Under the new administration of the Joe Biden as the President of the United States, Lloyd Austin was appointed as the US Secretary of Defence. Owing to prosperous Indo-US relations, Austin spoke to his Indian counterpart, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday. This is the first official and public interaction between New Delhi and Washington under Biden administration.
The telephonic call between the defence officials from both the countries took place around 7:30 p.m. IST on Wednesday and lasted for around 20 minutes. During the call, the officials reaffirmed the Indo-Pacific vision, which is supported by both the US and India.
"During the telephonic talk, they reaffirmed their commitment to work together to strengthen the multifaceted India - US defence cooperation and the strategic partnership. Raksha Mantri and Secretary Austin discussed bilateral, regional and global issues," the official statement read.
It is not clear if the officials discussed the China and the Ladakh standoff between India and China. After the call, Singh tweeted that the commitment to strengthen India-US cooperation is firm.
"We reiterated our firm commitment to deepen India-US defence cooperation. We exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest to strengthen our strategic partnership," Singh tweeted.
Who is Lloyd Austin?
The United States Senate had confirmed a former Army general, Austin Lloyd to become the Defence Secretary, making him the first African American to hold the job. He received the overwhelming support of both parties, overcoming reservations about a retired general becoming the Defence Secretary within the legally required seven-year gap between retirement and appointment.
He has first-hand experience in Afghanistan as the commander of a joint task force of the US and its allies during 2003-05, which required him to interact with Pakistani generals. Austin had said that he would continue to build on the "strong defence cooperation" with India and ensure that the militaries of the two countries can collaborate.