Trump Policy Shift Leads US to Seek Closer India Defense Ties

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When asked how he would balance the India-Pakistan dynamic, Mattis stressed that the relationship the United States is pursuing with India is "not to the exclusion of other countries".

USA officials argue that Mattis' decision to not stop in Pakistan is not meant as a slight to Islamabad, reports VOA.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is traveling to India to underscore the enduring USA commitment to its strategic partner, Defense Department officials said.

Apart from meeting his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, who only recently took charge of the Defence Ministry, Mattis will also have a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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According to the Newspaper, This will be prior to the official meetings scheduled for September 26-27.U.S. designated India as a major defence partner previous year and Mattis'visit is likely to take this forward and draw a blueprint for military cooperation between the two countries.A discussion is also expected on F-16 and F-18 fighter jets being manufactured by U.S. majors Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which are eyeing a deal under the Strategic Partnership model of the Indian government.

According to officials of the USA embassy, Mattis' visit emphasises that the United States views India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia.

"My goal on this trip is to promote pragmatic progress between us and our defense partnership, delivering defense interoperability, aligned with Prime Minister Modi and President [Donald J.] Trump's direction", Mattis said, adding that in the wide-ranging new relationship, security is one of the key strategic pillars.

Mr. Mattis will also express American appreciation for India's important contributions toward Afghanistan's democracy, stability, prosperity and security, it said.

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According to reports, Mattis is likely to offer a lucrative $15 billion deal to the world's largest weapons importer India to buy the latest fighter jet Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70 aircraft. Sources have told NDTV that a deal on unarmed Sea Guardian drones, which are used mostly for monitoring purposes, "is top of Secretary Mattis' agenda".

The media outlet reported that given the Chinese aggression in the Indian ocean, maritime security is in common interest of the two countries.

India has long vied with Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan, building dams, roads and a new parliament in the troubled country.

As for the Lockheed Martin jets, the company has also offered to build the aircraft locally in conjunction with Modi's Make In India initiative. Increased Indo-US defence cooperation should put a stop to such trouble.

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