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US keen to strengthen relationship with India: Mattis

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WASHINGTON (PTI): The Trump administration recognises the opportunity to grow the US-India strategic partnership, deepen security relationship, broaden friendship and ensure a more safe, secure, prosperous and free Indo-Pacific region, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday.

Mattis and Pompeo arrived in New Delhi separately for the inaugral India-US two-plus-two dialogue being hosted by their Indian counterparts Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The focus of the dialogue will be to deepen strategic ties and resolve differences over India's defence engagement with Russia and crude oil import from Iran.

Mattis and Pompeo are planning to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on the sidelines of the inaugural two-plus-two dialogue to thank him for enhancing India-US relations.

Before landing in New Delhi, Mattis told travelling press that he and Pompeo will also meet Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to reinforce their appreciation for India's role in regional and global security framework.

"And thank Prime Minister Modi for his personal leadership in enhancing US-India relations," Mattis said.

During the two-plus-two dialogue, officials from India and the US look forward to discussing diplomatic and security issues.

"For my part, we'll certainly be looking at how do we counter terrorism, increasing defense innovation. In both countries, they have a strong technological bent in India, so this two-way street, not a one-way. We are all, of course, looking for how can we enhance stability in South Asia," he said.

Creating greater maritime security, considering the ocean that the Indian subcontinent faces, that will be something that is in the best interest of all the nations of the world that want to increase prosperity and the free trafficking of goods, Mattis said.

"We look forward to discussing our respective visions for further strengthening this relationship," he said.

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