New Delhi [India], March 20 (ANI): India is an increasingly important partner amid today's rapidly shifting international dynamics, said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Saturday and added that the ties between Washington and New Delhi are a "stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region".
"I'm pleased to report that Minister Singh and I had a very productive discussion on a number of security issues important to our two countries. And at the top of my agenda, I wanted to convey the Biden-Harris administration's message of our strong commitment to our allies and partners. India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner amid today's rapidly shifting international dynamics," Austin said while making the joint statement along with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Reaffirming Washington's support to India's call for an open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, Austin said, "As the world faces a global pandemic and growing challenge to an open and stable international system, the U.S.-India relationship is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region."
"Prime Minister Modi has stated that India stands for 'freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and adherence to international law.' This is a resounding affirmation of our shared vision for regional security in the Indo-Pacific. And it's clear that the importance of this partnership and its impact to the international rules-based order will only grow in the years ahead," he said.
Austin further said that he and Singh discussed opportunities to elevate the U.S.-India Major Defense Partnership that, he said is "a priority of the Biden-Harris Administration through regional security cooperation, military-to-military interactions, and defense trade."
"In addition, we are continuing to advance new areas of collaboration, including information-sharing, logistics cooperation, artificial intelligence; and cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber," he said further stating that cooperation among like-minded countries is imperative to securing the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region for the future.
"Despite today's challenging security environment, the partnership between the United States and India -- the world's two largest democracies -- remains resilient and strong. And we will seek every opportunity to build upon this major partnership," Austin added.
Indo-Pacific region is largely viewed as an area comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea. China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and its efforts to advance into the Indian Ocean are seen to have challenged the established rules-based system.
Austin, who arrived in Delhi earlier on Friday, is on a three-day official visit to the country. It is the first visit to India by a top official of the Biden administration. (ANI)