Austin India:

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd James Austin III called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on March 19. (ANI photo)

NEW DELHI – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd James Austin III met Prime Minister Narendra Modi March 19 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.

A PMO release said the prime minister welcomed the warm and close relationship between the two countries, which is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment to a rules-based order.

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

He requested Secretary Austin to convey his best wishes to President Biden.

Secretary Austin reiterated the U.S. government's continued commitment towards strengthening the bilateral defense relations between the two countries.

He conveyed greetings of President Biden to the prime minister.

PM Modi said in a tweet that India and the U.S. are committed to a bilateral strategic partnership that is a force for global good.

Secretary Austin is on a three-day official visit to India. It is the first visit to the country by a top official of the Biden administration.

Austin is also set to meet Defense Minister Rajnath Singh during the visit. India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and General Austin are also likely to discuss China and important regional security issues, including Afghanistan.

The discussions between the American defense secretary and the NSA would be the first major interaction between the two sides during the visit.

He is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the second half of March 20.

Austin will be in India from March 19 to 21 and is scheduled to meet the top political and military leadership of the country.

India and the U.S. have been working closely with each other after China’s attempts to change the status quo in the eastern Ladakh area in April May time frame last year.

The U.S. side also helped by providing timely defense hardware supplies during the conflict apart from sharing important satellite feed and inputs.

The Indo-Pacific region is largely viewed as an area comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.

China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its efforts to advance into the Indian Ocean are seen to have challenged the established rules-based system.

Moreover, China has criticized the framework as an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seeking to undermine its legitimate rise.

The Indian Defense Ministry said that Austin’s visit to India as part of his first overseas travel emphasizes the strength of the India-U.S. strategic partnership.

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