New Delhi: The Biden administration has sent a clear message of friendship to India: the close relationship between the two countries, particularly when it comes to national security, will continue.

President Joe Biden is sending his Secretary of Defence, General Lloyd Austin (Retd), to India later this month.

This is being seen as an important sign of how ties between the two countries will be like over the next four years.

For, India is not part of NATO or even, like Japan, South Korea and other countries in the Asia Pacific, an "ally," but a close friend and strategic partner.

Importantly, General Austin's visit will be in the third week of March, about two months after the new government took charge. His visit to India will be part of a tour of countries the United States has a close relationship with.

There were some questions when the Biden administration took over about how things would be, particularly because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump were also close friends.

But the United States has made it clear that this strategic partnership had nothing to do with which party was occupying the White House.

Things have gone forward from the time Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was President. The relationship got better when George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump were presidents. And clearly, this is expected to continue.

General Austin is a retired four-star general of the United States Army. He headed the US Central Command, commanded troops in Iraq and was vice-chief of the US Army.

A meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is expected. The Indian armed forces chiefs and the Chief of Defence, General Bipin Rawat are expected to call on him.

The visit will come at a time when Indian and Chinese troops are still eyeball-to-eyeball on the Line of Actual Control in east Ladakh, despite some disengagement in recent weeks.

The United States, which has slowly strengthened its positions in the Indo-Pacific after looking at China's aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea and other areas, has been supportive, as have many other countries.

India, along with the United States, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad. All four countries were part of the Malabar naval exercises several months ago.