Rajnath Singh holds talks with U.S. Defence Secretary with focus on Indo-Pacific

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with U.S. Defence Secretary Mark T Esper in Bangkok on Sunday on a range of issues of strategic importance including situation in the Indo-Pacific region and ways to further bolster bilateral security cooperation.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus, a platform comprising ASEAN and its eight dialogue partners including India, officials said here.

The defence minister also held a separate meeting with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono with a focus on adding further momentum to bilateral defence cooperation.

In the meeting with Mr. Esper, Mr. Singh reaffirmed New Delhi’s vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region based on a rules-based order and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China has been fast expanding military and economic influence in the Indo-Pacific region, triggering concern in various countries of the region and beyond.

Mr. Singh said there has been a growing convergence between India and the US on the Indo-Pacific, adding the 10-member grouping of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN is central to New Delhi’s vision for the region.

“Had an excellent meeting with US Secretary of Defence, Dr. Mark T Esper in Bangkok today. We talked about ways to expand defence cooperation between India and the United States,” he tweeted.

Mr. Singh conveyed to his American counterpart that he was looking forward to have substantial discussions during the deliberations under the ‘two-plus-two’ foreign and defence ministerial dialogue between the two countries in Washington later next month, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The inaugural Indo-US ‘two-plus-two’ talks took place here in September last year.

Expressing happiness on the growing Indo-US ties, Mr. Singh said the cooperation between the two sides has grown across a wide range of sectors, including defence and security, economy, energy, counter-terrorism and people-to-people relationship.

Mr. Singh and Mr. Esper also discussed a number of key issues concerning regional security and bilateral defence cooperation.

The ADMM-Plus is also likely to review the evolving security scenario in the region, particularly in the maritime domain.

The inaugural ADMM-Plus was convened in Hanoi in 2010. The Defence Ministers then had agreed on five areas of practical cooperation to pursue under the new mechanism, including maritime security, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping operations.

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