US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to pay 2-day visit to India
Defense Secy Lloyd Austin

New Delhi: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will pay a two-day visit to India beginning Sunday to discuss ways to further expand the bilateral strategic engagement ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s trip to Washington.

People familiar with Austin’s visit said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the US defence secretary are set to discuss a number of new defence cooperation projects that are set to be unveiled after Modi’s talks with US President Joe Biden in Washington more than two weeks later.

China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region as well as along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and ways to combat the threat of terrorism are likely to figure in the talks between Singh and Austin on Monday, they said.

The US defence secretary will arrive in India from Singapore on Sunday on a two-day visit, the defence ministry said.

It will be Austin’s second visit to India. His previous trip to the country was in March 2021.

The ministry said Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius will also visit New Delhi for bilateral talks with Singh that will take place on June 6.

A host of bilateral defence cooperation issues, with a focus on industrial cooperation, are likely to be discussed during Singh’s meetings with Austin and Pistorius, it said.

“US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and German Federal Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius are visiting New Delhi for bilateral talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The Defence Minister’s meeting with the US Secretary of Defence will be held on June 5, while talks with the German Federal Minister of Defence will take place on June 6,” it added.

The India-US defence and strategic ties have been on an upswing in the last few years.

The two countries have signed key defence and security pacts over the last 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 the COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018, which provides for interoperability between the two militaries and the sale of high-end technology from the United States to India.

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

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

The German defence minister will be on a four-day visit to India beginning June 5. He will arrive from Indonesia.

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Apart from his meeting with Singh, Pistorius is likely to meet officials of a few defence start-ups during an event to be organised by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) in New Delhi.

On June 7, he is scheduled to travel to Mumbai where he is likely to visit the Western Naval Command headquarters and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, the ministry said.

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