HomeAsiaUS defence secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in India on two-day visit today

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in India on two-day visit today

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in India on two-day visit today

New Delhi (PTI) – US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived pay a two-day visit to India Sunday to discuss ways to further expand bilateral strategic engagement ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Washington.

People familiar with Austin’s visit said he and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are set to discuss a number of new defence cooperation projects that are set to be unveiled after Modi’s talks with President Joe Biden in Washington over two weeks later.

The General Electric’s proposal to share technology with India for fighter jet engines and India’s plan to procure 30 MQ-9B armed drones at a cost of over USD 3 billion from US defence major General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) are likely to figure in the Singh-Austin talks on Monday.

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India has been looking for manufacturing of jet engines in India under the framework of technology transfer to power its fighter aircraft.

China’s aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific as well as along the Line of Actual Control and ways to combat the threat of terrorism are also likely to figure in the discussions between Singh and Austin.

“I’m returning to India to meet with key leaders for discussions about strengthening our Major Defense Partnership. Together, we’re advancing a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US defence secretary tweeted shortly after landing in New Delhi.

Separately, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius will arrive in India on Monday on a four-day visit.

The Pentagon said in a statement this week that Austin will further deepen the US-India ‘Major Defence Partnership’ as ties between the two countries enter a “new and exciting chapter”.

The US Defence Secretary will arrive in India on Sunday from Singapore on a two-day visit, the defence ministry said.

It will be Austin’s second visit to India. His previous trip to India was in March, 2021.

The ministry said the German Federal Minister of Defence is also visiting New Delhi for bilateral talks with Singh that will take place on June 6.

A host of bilateral defence cooperation issues, with focus on industrial cooperation, are likely to be discussed during Singh’s meetings with Austin and Pistorius, it said.

“US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and German Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius are visiting New Delhi for bilateral talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh,” the ministry said in a statement.

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“The Defence Minister’s meeting with the US Secretary of Defence will be held on June 5, while talks with the German Federal Minister of Defence will take place on June 6,” it said.

India-US defence and strategic ties have been on an upswing in the last few years.

The two countries have inked key defence and security pacts over the past few years, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.

The two sides also signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 which provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for the sale of high-end technology from the US to India.

In October 2020, India and the US sealed the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement to further boost bilateral defence ties.

The pact provides for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.

The German defence minister will be on a four-day visit to India beginning June 5. He will arrive from Indonesia.

Apart from his meeting with Singh, Pistorius is likely to meet officials of a few defence start-ups during an event to be organized by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) in New Delhi.

On June 7, he is scheduled to travel to Mumbai where he is likely to visit the headquarters of the Western Naval Command and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, the ministry said.

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(HINDUSTANTIMES with PTI and Reuters)