United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin likely to visit India later this month, according to sources. His visit would be the first in-person visit by any member of President Joe Biden’s administration to visit India.
In January, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his counterpart Austin emphasised Washington’s commitment to the Major Defense Partnership with New Delhi. The two leaders also held talks over the two countries’ vision of an open and free Indo-Pacific region.
“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Indian Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh and during the call, Austin emphasized the Department’s commitment to the US-India Major Defense Partnership, observing that it is built upon shared values and a common interest in ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.
The leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) countries — Japan, United States, Australia and India — plan to hold a teleconference as early as mid-March, Kyodo News reported citing sources as saying on Friday (local time).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are also expected to discuss the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and efforts to tackle climate change, the sources said.
The US President had spoken to PM Narendra Modi in February in which the White House said the leaders would work towards “a stronger regional architecture through the Quad.”
Last month, the foreign ministers of the four countries held an online meeting, in which they agreed to work towards a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region while strongly opposing any attempts by Beijing to alter the status quo in the East and South China seas by force.
China has criticised the framework as an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seeking to undermine its legitimate rise.
(With ANI inputs)