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National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval had a telephonic conversation with his US Counterpart Jake Sullivan on January 27. On the other hand, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also received an introductory telephone call from the newly-appointed US Secretary of Defence Gen (Retired) Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.

These phone calls were the first high-level engagement between the Government of India and the Joe Biden administration.

China figured in telephone call

During the phone call with Secretary Austin, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated him on his appointment. “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,” the Raksha Mantri said in a tweet.

Issues concerning bilateral ties, regional concerns and global agendas were also discussed between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart.

Spoke with my US counterpart, @SecDef Austin & conveyed my warm wishes on his appointment.
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.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) January 27, 2021

News agency PTI quoted sources to suggest that China also figured in the talks in the “larger context of geo-political developments, and in relations to the strategic interests of India and the US in the Indo-Pacific region”.

US looking forward to working with India: NSA Jake Sullivan

NSA Ajit Doval on Tuesday congratulated Jake Sullivan on his appointment as the National Security Advisor to US President Joe Biden.

“NSA Doval underscored that as leading democracies, with an abiding faith in an open and inclusive world order, India and the US were uniquely positioned to work closely on regional and international issues including combating the scourge of terrorism, maritime security, cyber security and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

It went on to add, “NSA Sullivan stated that the US was looking forward to working together on the bilateral agenda and the common global challenges. The two NSAs agreed to work closely to further advance India-US relations, which are built on shared values and common strategic and security interests. They highlighted the need to work collectively to address challenges in the post-Covid era and further expand the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.”

Indo-US defence on upswing

India-US defence ties have been on an upward trajectory since June 2016 when the US designated India as a “Major Defence Partner”.

In the final days of the Trump administration, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited India and the two countries signed the crucial BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement which provides for sharing of high-end military technology geospatial maps between the two countries.

Prior to BECA, India and the US signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.