India, US reaffirm military ties amid China’s growing assertiveness
New Delhi, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- India and the United States reaffirmed their military alliance Saturday during Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to deepen security ties amid rising Chinese clout.
During the first visit to India by a top member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet, Austin met Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi as part of the US efforts to forge a new alliance in the region.
“India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics,” Austin said in a joint news conference with his Indian counterpart.
He said the US was committed “to a comprehensive and forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar of our approach to the region.”
Austin said the US-India relationship was a “stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
He said Prime Minister Modi had stated that India stood 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,” he said, without mentioning China that is claiming the sovereignty over the entire South China Sea that is home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
The Indian defense minister said the two sides had a “fruitful conversation” on realizing “the full potential of the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership.”
“Our discussions focused on our wide ranging defense cooperation and expanding military-to-military engagement across services, information sharing, cooperation in emergencies, sector of defense and mutual logistics support.”
Austin arrived in New Delhi Friday on the last leg of a diplomatic tour that took him to Japan and South Korea.
He met Modi and the Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Friday evening.
Austin’s trip to India comes a week after the first meeting between leaders of the so-called “quad,” an alliance between the US, India, Japan, and Australia that was created in 2007 in response to Beijing’s military rise.
India, one of the largest arms importers in the world, is considered by the US as a major partner of defense, which gives its access to American weapons and military technology.
According to the US State Department, the total defense trade with India increased from near zero in 2008 to over $20 billion in 2020.
Experts say Austin’s trip to India is aimed at pushing back against China’s perceived military expansionism and strengthen alliances against Beijing as he did in Tokyo and Seoul.
China-US ties deteriorated during Donald Trump’s presidency.
India and China were also involved in months-long border tension in the Himalayas since June last year when 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops lost their lives in a physical brawl on a boundary in the cold desert region of Ladakh. EFE