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India, US in agreement on strategic issues, countering China’s aggression: Rajnath

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New Delhi: The India-US strategic partnership is characterised by mutual trust and both sides are increasingly in agreement on key issues, such as countering China’s aggression, promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and addressing regional security challenges, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday.
Singh made the remarks at a bilateral meeting with his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, that took place shortly after the conclusion of the fifth edition of the India-US “2+2” ministerial dialogue.
The defence minister’s comments came amid the more-than-three-year border row between India and China in eastern Ladakh as well as concerns over the increasing forays by Chinese military ships into the Indian Ocean region.
“The India-US defence relationship has evolved into a strategic partnership characterised by mutual trust, shared values and a growing recognition of common interests in maintaining regional and global security,” Singh said in his opening comments at the bilateral talks. “We increasingly find ourselves in agreement on strategic issues, including countering China’s aggression, promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and addressing regional security challenges,” he added.
“We share a focus on maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region. Recognising the criticality of safeguarding vital sea lanes and promoting stability, our teams are working on substantive outcomes,” the defence minister said.
He said India and the United States are charting new pathways of cooperation by pursuing stronger defence, industrial engagement, easing of technology restrictions, boosting ties in the maritime domain and aiming to ensure resilient supply chains in all domains. Singh and Austin drew up an agenda for future joint work for their teams, the defence ministry said.
At a media briefing after the talks, Austin said the two sides discussed the rising security challenges posed by China. “We are working together on a number of things going forward. We have a common goal, a common view of the Indo-Pacific, and that is that the Indo-Pacific should remain free and open and that we should be able to sail in the international seas and fly in the international airspace,” he said. At the same time, Austin said the US-India relationship is not just based on China or the challenge that China presents. “It is based upon, again, shared values…. We have talked about a number of things to include not only military cooperation, but scientific cooperation, space cooperation, and those kinds of things,” he said. In a statement, the defence ministry said Singh and Austin comprehensively discussed a wide range of defence and strategic issues. “There was particular focus on enhancing defence industrial cooperation and getting the defence industries from both sides together to cooperatively co-develop and co-produce defence systems,” it said. The ministry said the two ministers explored ways and means to advance defence technology cooperation with joint research in critical areas. “They reviewed the progress of the India-US Defence Industrial Ecosystem, INDUS-X, which was launched in June this year and aims to expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses and academic institutions of India and the US,” it said. Besides Austin, the US delegation at the “2+2” dialogue comprised Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Indian side was headed by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Singh. The defence ministry said Austin welcomed India’s decision to elevate to full membership of the Combined Maritime Forces, a multilateral construct headquartered in Bahrain. It said Singh symbolically handed over to Austin some items recovered in Assam as part of the US Defence POW MIA (Prisoner of War or Missing in Action) accounting agency mission. The items include parts of parachute, uniform and airplane of the US forces from the World War II era.

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