Lloyd Austin India Visit: The strong relationship between the world’s two largest democracies, India and the US, is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region at a time when the world is facing a global pandemic and growing challenges to an open and stable international system, said US defence secretary Lloyd J Austin.
Austin, who is in New Delhi to meet top Indian leadership in his first visit abroad after taking charge, also conveyed the Biden-Harris administration’s message of strong commitment to the US allies and partners in the region.
In his first overseas visit, the US defence secretary visited Japan and South Korea en route to New Delhi to show solidarity with the nations that are facing an aggressive China at a time when the world is grappling with a deadly virus which was first discovered in China in November 2019.
The SarS-CoV-2 virus has killed more than 2.7 million people worldwide, with the highest fatality in the US where the virus killed more than 550,000 people.
During his meeting with the Indian leadership, Austin reaffirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to a comprehensive and forward looking defence partnership with India.
“India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics. And I reaffirmed our commitment to a comprehensive and forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar of our approach to the region,” Austin told the audience in New Delhi.
The US leader said the US-India relationship was a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region as the world faces a global pandemic and growing challenges to an open and stable international system.
Talking about his meeting with Prime Minister Modi, Austin said, the Indian leader told him that India stood for “freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and adherence to international law.”
Austin said, Prime Minister Modi’s statement was a resounding affirmation of a shared vision of the two countries for regional security in the Indo-Pacific.
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 adding that the relationship between the two countries was grounded in the shared values and converging strategic interests.
“We discussed opportunities to elevate the U.S.-India Major Defense Partnership… a priority of the Biden-Harris Administration… through regional security cooperation, military-to-military interactions, and defense trade,” Austin after his meeting with India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh.
Talking about the new areas of cooperation, the US leader said: “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.”
In a reference to the first ever summit between the leaders of the Quad nations – India, US, Japan and Australia, Austin said during his interactions with Indian political and military leadership, he also discussed engagement with like-minded partners through multilateral groupings such as the Quad and ASEAN.
“As the Indo-Pacific region faces acute transnational challenges, such as climate change, and challenges to a free and open regional order, cooperation among like-minded countries is imperative to securing our shared vision for the future,” he said.
Lloyd Austin said despite the challenging security environment, the partnership between the United States and India… the world’s two largest democracies… remained resilient and strong.
“We will seek every opportunity to build upon this major partnership,” Austin said while reiterating the US commitment to defend the rules-based international order in cooperation with other democracies.