New Delhi: US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin met with External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Saturday (March 20) during his three-day visit to India. Afghanistan and the situation in the Indo Pacific region were the key topics of discussions during the talks.

The one-hour long talks included discussions around the current strategic situation in the Indo Pacific region and the EAM’s briefing about India’s “current security challenges and our long term strategic outlook”, sources said.

US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin also briefed Jaishankar about his visit to Japan and South Korea. Austin is on his maiden visit as Defence Secretary to Asia, with India being the final stop during it. His visit comes in light of the quad-India, Australia, Japan and US leadership virtual meet and increased New Delhi-Washington engagement.

While talking about Afghanistan, the ongoing peace process was discussed including an assessment of the situation on the ground. EAM Jaishankar appreciated the Biden Administration’s engagement with India on this issue. 

Earlier, the US had proposed to hold talks with the Afghan government. Six countries, including India, will participate in the talks to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. The visit of the US Defence Secretary will be followed by the visit of the Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar to India.

During the meet, highlighting the commonalities and convergence, EAM Jaishankar said that the India-US relationship was unique for the breadth and intensity of cooperation that covered so many domains. 

While defence engagement has increased with Washington authorizing over 20 billion dollars in defence sales to India, people to people relations form the bedrock of this partnership. 

The issue of human rights also came up during the meeting. The US Defence Secretary said “the two largest democracies in the world, human rights and values, are important to us and we will lead with these values.” 

Jaishankar agreed and emphasised that a strong relationship between the two democracies was not only important for both countries but for the rest of the world.

Ahead of the visit, chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee Senator Robert Menendez called for the US defence secretary to raise the issue of human rights.


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