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US defense chief arrives in India to talk closer military cooperation

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has kicked off his three-day visit to India by meeting with his Indian counterpart. The US and India hope to strengthen bilateral ties in the face of a rising China.

Carter met with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday, later announcing that the two countries had reached a preliminary agreement for strengthening military ties when it comes to dealing with disaster relief and other emergencies.

"Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in the area of maritime security," a joint statement read following the meeting. The two sides also ensured "freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, including in the South China Sea."

Carter said India and the US would finalize the agreement in the coming weeks. Defense officials said they ensured their Indian counterparts the agreement wouldn't give US forces access to military bases in the country.

Indien Ashton Carter und Manohar Parrikar in Neu-Delhi

Carter said at a press conference that the agreement would be finalized in weeks

Tension in the East

The move by the US is seen as part of its strategy to counterbalance a rising China, which has drawn sharp criticism from the international community for its perceived aggression in the region.

Earlier this week, leaders of the Group of 7 (G7) industrial countries

met in Hiroshima, Japan

, where they expressed concern over "any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions" that were seen as messages for China. Beijing promptly criticized the statement, essentially telling the G7 to stick to focusing on economic issues.

Carter will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to further discuss military cooperation.

While New Delhi has pursued closer business ties with China, its relationship with its eastern neighbor has also been marked by tension, much of it centered on a border dispute in the northwestern part of India.

blc/jil (AP, AFP)

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