‘Conveyed Regards to Prez Biden’: PM Modi Meets US Def Sec Austin
United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, 19 March, met United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and conveyed his best wishes for US President Joe Biden.
Tweeting a photograph from his meeting with Austin, PM Modi wrote:
“Pleasure to meet US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin today. Conveyed my best wishes to President of United States Joe Biden. India and US are committed to our strategic partnership that is a force for global good.”
Austin, on his part, on arriving in India, had taken to Twitter to say that he is thrilled to be here:
“Thrilled to be here in India. The breadth of cooperation between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defense partnership, as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region.”
Austin also, as per ANI, met National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.
ANI further reported that Austin, at the meeting with the PM, reiterated the US government’s “continued commitment towards strengthening bilateral defence relations between the two countries.”
His visit is the maiden visit by a high-ranking member of the Joe Biden administration. Austin is also expected to meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and other senior officials.
Austin Asked to Express Objection to India’s Defence Equipment Deal With Russia
Meanwhile, as per Reuters, a US Senator had written to Austin saying that he ought to express America’s objection to India S-400 air defence systems deal with Russia, and inform that it can attract sanctions.
As per Reuters, Washington has already imposed sanctions on Turkey for buying the said equipment.
In a letter to Austin, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, reportedly wrote:
“If India chooses to go forward with its purchase of the S-400, that act will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore sanctionable, transaction with the Russian defense sector under Section 231 of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).”
According to IANS, Austin’s visit to India comes after his visit to two US treaty allies, Japan and South Korea, on the frontlines of Chinese aggression at sea in the region, and the military headquarters of the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii.
American President Biden too recently held a virtual summit with other Quad leaders – India, Australia and Japan – where they discussed security issues in the face of Chinese aggressive actions.
As per IANS, outlining Austin's agenda in India, Acting Assistant Defence Secretary for Indo-Pacific, David F Helvey, had formerly shared that he will "discuss operationalising the major defence partnership that we have with India, including through enhanced information sharing, regional security cooperation, defence trade, and cooperation in new domains (sic.)"
The Indian defence ministry had said that Defence Minister Singh and Austin "are expected to discuss ways to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation and exchange views on regional security challenges and common interests in maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region."
"Discussions regarding defence cooperation would also focus on how both countries could consolidate military-to-military cooperation and defence trade and industry cooperation," it added.
India and the US have signed several important agreements to enhance defence cooperation, and US arms sales to India reached $20 billion last year, reported IANS.
While India is not a treaty partner of the US, it was reportedly designated as a major defence partner by the US in 2016, allowing it access to some hi-tech defence equipment that would normally be available only to allies.
(With inputs from Reuters, IANS and ANI)
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