India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during their joint press conference at South Block in New Delhi, Sept. 26. (Manvender Vashist/PTI)
India and the U.S. have a “historic” opportunity to set a refreshed partnership built on shared values of democracy, freedom of expression and human dignity, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said as he embarked on his visit to New Delhi.
Mattis, the first Cabinet Minister of the Trump Administration to visit India, said that for America, India was clearly a pillar of regional stability and security.
“We have a historic opportunity to set a refreshed partnership between our nations, and it’s a partnership built on respect, trust and the shared values of democracy, freedom of expression and human dignity. And our vision aims to support an open, just and rules-based global order,” Mattis told reporters travelling with him to India.
He said he will discuss the joint efforts to advance common goals through a broader strategic exchange of views during his visit from September 26-27.
“Basically, putting meat on the structure, not only in terms of U.S.-India partnership, but how the United States and India can work together to build partnerships across the region,” he said.
“India, from our perspective, is clearly a pillar of regional stability and security. We share a common vision for a peaceful and prosperous vision in the Indo-Pacific region, one that’s based on that strong, rules-based international order, and the peaceful resolution of disputes and territorial integrity,” he said.
Mattis said the two countries shared vision of partnership was neither based on narrow interests nor to the exclusion of any other nation.
“In particular, I want to applaud India’s invaluable contributions, significant contributions, to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability and security in the fight against terrorism. Plus, we have a host of other issues to work with more vigor as well, as we look toward the future,” he said.
During his India visit, Mattis will lay a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate and inspect Tri-service Guard of Honor at the South Block lawns. He will also hold talks with Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
“I will meet with Minister Sitharaman for the first time,” he said.
Noting that the U.S.-India defense cooperation has steadily expanded in recent years, underpinned by their common objectives and goals in the region, Mattis said this relation will benefit both economies while reducing any legacy and trust issues.
He said the Department of Defense’s designation of India as a major defense partner reflected the progress made in strengthening the two countries’ security cooperation.
Mattis said the goal of his trip was to promote pragmatic progress between the two countries’ defense partnership, delivering defense interoperability aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump’s direction as security is one of the key strategic pillars.
“We will continue this discussion in the future with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Modi, a discussion that will continue to broaden and deepen in the months ahead, when Secretary Tillerson and I meet together with our counterparts. Steady engagement will be our watchwords for the path ahead,” he said.
“We will be working on this trip and in the future to bring our bureaucracies up to speed by underlining our commonalities in our approaches and our objectives,” he said.