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US seeks to strengthen security ties with India

March 20, 2021

On the last stop of his Asian tour, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has reaffirmed relations between Washington and New Delhi as a counterweight to Chinese power.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh (R)
India and the US have drawn closer in recent years in the face of China's increasing assertivenessImage: Manish Swarup/AP Photo/picture alliance

The United States would like to elevate and strengthen its security cooperation with India, especially in information sharing and logistics, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on Saturday.

Austin was in New Delhi in an effort to boos ties between countries that are seeking to push back against Chinese influence and aggression in the region.

"India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner among today's rapidly shifting international dynamics," Austin said after meeting.

"We discussed opportunities to elevate the US-India major defense partnership, which is a priority of the Biden-Harris administration. And we'll do that through regional security cooperation and military to military interactions and defense trade," he added.

Singh said that the meeting had focused on "expanding military-to-military engagement across services, information-sharing, cooperation in emerging sectors of defense, and mutual logistics support".

Alliances in the Indo-Pacific region

India and the US are members of the Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which also includes Australia and Japan.

The Quad held a summit last weekend, affirming their joint interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The members also agreed to cooperate on dealing with maritime and cybersecurity challenges from China.

Austin said he also discussed New Delhi's plans to purchase Russia's S-400 missile system, adding that Washington had asked all its partners to stay away from Russian equipment to avoid US sanctions.

He said as India had not taken delivery of the anti-aircraft missile system, the threat of sanctions was not an issue, Reuters reported.

Austin had met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday in the first visit by a top official in the Biden administration.

He will leave India on Sunday. 

Counterweight to Chinese power

The talks between the regional allies are seen as an attempt to reaffirm their partnership in the face of China's increasing assertiveness.

India was involved in several deadly border clashes with China last year. In response, Washington provided New Delhi with surveillance drones and cold-weather gear for Indian troops.

The two powers agreed on defense deals reaching over $3 billion (€2.5 billion at today's rate) in 2019. Total bilateral defense trade had reached $15 billion in 2019, up from almost nothing in 2008.

The Day with Clare Richardson

Talks between Blinken and high-level Chinese officials in Alaska on Thursday and Friday failed to thaw the frosty relations between the two countries. The US had taken a more aggressive stance against China under the Trump administration.

ab/aw (Reuters, dpa, AP)