India, US to expand military engagement, defence ties

NEW DELHI (AP) — Top defence officials from India and the United States (US) pledged to expand their military engagement yesterday, underscoring the strengthening defence ties between two countries concerned over China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met in New Delhi and agreed to deepen defence cooperation, intelligence sharing and logistics.

Austin is making the first visit to India by a top member of US President Joe Biden’s administration.

U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin inspects a Guard of Honor ceremony in New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 20, 2021. AP

His visit follows a meeting last week between leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the US, which together make up the four Indo-Pacific nations known as the Quad. The Quad is seen as a counterweight to China.

China has called the Quad an attempt to contain its ambitions. Austin’s Indian counterpart, Singh, said the talks were focussed on expanding military-to-military engagement.

“We are determined to realise the full potential of comprehensive global strategic partnership,” Singh said.

Austin arrived in New Delhi on Friday and met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi “outlined his vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries and emphasised the important role of bilateral defence cooperation.”