US Defence Secretary Austin appreciates Indian Navy’s role in anti-piracy ops..

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday conveyed to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh his appreciation for the Indian Navy’s important role in conducting anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean Region.

Singh and Austin held a telephonic talk and a readout on the conversation issued by the defence ministry mentioned the US defence secretary’s compliment for the Indian Navy.

It is understood that the two ministers also deliberated on India’s planned acquisition of 31 MQ-9B drones from the US under the foreign military sale (FMS) route.

The two ministers discussed ways and means to implement the ambitious India-US defence cooperation roadmap that seeks to significantly elevate strategic ties between the two countries.

“The US Secretary of Defence appreciated the important role being played by the Indian Navy in conducting anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean Region,” the ministry said.

On Friday, the Indian Navy executed a dramatic mid-sea operation rescuing 17 hostages and capturing 35 armed pirates around 2,600 km from the Indian coast after seizing a Maltese-flagged vessel that was hijacked on December 14.

The Navy deployed its warship INS Kolkata, long-endurance Sea Guardian drones, P-8I surveillance aircraft and airdropped elite MARCOS commandos from a C-17 plane of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

In the last few weeks, the Indian Navy extended assistance to a number of merchant vessels in the western Indian Ocean following attacks on them.

In a post on ‘X’, Singh said he and Austin discussed a range of issues including the regional security situation.

“Had a telephonic conversation with my friend, @SecDef Mr Lloyd Austin and briefly discussed a range of bilateral, regional security and defence cooperation issues,” Singh said.

“We also discussed ways and means to implement the India-US Defence Cooperation Roadmap which was concluded last year,” he said.

The defence ministry said both Singh and Austin also reviewed the bilateral events such as the INDUS-X summit held in Delhi last month.

“Both Ministers briefly discussed a range of bilateral, regional security and defence cooperation issues,” it said.

“They reviewed the recent bilateral events such as the INDUS-X summit held in New Delhi in February, and the bilateral tri-service exercise ‘Tiger Triumph’ which commenced in India on March 18,” it said.

“The two ministers discussed ways and means to implement the India-US defence cooperation roadmap which was concluded last year. Other defence industrial cooperation issues such as repair of US naval ships in Indian shipyards were also briefly discussed,” the ministry said.

Both the ministers had last met in New Delhi in November during the India-US ministerial 2+2 dialogue.

The India-US defence cooperation has been on an upswing in the last few years.

In June 2016, the US designated India a “Major Defence Partner” paving way for sharing of critical military equipment and technology.

The two countries have also inked key defence and security pacts over the past few years, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.

The two sides also signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 which provides for interoperability between the two militaries and for the sale of high-end technology from the US to India.

In October 2020, India and the US sealed the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) to further boost bilateral defence ties. The pact provides for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.

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