added.
Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh said that he looks forward to making the India-US partnership one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.
“The recent Leaders’ Summit of India, USA, Japan and Australia under the Quad framework emphasised our resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. We discussed the need for enhanced capacity building to address some of the non-traditional challenges such as oil spills and environmental disasters, drug trafficking, Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, etc,” Singh said.
He added, “India is committed to further consolidate our robust defence partnership with the United States. I look forward to working with you closely to make the India-US relationship one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”
On Friday, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Austin discussed areas of mutual interest, strategic partnership and cooperation on various aspects of security and defence.
Earlier, Austin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed America’s strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.