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Defence min's 5-day US tour concludes

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Friday concluded her five-day visit to the United States, which officials said was aimed at "accelerating the momentum" of India-US defence ties -- from enhancing India's naval capabilities in the region, to increasing the footprint of American companies in Make in programme, and substantially increasing bilateral defence trade.

While no announcements were made with regard to shifting of production base to or deals in armed drones, officials privy to the high-level talks said US is leaning way forward in meeting India's needs and aspirations in the defence sector and is taking steps that would help it achieve its strategic goals.

There is a "mutual desire to move positively and quickly" in defence relationship, Sitharaman told at the on Monday, which was also her only during this US visit.

In the last one month, first met Vice and then was in a tri-lateral meeting involving US and Japanese Shinjo Abe, wherein Indo-Pacific and regional peace was a discussed. Early this summer Mattis met Modi.

Sitharaman, the of India, was accorded a red-carpet welcome during her maiden visit to the US in this capacity wherein she was given a rare look-in and briefing into the various aspects of US armed forces, defence industry and the ecosystem that the has developed over the last few decades involving the military, strategic thinking community, research and industrial base.

In the hub of innovation and starts ups Sitharaman and her delegation was given an insight into the American defence research set up and what are the best defence practices that can be adopted by

Sitharaman capped off her trip with a visit to the headquarters of the what early this year was rechristened as

This was but natural in a year when the started calling as Indo-Pacific and renamed as Indo-or INDOPACOM.

"Our two democratic nations are committed to upholding a rules-based international order, which has brought decades of peace, stability, and prosperity. We are global partners on defence and security and this exemplifies our mutual cooperation to assure a free and open Indo-Pacific, said Adm

The current situation in Indo-Pacific region was the topic of focus during Sitharaman's meetings with US leaders, besides which a wide range of issues were covered, including situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, recent developments in Sri Lanka, and quick co-ordination between the two powerful armies for peace purposes.

Issues like CAATSA and purchase of major from including S-400 did crop up during the meeting, but the Americans gave an impression that the is "eager than ever" to enhance its defence trade and strategic ties with India.

While making it clear that India can buy weapons from any country it sees fit, the American leadership suggested the Asian nation to select the US over other countries.

Some of the existing rules, regulations and legislations have slowed the process of defense acquisition from the US, the Indian delegation pointed out.

This was said despite major changes like India being accorded a 'major defense partner' status in 2016, India being placed in STA-1 category this year and the sub-continent nation signing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in September.

Given India's geographical location, its representatives said they were willing to place orders for latest and technology and not for anything else.

Further, the officials said India does not want simple defense trade as co-development and co-production need to be essential in the India-US defense relationship, they pointed out.

The Americans appeared on the same page, but expressed their sense of frustration over India's defence procurement process.

At the conclusion of Sitharaman's visit, in a statement, said this partnership was a reflection of the increasing strategic importance of the US-India security relationship and the progress both countries have made in advancing their defence cooperation.

The scope for mutual coordination and collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region continues to grow. Air forces of India and the US are currently conducting a 12-day military exercise in Kalaikunda and Panagarh air bases in West Bengal, with an aim to enhance operational coordination, according to India Air Forces officials. The 'Ex Cope India-18' will be the fourth edition in the series of bilateral drills between the and the

Meeting her American counterpart at the on Monday, Sitharaman had said the recent high-level meetings are an indication of the depth and quality of "our bilateral partnership, as well as our mutual desire" to work closely on a range of bilateral and global issues.

Sitharaman described her US visit as part of her endeavour to "take forward bilateral defence cooperation".

Noting that the India-US relationship in defence has acquired the dimensions of a strategic partnership over the last decade, she said the two countries have made considerable progress.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, December 08 2018. 08:20 IST