'Comprehensive and fruitful': Rajnath on talks with US Defense Secretary
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, who held talks with the visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Delhi on Saturday, said the talks "were very comprehensive and fruitful." Both countries focused on expanding their military engagement, said a joint statement by Singh and his American counterpart. The subjects discussed during their meeting included defense cooperation, mutual logistical support, and information-sharing in emerging areas. Here's more.
Singh and Austin reviewed several bilateral and multilateral exercises and also agreed to increase cooperation between the Indian military and the US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command, and Africa Command. The talks also focused on steps for implementing bilateral defense pacts like Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).
While LEMOA—an India-specific version of a deal that the US inked with several close nations—allows both sides to utilize each other's military bases for repairs and replenishment of supplies, COMCASA provides for the interoperability between the two sides via the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India. Meanwhile, through BECA, India will gain real-time access to America's geospatial intelligence.
"We focused on expanding military-to-military engagement...We're determined to realize the full potential of comprehensive global strategic partnership," said Singh. He added India also invited the US defense industry to take advantage of the country's liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) policies in the defense sector.
"We reviewed the wide gamut of bilateral and multilateral exercises and agreed to pursue enhanced cooperation with the US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command, and Africa Command," stated Singh. "Acknowledging that we have in place the foundational agreements, LEMOA, COMCASA, and BECA, we discussed steps to be taken to realize their full potential for mutual benefit," the Defense Minister said.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Austin called the India-US partnership a "central pillar" of the US's Indo-Pacific policy. He also conveyed the Biden-Harris administration's message of America's strong commitment to its "allies and partners." Earlier on Saturday, he paid tributes at the National War Memorial. He also met PM Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval after his arrival in Delhi on Friday.
"We discussed opportunities to elevate the US-India Major Defense Partnership...a priority of the Biden-Harris Administration...through regional security cooperation, military-to-military interactions, and defense trade," Austin said. "India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner among today's rapidly shifting international dynamics. I reaffirm our commitment to a comprehensive and forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar to our approach to the region," he added.
To note, Austin is on a three-day trip to India, which is the third destination in his three-nation tour. He had visited Japan and South Korea before reaching India. Also, this is his first international trip after being appointed as the US Defense Secretary back on January 22 as part of US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris's administration.