U.S. keen on boosting ties with India

The new U.S. administration sees India’s importance in the Indo-Pacific region and is keen on strengthening partnership. This was conveyed in an introductory telephone call to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh from the new U.S. Secretary of Defence, General Lloyd Austin (retd.), on Wednesday, according to an official source.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval too had a telephone call with his U.S. counterpart Mr. Jake Sullivan in which they agreed to work collectively to address challenges in the post-COVID era and further expand the comprehensive global strategic partnership, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

“During the telephonic talk, they reaffirmed their commitment to work together to strengthen the multifaceted India-U.S. defence cooperation and the strategic partnership,” a Defence Ministry statement said. They also discussed bilateral, regional and global issues, it added.

Stating that Gen. Austin calling just two days after being confirmed is significant, the source said Indo-Pacific was highlight of conversation, and the Secretary of Defence made it clear that the U.S. sees India’s importance in this region and is keen to strengthen partnership.

In the conversation that lasted 15-20 minutes, Mr. Singh also raised the issue of high technology cooperation between the two countries.

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Austin said he would further operationalise India’s ‘Major Defence Partner’ status and continue to build upon existing strong defence cooperation to ensure that the U.S. and Indian militaries can collaborate to address “shared interests.” “I would also seek to deepen and broaden our defence cooperation through the Quad security dialogue and other regional multilateral engagements,” he had said.

In possibly a divergence of views with New Delhi, Gen. Austin had said that Pakistan had taken “constructive steps” in the Afghanistan peace process and also “taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, though this progress is incomplete.”

Common strategic and security interests

The two NSAs agreed to work closely to further advance India-U.S. relations "which are built on shared values and common strategic and security interests", the MEA statement said.

"Mr. Doval underscored that as leading democracies, with an abiding faith in an open and inclusive world order, India and the U.S. were uniquely positioned to work closely on regional and international issues including combating the scourge of terrorism, maritime security, cyber security and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," the MEA statement said. Mr. Sullivan stated that the U.S. was looking forward to working together on the bilateral agenda and the common global challenges.

At his confirmation hearing at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said India is a “bipartisan success story.”

While it is not clear whether issue of sanctions under CAATSA for the S-400 purchase from Russia was discussed, it remains a matter of concern for India.

Mr. Blinken’s comments on Turkey’s purchase of S-400 only reinforces these concerns. “That one of our strategic partners should be in line with one of our biggest competitors, Russia, is just not acceptable,” Mr. Blinken had said.

India is set to receive the first batch of S-400 Triumf from Russia by end 2021.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 7:33:36 AM |

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