Bangkok: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held talks Sunday with US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper here on a range of strategic issues 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.
The defence minister also held separate bilateral meetings with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, Australian counterpart Linda Reynolds, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and New Zealand’s Defence Minister Ron Mark. The broad focus of the meetings was to add further momentum to bilateral defence cooperation.
Rajnath during his meeting with Esper, 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.
Rajnath said there has been a growing convergence between India and the US on the Indo-Pacific. He added that 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 (Sunday). We talked about ways to expand defence cooperation between India and the United States,” Rajnath Singh tweeted later.
Rajnath 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.
Expressing happiness on the growing Indo-US ties, Rajnath 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.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon in a statement said Esper highlighted opportunities to increase US-India collaboration across the region.
“Noting the importance both countries place on engagement with Southeast Asia Esper highlighted opportunities to increase US-India collaboration across the region and reinforce our commitment to a rules-based security architecture with ASEAN at its core,” the statement stated.