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It is a great honour and pleasure to receive US Secretary of Defence Mr Austin in his first official visit abroad and to India. I spoke with Secretary Austin immediately after he assumed charged. We had an excellent conversation during which I invited him to visit India at his earliest convenience. His visit to India despite the COVID-19 global pandemic, shows the abiding commitment of the United States to our bilateral relationship.

I am happy to inform that we had a comprehensive and fruitful discussion with Secretary Austin and his delegation. We are keen to work together to realise the full potential of the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.

Our discussions today focussed on our wide ranging defence cooperation and expanding military-to-military engagement across services, information sharing, cooperation in emerging sectors of defence, and mutual logistics support.

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. Acknowledging that we have in place the foundational agreements, LEMOA, COMCASA and BECA, we discussed steps to be taken to realise their full potential for mutual benefit.

I conveyed my appreciation to Secretary Austin for participation of US in Aero India 2021 along with a business delegation. I invited US industry to take advantage of India’s liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) policies in the defence sector. We both agreed that there are opportunities for collaboration in defence industry.

The recent Leaders’ Summit of India, USA, Japan and Australia under the Quad framework emphasized our resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. We discussed the need for enhanced capacity building to address some of the non-traditional challenges such as oil spills and environment disasters, drug trafficking, Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, etc.

India is committed to further consolidate our robust defence partnership with the United States. I look forward to working with you closely to make the India-US relationship one of the defining partnerships of 21st century.