U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper’s India trip on

There were doubts over the proposed visit due to the threat posed by COVID-19.

March 09, 2020 10:49 pm | Updated 10:50 pm IST - New Delhi

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The visit of US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper to New Delhi is scheduled for March 15 and 16 and preparations are on, officials sources said on Monday.

There were doubts over the proposed visit due to the threat posed by COVID-19.

The details were decided at a coordination meeting between Defence Ministry and U.S. Embassy officials at South Block in the morning, two defence officials independently confirmed. Defence Ministry is in the process of finalising the protocol, one of the officials stated.

With COVID-19 spreading across the globe, the India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG) dialogue also scheduled for later this month has been cancelled due to which there were questions on this proposed visit too.

The visit by Mr. Esper comes close after the visit of US President Donald Trump early this month . Mr. Esper will hold discussions with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh and it will be an opportunity for the two sides to review the decisions taken during this Mr. Trumps visit and also during other visits recently, official sources said.

India signed deals worth $3 bn for 24 MH-60R Seahawk Multi-Role Helicopters and six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters during Mr. Trump’s visit. Indian Navy is keen on accelerating the deliveries of the Seahawks given their critical requirement and this is likely to come up for discussion. Maritime Domain Awareness has emerged as a major focus between the two countries and also for cooperation with other regional countries with the Navies at the forefront of the effort.

Along the joint development efforts under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the progress on the negotiations over the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) will also be reviewed, an official stated adding there was impetus on both sides for its early conclusion.

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