US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit India for two days beginning Sunday (June 4) to discuss expanding bilateral strategic engagement before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Washington.
Austin and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh are expected to talk about new defense cooperation projects, which will be unveiled after Modi’s meeting with President Joe Biden in two weeks.
The discussions between Singh and Austin on Monday may include General Electric’s proposal to share fighter jet engine technology with India, and India’s plan to acquire 30 MQ-9B armed drones from US company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) at a cost exceeding $3 billion. India has been seeking the manufacturing of jet engines locally through technology transfer agreements.
China’s aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, along the line of actual control, and counter-terrorism strategies are also likely topics during their discussion. Meanwhile, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius is set to arrive in India on Monday for a four-day visit.
Austin’s visit aims to deepen the US-India major defense partnership as ties between both countries enter an exciting new phase. This marks his second trip after his initial visit in March 2021. German Federal Minister Pistorius is also scheduled for bilateral talks with Singh on June 6.
Both US Secretary of Defense Austin and German Federal Minister Pistorius will meet Indian Defense Minister Singh separately; meetings with Austin occur on June 5 while talks with Pistorius take place on June 6. The focus of these conversations will center on industrial cooperation and other bilateral defense issues.
Strengthening India-US Defense and Strategic Ties
India-US defense and strategic ties have strengthened in recent years, with both countries signing key security agreements. In 2016, the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was signed, allowing their militaries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment. The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) followed in 2018, enabling interoperability between the two militaries and facilitating high-end technology sales from the US to India.
In October 2020, India and the US further boosted bilateral defense ties by sealing the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which allows sharing of advanced military technology logistics and geospatial maps.
The German Defense Minister will visit India for four days starting June 5th after arriving from Indonesia. During his stay, he is expected to meet with Indian officials as well as representatives from defense startups at an event organized by Innovations for Defense Excellence (IDEX) in New Delhi. On June 5th, he will travel to Mumbai where he plans to visit Western Naval Command headquarters and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited.
Modi’s Historic US Congress Address
Narendra Modi may become the first Indian Prime Minister to address the US Congress twice, as he has been invited by congressional leaders to speak during his upcoming state visit in June. However, there is no confirmation yet from New Delhi on whether he has accepted the invitation.
Modi’s state visit will take place on June 22 at President Joe Biden’s invitation. The last state dinner for an Indian leader was held 14 years ago when former President Barack Obama hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009. If Modi accepts, he would be the only Indian Prime Minister to have addressed the US Congress twice – with his first speech taking place in 2016.
Previously, five other Indian Prime Ministers had addressed either a joint session or separate sessions of Congress: Jawaharlal Nehru (1949), Rajiv Gandhi (1985), P V Narasimha Rao (1994), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (2000), and Manmohan Singh (2005).
The invitation was initiated by two members of the House of Representatives who lead the India Caucus: Democrat Ro Khanna and Republican Michael Waltz. They indicated their intention to invite Modi during an India summit they hosted on Capitol Hill in April for lawmakers, policy experts, and Indian-American community leaders discussing future India-US relations. Last week, they wrote to Speaker McCarthy requesting him to invite PM Modi along with four Congressional leaders representing both Democratic and Republican parties.
India’s Global Diplomacy
India’s foreign policy focuses on building connections with countries across the globe. With over 75 years of independence, India maintains diplomatic relations with nearly every nation and practices realistic diplomacy. Today, India confidently engages with the world based on its own identity and priorities.
India’s new voice in global affairs is rooted in domestic realities, civilization ethos, and a firm pursuit of vital interests. The Indian foreign minister emphasized that it is better to engage with the world as we are rather than trying to please everyone. As a result, the world interacts with India on its terms.
India has consistently maintained a balance of power to its advantage by challenging China’s initiatives since 2014 and responding strongly to military aggression. Additionally, India continually fosters growing economic ties worldwide.
As India’s economic interdependence deepens, it pays close attention to markets for products, sources of raw materials, and potential recipients for expanding foreign aid through multi-aligned approaches and intervention over interference.
Numerous treaties and agreements have been signed between India and developed nations such as the United States (US). Meetings between high-level officials like the US defense secretary and Prime Minister Modi further demonstrate progress in Indian foreign policy development.