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U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin begins India visit by meeting Narendra Modi

Three-day visit to India is the first such outreach by the Joe Biden administration

March 19, 2021 06:22 pm | Updated March 20, 2021 05:33 am IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in New Delhi. File photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in New Delhi. File photo

The United States Secretary of Defense, General (Retd.) Lloyd J. Austin , met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the start of a three-day visit to India, the first such outreach by the new U.S. administration less than two months after President Biden assumed office.

“India and the U.S. are committed to our strategic partnership that is a force for global good,” Mr. Modi said in a tweet after the meeting on Friday evening.

Also read: Editorial | India and Biden: On post-Trump ties

“The Prime Minister welcomed the warm and close relationship between the two countries, which is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment to a rules-based order,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

Mr. Austin, who will meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on March 20, is expected to discuss Indo-U.S. strategic cooperation, defence sales and technology transfer, as well as Indo-Pacific strategy as a part of the Quad. In addition, he is likely to deliver a message on the U.S.’s concerns over India’s plans to take delivery of the Russian S-400 missile defence system later this year, which could attract U.S. sanctions under its CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) law.

Ahead of Mr. Austin’s visit, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee leader Senator Robert Menendez had also written a letter urging him to raise concerns over what Mr. Menendez called an “ongoing crackdown” by the Modi government on farmers and journalists, and other issues, including the amendment of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Mr. Austin’s visit comes a week after the Quad summit convened by President Biden that PM Modi attended, a day after acrimonious U.S.-China talks began in Alaska, and right after his own visits to Tokyo and Seoul for strategic talks.

“Both sides exchanged perspectives on shared challenges confronting the region and committed to further strengthen their broad ranging and robust defence cooperation,” the U.S. Embassy said after Mr. Austin’s meetings with PM Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

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