By Terri Moon
The United States places great importance on building a vibrant defense partnership with India, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a press conference with India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman following their bilateral discussions in New Delhi Monday.
“This is a historic opportunity for our two democracies, a time of strategic convergence,” Mattis said. “As India takes its rightful place at the global table, India will find the United States to be a steadfast friend and partner.”
The four-day trip marks the first time a cabinet member from the President Donald J. Trump administration has visited India.
The secretary said the defense cooperation between the two nations has steadily grown in recent years, and is underpinned by strategic convergence between both countries, based on common objectives and goals in the region.
The United States’ designation of India as a major defense partner reflects the progress of that cooperation and recognizes India as a “pillar of regional stability and security,” Mattis said.
“[And] it reflects our desire for a long-term strategic partnership in the 21st century,” he noted.
Security is a key strategic pillar in the wide-ranging relationship between the two nations, the secretary said.
“As we work to strengthen our defense relationship, we seek to expand our cooperation and building partnerships, also, across the region,” he said. “In particular, we applaud India’s invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome their efforts to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability and security.”
Also key to the partnership is both the United States and India recognize the worldwide threat of global terrorism, Mattis noted.
“There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe havens,” he said. “As global leaders, India and the United States resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge,” he said.
Additionally, India’s leadership is vital in wide-ranging initiatives across the Indo-Pacific region, Mattis said.
“We appreciate India’s stabilizing leadership in the Indian Ocean and seek to work together to build a resilient regional architecture with a foundation both our nations respect: that of a rules-based order,” he said.
The United States appreciates the efforts of India, the United Nations and the broader international community to increase pressure against North Korea over its dangerous and destabilizing behavior, Mattis said.
Deepening Defense Ties
“In addition to our growing global cooperation, the minister and I reaffirmed our commitment to deepen bilateral defense cooperation, in particular, expanding maritime engagement as one of our top priorities,” he said.
The secretary said he also looks forward to new U.S.-India naval exercises, and furthering the robust defense trade and technology collaboration between both nations’ defense industries.
“Cooperation in this area will improve the capabilities of both our militaries and reinforce the foundations for an enduring partnership,” Mattis said. “I look forward, alongside Secretary of State [Rex] Tillerson, to convening the inaugural two-plus-two dialogue in the near future between our foreign and defense ministers. ‘Steady engagement’ will be our watch words for the path ahead.”
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