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Commissioning of INS Vikrant significant for India's role as security provider in Indo-Pacific: US Def Secy


India commissioned the indigenously-designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant on Sept. 2, 2022. Photo: Indian Navy

WASHINGTON (PTI): US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday congratulated his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh on the commissioning of aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, noting the significance of the event for India's role as a security provider in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.

Austin and Singh held a telephonic conversation during which they committed to expanding information-sharing and logistics cooperation between the two militaries and agreed to initiate a dialogue to deepen bilateral collaboration in space, cyber, artificial intelligence, and other new defence domains, the Pentagon said.

During the call coming on the heels of a productive set of engagements in New Delhi last week for the 2+2 Intersessional and Maritime Security Dialogues, the two leaders discussed recent developments in certain geographical regions, including in East Asia, the Indian Ocean Region and beyond, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a readout of the call.

Defence Secretary Austin congratulated Singh on the commissioning of the INS Vikrant, noting the significance of the event for India's role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific. Austin's comments assume importance amidst China's aggressive moves in the strategically vital Indo-Pacific region where it has territorial disputes with many countries.

India inducted its maiden indigenously-designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant on September 2. The commissioning of the warship has put India into a select league of countries with domestic capability to develop such large vessels.

In light of the evolving regional security environment, the two defence leaders committed to expanding information-sharing and logistics cooperation as the US and Indian militaries operate and coordinate more closely together, Ryder said.

Austin also expressed his support for additional mid-voyage repairs of US Navy ships in India following the historic visit of the USNS Charles Drew to Chennai in August.

They agreed to initiate a dialogue later this year to deepen bilateral collaboration in space, cyber, artificial intelligence, and other new defence domains. Secretary Austin and Minister Singh highlighted their commitment to strengthening defence technology and industrial cooperation to support India's rise as an industry leader and regional security provider, Ryder said.

The two leaders also underscored the value of advancing cooperation through the Quad partnership to sustain regional peace, stability, and prosperity, including through coordinated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

According to Ryder, the two leaders committed to an ambitious set of initiatives leading up to the 2+2 Ministerial in India early next year, as the United States and India work to swiftly expand the depth and breadth of their cooperation. They concluded the call by reaffirming the centrality of the US-India defence partnership to their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, he said.

After the phone call, Defence Minister Singh tweeted that he conveyed to the US Defence Secretary India's concerns over Washington's decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan's F-16 fighter jet fleet.

"I conveyed India's concern at the recent US decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan's F-16 fleet," the Defence Minister said on Twitter.

The US has planned to provide Foreign Military Sales (FMS) worth US$ 450 million for hardware, software and spares for the F-16 fighter fleet of Pakistan.

"Had a warm and productive telephonic conversation with the US Secretary of Defence, Mr. Lloyd Austin. We discussed the growing convergence of strategic interests and enhanced defence & security cooperation," Singh said.

"We also discussed ways to strengthen technological and industrial collaboration and also explore cooperation in emerging and critical technologies," he said.

Singh said he was looking forward to continuing dialogue with Secretary Austin to further consolidate the India-US partnership.

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