US says defence partnership with India 'really strong' and better than ever before

by IANS |

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday highlighted the growing defence partnership with India while citing some of the achievements of Indo-Pacific nations working together.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Austin stated that "like-minded countries" across the region have deepened their ties and delivered "real-world results" for the people of the Indo-Pacific.

"With India, we've made historic progress on co-producing fighter-jet engines and armoured vehicles," said Austin as he mentioned defence agreements with countries like Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Australia terming them not only "historic" but also "just the starting point".

Later, as he took on questions at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Austin once again touched on the "significant momentum" in defence ties with regional partners, especially India - a "flywheel" that he said is going to pick up speed because it benefits all.

"I think a good example is the relationship that we enjoy with India right now is as good as or better than our relationship has ever been. It's really strong," said Austin.

"You know, several years ago, we set out with a notion to - gain approval for India to build jet engines for fighter aircraft in India. I served on the board of a company that makes jet engines for fighter aircraft and I know how difficult this was going to be. And we were hopeful but very sceptical that we could get this across the finish line. We did it. That's happening," added the US Defence Secretary.

Last year, during Austin's two-day visit to New Delhi, India and the US finalised a new roadmap for defence industrial cooperation between the two countries which will fast-track technology cooperation and co-production in several areas. This included air combat and land mobility systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; munitions; and the undersea domain.

Washington had described the development as a "transformational moment" in the India-US defence partnership.

"To have the world's largest democracies with some of the most innovative workers and companies working more closely together on strategic technologies and how we can leverage them for security is a natural next step in this relationship," said a senior official at the Pentagon.

Asserting that India will be a critical strategic partner with the US in the coming decades, the officials are now engaged in co-producing and co-developing major systems together, something nobody would have thought of earlier.

"We now have working groups on everything ranging from cyberspace and critical technologies to maritime security, and India is leading in those forums together with the US and like-minded partners," the official said.

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