During his India tour, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin III and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on March 19 discussed areas of mutual interest, strategic partnership and cooperation on various aspects of security and defence, according to ANI. Austin is on a three-day official visit to the country and in a tweet, he said that he was 'thrilled' to be in India. Austin had also said that the United States and India will work together to address 'the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region'.
Earlier in the day, Austin also met PM Modi and expressed the US’ strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. After Austin's meeting with PM Modi, the PMO issued a statement, "PM welcomed the warm and close relationship between the two countries and outlined his vision for strategic partnership between the 2 countries, emphasizing the important role of bilateral defence cooperation in India-US ties”.

The statement further read, “He requested Secretary Austin to convey his best wishes to President Biden. Secretary Austin reiterated the US Govt’s continued commitment towards strengthening bilateral defence relations between the two countries. He expressed the US’ strong desire to further enhance strategic partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond”.

Austin's India Tour

Ways to further accelerate India-US strategic ties, boosting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, China's aggressive behaviour in eastern Ladakh, challenges posed by terrorism and the Afghan peace process are expected to be the focus of the talks between the two sides, said government sources. India's plan to procure around 30 multi-mission armed Predator drones from the US for the three services at an estimated cost of over USD 3 billion is also expected to figure in the talks. The medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) Predator-B drones, manufactured by US defence major General Atomics, are capable of remaining airborne for around 35 hours and can hunt down targets at land and sea, they said.

Secretary Austin will hold extensive talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday. His visit to India came days after the top leadership of the four-member Quad --India, the US, Japan and Australia-- vowed to expand their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.