NEW DELHI — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday discussed upgrading a partnership with India, a major arms buyer, and laid out a roadmap for cooperation over the next five years, officials said. as both countries are grappling with China’s economic rise and growing belligerence.
Austin’s visit comes as India strengthens its domestic defense industry by purchasing new technologies and reducing its reliance on imports, especially from Russia, the largest supplier of military hardware. of India despite the ongoing war in Ukraine.
A statement from the Indian Defense Ministry said Austin and his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, explored ways to build resilient supply chains. They decided to “identify opportunities for cooperation in the development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems, and to facilitate enhanced cooperation between the defense startup ecosystems of the two countries.” .
They also discussed regional security issues for their mutual interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
“I am returning to India to meet with key leaders to discuss strengthening our Key Defense Partnership. Together, we are advancing our common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Austin wrote on Twitter after arriving in New Delhi on Sunday.
Austin, who is on his second visit to India, is expected to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington on June 22, which has fueled speculation about the possibility of an announcement. defense contracts.
Rahul Bedi, a defense analyst, said that India is looking to buy 18 armed high-altitude drones from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. with an estimated price of 1.5 billion to 2 billion USD. Bedi said the drones will likely be deployed along the borders with China and Pakistan and in the strategic Indian Ocean region.
The Indian media reported that the co-production and production of fighter jet engines, infantry fighting vehicles, howitzers and their precision weapons were discussed last month in Washington during US-India Defense Policy Group meeting.
Austin arrived in New Delhi from Singapore, where he attended the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum that brings together top officials, diplomats and defense leaders. Austin has lobbied to support Washington’s vision of a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific in a world of rules and rights” as the best way to combat the China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
China’s Defense Minister, General Li Shangfu, told the conference that the United States had “deceived and exploited” Asia-Pacific countries to advance its own interests in order to maintain its “position of his domination”.
Li suggests that Washington has maintained alliances that are “remnants of the Cold War” and forged new treaties, such as the AUKUS agreement with Britain and Australia and the Quad with Australia, India and Japan, “to dividing the world into ideologies”. -manage camps and provoke confrontation.”
India is trying to strike a balance in its relationship with Washington and Moscow, while reducing its dependence on Russian weapons by purchasing weapons from the US, France, Germany and other countries.
US defense trade with India has grown from near zero in 2008 to more than $20 billion in 2020. Major Indian purchases from the US include long-range maritime patrol aircraft and aircraft. C-130 transport, missiles and drones.
Up to 60% of India’s defense equipment comes from Russia, experts say, and New Delhi finds itself tied up at a time when it faces a three-year border confrontation with China east of Ladakh. , where tens of thousands of soldiers are stationed. stationed within shooting distance. 20 Indian soldiers and 4 Chinese soldiers were killed in a clash in 2020.