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India essential partner for US; both have seen deepening defence ties: Pentagon official

WASHINGTON (PTI):  India is an essential partner for the United States and the two countries have seen a great progress in their defence ties, a Biden administration nominee for a top Pentagon position has told lawmakers.

Dr Ely Ratner, nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, also said that the Indo-Pacific region rightly serves as the Department's priority theater.

India is an essential partner for the US. In the 21st century, the Department of Defence has made great progress across Republican and Democratic administrations in deepening our defence relations with India, Ratner said during his confirmation hearing last week.

He said there are a number of foundational agreements that have been signed over the last years that he would like to execute.

There are a number of foundational agreements that have been signed over the last several years that, if confirmed, I would work hard to implement. And of course, India is now part of the Quad framework with Australia and Japan and the US as a foundation of the strength of our democracies in the region, Ratner told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his hearing.

Senator Angus King said that India's role could be incredibly important in America's ongoing competition with China. And I urge you to pursue that opportunity, which you have already indicated, he said.

Ratner said the Indo-Pacific region rightly serves as the Department's priority theater.

We must continue pursuing a free and open Indo-Pacific, while investing in our network of allies and partners throughout the region, including Taiwan, he said.

If confirmed, I would support the Administration's approach to North Korea, and affirm our alliance commitments to Japan and the Republic of Korea, including to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, he added.

Our alliances with Australia, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as our defence partnerships with India and Singapore, among others, are also critically important. So too is our commitment to ASEAN and the region's multilateral institutions as we tackle the breadth of traditional and non-traditional security challenges in the Indo-Pacific, including extremism and climate change, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the US should continue pursuing defence relations with China to develop crisis communications and risk reduction mechanisms.

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