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President Biden reaffirmed strength to defence ties with India: Shringla


Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Joe Biden meets in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Washington. A PTI Photo

WASHINGTON (PTI):  US President Joe Biden in his first-ever meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed the strength to defence relationship and his unwavering commitment to India as a major defence partner, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said.

President Biden welcomed Prime Minister Modi to the White House on Friday. The meeting of the two leaders in the Oval Office lasted for more than 90 minutes, instead of the scheduled 60 minutes.

"President Biden reaffirmed the strength to the defence relationship and unwavering commitment to India as a major defense partner. The leaders welcomed the deepening of advanced industrial cooperation in the defence sector, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters at a joint news conference on Friday.

During the meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, he said, there was emphasis on co-developing, co-production and expanding the area of industrials cooperation in the defence sector.

Having concluded four major defence enabling agreements since 2016, the United States and India have made significant progress as Major Defense Partners and America looks forward to further increasing information sharing, bilateral and multilateral exercises, maritime security cooperation, liaison officer exchanges, and logistical cooperation, the White House said in a fact sheet.

In furtherance of the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the United States and India agreed in July to a USD 22 million project to co-develop air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles. DTTI currently encompasses four working groups, and the next senior officials' meeting later this year will further expand defence industrial collaboration, it said.

The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Indian military, having offered state-of-the-art capabilities, such as the F/A-18, F-15EX, and F-21 fighter aircraft; MQ-9B unmanned aerial systems; the IADWS missile system; and additional P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, it said.

India's premier strategic airlift capabilities enable its military to provide critical humanitarian relief and evacuation operations to the Indian Ocean region and beyond.

According to the fact sheet, the US Air Force and US firm Lockheed Martin (LM) recently concluded a USD 329 million contract to provide maintenance for India's C-130J transport aircraft fleet.

This deal will help support jobs in both countries while enhancing India's strategic airlift capabilities, it said.

The Indian Air Force operates the second-largest C-17 fleet in the world behind the United States, recently signing a USD 637 million extended maintenance contract with US firm Boeing that supports jobs in both countries, it said.

In June, Lockheed Martin delivered India's first two MH-60R multi mission maritime helicopters. These platforms were assembled in Troy, Alabama, as well as Stratford, Connecticut, and integrated in Owego, New York, and allow India access to the multi-role helicopter global supply chain.

As the second-largest operator of P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft in the world, India is a valued maritime partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. U.S. firm Boeing delivered the tenth P-8I aircraft to the Indian Navy in July 2021, and the 11th aircraft is expected to be delivered in October, the White House said.

In 2020, India and the United States renewed their commitment to supporting effective nuclear security globally, through India's Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership and multilateral partners such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

We will continue joint efforts to prevent proliferation of nuclear materials, it said.

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