US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Saturday praised India’s “growing commitment”, with which he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with “partners on the same wavelength”, as the Chinese activism in the region worries both countries.
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India is a key partner for the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, and talks with New Delhi have been dominated by China. Lloyd Austin’s trip to India is the first face-to-face meeting between New Delhi and the new administration of US President Joe Biden.
He arrived in New Delhi late Friday and met Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Lloyd Austin “praised India’s leadership role in the Indo-Pacific region and its growing engagement with like-minded partners in the region to advocate for common goals,” Pentagon spokesman John said. Kirby.
“Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to defend an honest and free regional order. The two sides each presented their perspective on the common challenges facing the region and pledged to further strengthen their broad and robust defense cooperation, ”added John Kirby.
Without directly mentioning China, Narendra Modi tweeted that “India and the United States are engaged in a strategic partnership which is a force for the good of the planet”.
The visit comes just after the first frosty talks held Thursday between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior Chinese officials in Alaska.
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“Key partnership of the 21st century”
Last week a virtual summit was held between the US president and the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan, a joint initiative to produce a billion vaccines against Covid-19 in India by 2022, seen as the first step of its diplomatic offensive against China.
On Saturday, Lloyd Austin met with Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, who assured, after an interview he described as “detailed and fruitful”, that military cooperation between the two countries would be “the one of the key partnerships of the 21st century ”.
For his part, Lloyd Austin said that “India [était] the pillar of our approach in the region ”, welcoming the“ shared values and converging strategic interests ”of the two countries.
The Pentagon chief was also due to meet with the Indian foreign minister during the day.
The United States wants its partners in the region to cooperate more with each other to create a “network of overlapping partnerships” without the United States necessarily intervening in all operations, said a senior official at the US Department of Justice. Defense.
It is in this context that the head of Indian diplomacy and Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne will have separate talks with their French and Indonesian counterparts Jean-Yves Le Drian and Retno Marsudi in New Delhi in mid-April, according to the Hindustan Times.
Relations between the United States and India have long been thorny, but common fears about China have brought them closer since Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 and under the presidency of the American Donald Trump (2017-2021).
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In 2016, the United States designated India as a “major defense partner”. The two countries have since signed a series of agreements facilitating the transfer of advanced weapons and deepening military cooperation.
U.S. defense companies have signed multibillion-dollar deals to supply military equipment, including helicopters, as part of the modernization of India’s armed forces, which plan to commit some $ 250 billion.
Russia, however, remains India’s largest arms supplier. Narendra Modi signed a $ 5.4 billion deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 to purchase Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system.
The deal falls under a US embargo on Russian arms sales and India has been negotiating for years to avoid sanctions, as happened with NATO ally Turkey when she ordered the S-400.