US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin III with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin III with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

New Delhi: US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin III on Saturday said that the partnership between the United States and India remains resilient and strong despite today’s challenging security environment.

He was speaking after a meeting with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh in New Delhi.

"Our relationship is a stronghold of free and open Indo-Pacific region. PM Modi stated India stands for freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce in adherence to international law. This reaffirms our shared vision for regional security," Austin said.

"India is an increasingly important partner in rapidly shifting international dynamics. I reaffirm our commitment to a comprehensive forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar of our approach to the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

The Pentagon chief said that during his meeting with Rajnath, he discussed engagement with like-minded partners through multilateral groupings like Quad and ASEAN. "As Indo-Pacific region faces acute transnational challenges and challenges to a free &open regional order, cooperation among like-minded countries is imperative," he said in a join statement with Rajnath.

Rajnath expressed similar sentiments and said he had an excellent meeting in New Delhi today with Austin.

"We discussed today a range of issues with a focus on enhancing defence information sharing, cooperation in emerging domains of defence, mutual logistics support, and expanding military-to-military engagements across services," Rajnath said.

"We are determined to expand India-US cooperation - from bilateral and multilateral exercises to developing closer bilateral linkages. We intend to pursue enhanced cooperation between the Indian military and US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Command," the defence minister said.

"We both agreed that there are opportunities for collaboration in defence industry. The recent and first Leaders' Summit of India, USA, Japan and Australia has emphasized our resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific," Rajnath added.

"Today we reaffirmed that closer India-US cooperation in partnership with countries keen to uphold rules-based order, can promote security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," he further said.

Earlier, he was accorded the Guard of Honour at Vigyan Bhawan after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh received him at the venue.

Austin also attended the wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial in the nation's capital. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Austin on Friday discussed areas of mutual interest, strategic partnership and cooperation on various aspects of security and defence.

"Great meeting with NSA Doval last night. The breadth of collaboration b/w our 2 nations reflects the significance of our major defence partnership as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region," Austin wrote in a tweet on Saturday adding that he was "looking forward to great meetings today." Austin, who arrived in Delhi earlier on Friday, is on a three-day official visit to the country. It is the first visit to India by a top official of the Biden administration.

Austin also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday and expressed America's strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

PM Modi outlined his vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries and emphasized the important role of bilateral defence cooperation in India-US ties.

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