- Nirmala Sitharaman meets James Mattis
By Sangeeta Saxena
New Delhi. 26 September 2017. It did not seem like a new incumbent speaking with a little hesitation. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met the press after the Delegation Level talks with US Defence Secretary James Mattis and confidently had her tete-e-tete with the media along with her US counterpart who is the first Ministerial counterpart she has met since taking over as Defence Minister of India.
“Defence cooperation between India and the US has grown significantly in recent years and emerged as a key pillar of our strategic partnership.Our military-to-military engagement continues to grow. We recently concluded the trilateral Malabar Naval Exercise in the Bay of Bengal along with Japan. This edition of Malabar demonstrated the progress made in operational synergies between our Navies. As we speak, our Armies are conducting their Exercise Yudh Abhyas. In our talks today, we agreed to explore additional, specialized exercises,” she said.
Cooperation in defence equipment has grown steadily over the past years. The US is now a leading supplier of state-of-the-art defence equipment to India. She appreciated Secretary Mattis’ willingness to share further cutting-edge platforms which would enhance India’s defence preparedness to meet current and emerging threats.
They also discussed how to refocus and re-energize the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) as a mechanism to promote technology sharing as well as co development and co-production efforts.
“We also exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest. The situation in our neighbourhood and the growing menace of cross-border terrorism were discussed in depth. There is growing convergence in the approaches of both our countries on this issue. We both recognize the importance of holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism,” said the Defence Minister.
“As you are aware, India welcomed President Trump’s new US Strategy for Afghanistan announced last month. Today, I had useful discussions with Secretary Mattis on how we could strengthen our cooperation bilaterally as well as with the Government of Afghanistan in pursuit of our common objective of a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan,” she added. “There shall not be any (Indian) boots on the ground in Afghanistan,”Defence Minister reiterated after a question on India’s Afghanistan strategy by the press.
They also discussed the issues relating to maritime security in the Indian Ocean and the broader Asia-Pacific Region as well as regional connectivity issues. India supports the freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded lawful commerce. “We also believe that disputes should be resolved through peaceful means and in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law. I am happy to note that Secretary Mattis reaffirmed the US position in support of these principles. I also welcome his reiteration of the US commitment to work with India in ensuring maritime security in the lndo Pacific and as first responder to HADR situations,” she informed.