New Delhi and Washington will seek to further deepen and bolster their defence relationship during a two-day visit by U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta here beginning Tuesday. It will be his maiden visit to India as Defence Secretary.

Mr. Panetta, a former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and hold talks with Defence Minister A. K. Antony.

He will also have discussions with National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

Mr. Panetta is likely to discuss the new U.S. strategic military guidance, announced in January, that puts greater emphasis on the Pacific region and refers to India as a strategic partner.

Nine-day Asia visit

The India trip is part of the Defence Secretary's nine-day visit to Asia, his second to the region and first since the Pentagon released the new military strategy.

In his major policy speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a meeting of global defence leaders in Singapore over the weekend, Mr. Panetta asserted the importance of the high-growth Asia-Pacific region to the U.S., citing China, India and Indonesia as examples of high growth economies. While laying stress on taking the existing alliances and partnerships in new directions, Mr. Panetta said the U.S. placed a premium on enhancing partnerships with Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Vietnam and New Zealand.

“From Vietnam, I will travel to India to affirm our interest in building a strong security relationship with a country I believe will play a decisive role in shaping the security and prosperity of the 21st century,'' he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

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