US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin considers India “a critical partner” for meeting the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and gives priority to ties with it, according to Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin considers India “a critical partner” for meeting the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and gives priority to ties with it, according to Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby.
“The secretary is prioritising this relationship, wants to see it continue to grow and develop and to get stronger,” Kirby said on Wednesday at a news briefing in Washington.
“He looks very much looking forward to working on initiatives to do just that,” Kirby said in reply to a reporter's question about Austin's views on relations with India.
Austin considers India “a critical partner, especially when you consider all the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” he added.
Austin spoke last month with India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and “emphasised the Department’s commitment to the US-India Major Defence Partnership, observing that it is built upon shared values and a common interest in ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open,” the Pentagon said.
President Joe Biden announced the formation of the new strategy task force so that “we can chart a strong path forward on China-related matters” during a visit to the Pentagon last week.
“We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep the peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally,” he said.
Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs S. Jaishankar is to participate Thursday in a virtual ministerial meeting of the Quad, according to the State Department.
The discussions between Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Foreign Ministers Marise Payne of Australia and Toshimitsu Motegi Japan “is critical to advancing our shared goals of free and open Indo-Pacific and rising to the defining challenges of our time,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
The Indo-Pacific region became the focus of US strategic interest under former President Donald Trump who brought the threat from China to the countries in the region and to Washington's global interests to the fore.
The Quad was revived in 2017 as the US pushed cooperation among the regional democracies to meet the China challenge.
Price mentioning cooperation in COVID-19 response and climate change indicates an interest in solidifying the Quad as a group with a broader regional agenda.
India is already providing COVID-19 vaccines to countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Biden has made China the principal adversary of America, saying earlier this month that Washington will “take on directly the challenges posed.”
Later during a call he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “agreed to continuing close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad,” the White House said.
Since Biden assumed the presidency, officials the two countries dealing with defence and foreign policy have discussed the Indo-Pacific cooperation in phone conversations.
Blinken and Jaishanker have held two phone conversations.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austing, and National Security Advisers Ajit Doval of India and Jake Sullivan of the US have also talked.