U.S.-India ties facilitate development of defence platforms: Lloyd Austin

U.S. Defence Secretary to visit India on June 4.

June 03, 2023 10:36 pm | Updated June 04, 2023 08:36 am IST - NEW DELHI

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin speaks at the 20th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s annual defense and security forum in Singapore on June 3, 2023.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin speaks at the 20th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s annual defense and security forum in Singapore on June 3, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

The U.S.-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) allows the exploration of new ways to co-develop key defence platforms, U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin said in Singapore on Saturday, adding that the U.S. is committed to sharing the technological advances it has made to help its allies.

Mr. Austin is scheduled to hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, during a two-day trip in New Delhi as the two sides are working out projects and initiatives for co-development and co-production, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. later this month.

Stressing that partnerships between countries can strengthen ties, Mr. Austin said the U.S. is stepping up coordination and training exercises with its allies along the East China Sea to the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, including with India. “That includes staunch allies such as Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. And it includes as well such valued partners as India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and clearly our hosts here today in Singapore,” Mr. Austin said at the annual Shangri-La dialogue organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “And so our shared goals are clear: to deter aggression and to deepen the rules and norms that promote prosperity and prevent conflict.”

He said that the U.S. has made some important strides in its relationship with Australia, India, and Japan through the Quad. “The Quad is strengthening its maritime cooperation and its work on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And all four Quad partners will participate in Exercise Malabar.” Australia is set to host Exercise Malabar for the first time this August.

Taking a dig at China for declining a meeting of defence counterparts on the sidelines of the dialogue, Mr. Austin said, “The right time to talk is every time, and the right time to talk is now.” Mr. Austin also highlighted defence cooperation and several multilateral military exercises in the Indo-Pacific, including exercises between India and ASEAN that he said were a “vote” for a peaceful future.

“Russia’s shocking aggression has brought home to people everywhere how dangerous our world would become if big countries could just invade their neighbours with impunity,” Mr. Austin said, amid tensions with China over its aggressiveness over Taiwan.

Elaborating on China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, he said, “We will support our allies and partners as they defend themselves against coercion and bullying.”

He added that the U.S. does not seek conflict or confrontation but it would not “flinch in the face of bullying or coercion”. He reiterated U.S. commitment to preserving the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, consistent with its long-standing one-China policy, and with fulfilling well-established obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act.

“Our policy is constant and firm. It has held true across U.S. administrations. And we will continue to categorically oppose unilateral changes to the status quo from either side. I’d also highlight that conflict is neither imminent or inevitable. Deterrence is strong today — and it’s our job to keep it that way,” he said, while adding that the whole world has a stake in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as the security of commercial shipping lanes and global supply chains depends on it and so does freedom of navigation worldwide.

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