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US Defence Secretary Austin begins 2-day India visit; Rajnath receives him at airport

New Delhi: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in the national capital on Thursday to a red-carpet welcome with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh receiving him at the airport.

Austin is paying a two-day visit to New Delhi to attend the India-US ‘2+2’ foreign and defence ministerial dialogue on Friday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also be part of the American delegation at the talks.

The Indian side will be led by Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

‘Glad to receive my friend and @SecDef Austin at Palam, New Delhi. Looking forward to fruitful deliberations during 2 Plus 2 Ministerial Dialogue and the bilateral meeting to be held tomorrow,’ Singh said on X.

Austin was also given a guard of honour at the airport.

Singh and Jaishankar are also scheduled to have separate bilateral meetings with their American counterparts on the sidelines of the ‘2+2’ dialogue that is expected to carry out a comprehensive review of fast-expanding India-US strategic ties.

The defence ministry said a number of strategic, defence and technology issues are expected to be discussed at the ‘2+2’ dialogue and the bilateral meeting between Singh and Austin.

Austin last visited India in June and had met Singh.

On Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the ‘2+2’ dialogue will enable a high-level review of progress being made in cross-cutting aspects of defence and security cooperation, technology value chain collaborations and people-to-people ties.

“The ministers will take the opportunity to progress the futuristic roadmap for the India-US partnership as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joseph Biden, in their discussions in June and September this year,” the MEA said in a statement.

It said both sides will also take stock of contemporary regional issues and exchange views about shared priorities for augmenting cooperation in multilateral platforms, and through frameworks such as Quad.

The India-US defence cooperation has been on an upswing in the last few years.

In June 2016, the US designated India a ‘Major Defence Partner’ paving way for sharing of critical military equipment and technology.

The two countries have also inked key defence and security pacts over the past few years, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.

The two sides also signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 which provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for the sale of high-end technology from the US to India.

In October 2020, India and the US sealed the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement to further boost bilateral defence ties.

The pact provides for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.

(Published 09 November 2023, 12:15 IST)

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