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US will stand by India against China's belligerence on border, Def Secy Austin tells Def Min Rajnath Singh

Source : The Times of India

US will stand by India against China's belligerence on border, Def Secy Austin tells Def Min Rajnath Singh
United States defense secretary Lloyd Austin (right) talks with Indian minister of defense Rajnath Singh during an arrival ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington on Monday. (AP/PTI)

New Delhi: Ahead of the India-United States bilateral two-plus-two dialogue, US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin told his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh that his country would stand alongside India to protect its sovereignty in face of China’s belligerence on its northern borders.

Singh, on his part, stressed the need for co-development and co-production of high-tech weapons by India and the US, while exhorting American defence and aerospace companies to take advantage of his government’s initiatives to set up production facilities in India.

Austin accused the People's Republic of China of attempting to challenge and undermine the sovereignty of its neighbours in the Indo-Pacific region. "Beijing is eroding the security of the Indo-Pacific region from its construction of dual-use infrastructure along your (India's) border to its unlawful claims in the South China Sea, and we will continue to stand alongside you as you defend your sovereign interest,” he said.

The US defense secretary wasted no time in raising the issue of Ukraine, saying that Beijing is not alone in its efforts to undermine the security of its neighbours and to change the status quo by force. "Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian devastation that it has created are blatant attempts to undermine the international order that is grounded in the rules and the principles that we share,” he added.

Austin said just as India's leadership was central to this rules-based order, so is the US-India defence partnership and our collaboration with like-minded partners. “We now coordinate along -- alongside each other across the Indo-Pacific region and across domains, which is truly extraordinary, and we are committed to working seamlessly with you across new and emerging domains, including space and cyberspace,” he said.

The two leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral defence cooperation and the regional security situation. Both ministers acknowledged the salience of India-US defence partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region, Indian officials said.

They discussed ways to deepen the major bilateral "defence partnership” and to work together to advance quality and scope of cooperation. They reviewed military-to-military engagements, information sharing, enhanced logistics cooperation and ability of the armed forces to cooperate closely under compatible communication arrangements. In this context, closer cooperation of Special Operation Forces came up prominently.

Singh also separately met senior executives of Boeing and Raytheon, two of the biggest arms companies in the world, and asked them to take advantage of policy initiatives in India to steadily march from “Make in India” towards “Make for the World”.

India is slowly but steadily trying to emerge out of the strategically vulnerable position of being the world’s largest arms importer and build a robust defence-industry base. Towards this end, nine proposed foreign arms deals worth Rs 46,695 crore were recently scrapped in pursuit of the “Make in India” policy.

The government is encouraging global armament majors to set up base in India, stressing that there will be no discrimination between them and domestic companies towards the endeavour to make the country a global defence hub.

The US, on its part, has offered to deepen the bilateral defence cooperation to offset India’s massive dependence on Russian military hardware and software in the wake of the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Confronted with the US-led sanctions against Russia, India is grappling with the challenge of maintaining high operational military readiness because almost 70% of its defence hardware and software is of Soviet or Russian-origin, which require a regular supply of spares as well as maintenance.

The US, of course, has already bagged lucrative Indian defence deals worth over $21 billion since 2007. But no major project to jointly develop and produce cutting-edge weapon systems and platforms has taken off under the bilateral Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) that was launched in 2012.

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