PM Modi and his team interact with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, during the video conference

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Friday held a telephonic conversation with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and praised India's COVID-19 initiative for SAARC countries, the Pentagon said

The two leaders discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and underscored their commitment to close communication during this period in order to maintain momentum on initiatives that reinforce their comprehensive global partnership, the Pentagon said in a readout of the call.

"During the call, the two leaders also discussed bilateral defence priorities, including the ongoing regional cooperation and initiatives to enhance military-to-military engagement and defence trade," it said.

Esper expressed his appreciation for India's leadership in coordinating COVID-19 related relief efforts among South Asian countries and conveyed his intent to visit India at the earliest opportunity, the Pentagon said.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Esper had postponed his scheduled travel to India this month.

He has been roped in by President Donald Trump to combat the coronavirus that has so far infected more than 13,000 Americans claimed 230 lives.