U.S. Seeks Stronger Defense Ties With Quad Partner India
Lloyd Austin, U.S. secretary of defence. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

U.S. Seeks Stronger Defense Ties With Quad Partner India

The U.S. sought to further strengthen defense cooperation with India as part of President Joe Biden’s push to develop closer ties with Asian partners amid widening differences with China.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held talks with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Saturday to discuss opportunities to elevate the U.S.-India defense partnership through regional security cooperation, military interactions and defense trade.

Austin also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, and late Saturday with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

“India in particular is an increasingly important partner among rapidly shifting international dynamics,” Austin said at a joint press briefing on Saturday with Singh after the talks. “I reaffirmed our commitment to a comprehensive and forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar of our approach to the region.”

“In addition we are continuing to advance new areas of collaboration including information sharing, logistics and artificial intelligence and cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber,” he said.

The hour-long meeting between Austin and Jaishankar focused on a “changing global scenario” including India’s tensions with China, the situation in Afghanistan, and bilateral cooperation, according to India’s Mint newspaper.

Austin’s visit to New Delhi after talks in Tokyo and South Korea earlier this week follows a March 12 virtual summit, the first meeting between Biden and top leaders of the so-called Quad partners India, Australia and Japan, all of whom have their own tensions with China. References in a statement released after the meeting to an “open” Indo-Pacific region and shared security interests indicated the talks were a show of unity against Beijing.

Biden’s administration has prioritized Indo-Pacific partnerships at a time when the U.S.’s differences with Beijing are deepening. U.S. and Chinese officials traded acrimony and accusations over two days of talks in Anchorage, Alaska this week.

While New Delhi and Beijing have moved back troops from a part of their disputed Himalayan borders, tensions between the neighbors that began in May 2020 continue to simmer.

The U.S. is seeking to deepen military cooperation and intelligence sharing with India by operationalizing two of the three foundational agreements between the two sides -- the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreements -- that were signed in October 2020. India needs to equip some of its platforms with secure military communication equipment among other things needed to initiate the agreements.

Singh said the two sides discussed expanding cooperation between the Indian military and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Command. They also spoke about optimizing agreements signed on logistics exchange, basic exchange and cooperation and communications compatibility and security, Singh said at the press conference.

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