Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said defence cooperation between India and the US has gone up significantly. Addressing a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of Defence James Mattis, Ms. Sitharaman said, there is a need to expand the defence cooperation further. She said, security situation in Afghanistan and maritime security in Indian ocean were discussed. She said, Mattis has assured that he will raise the issue of terrorism with Pakistan when he visits that country.
Nirmala Sitharaman told her United States counterpart James Mattis today that there will be no Indian troops in Afghanistan.”There shall not be any (Indian) boots on the ground in Afghanistan,” the Defence Minister told reporters after talks with the visiting US Defence Secretary.
“These will continue. These engagements will continue,” Sitharaman told Mattis, but “there shall be no boots on the ground in Afghanistan”. She also said that she has raised the issue of US military aid to Pakistan in her talks with Mattis.
Defence Minister, however, added that India has contributed consistently to Afghanistan by building dams, schools and providing medical assistance and training to its people.
Sitharaman underlined India’s strong relations with the US. She said the two countries “share a strong and vibrant strategic partnership as the world’s largest democracies”. “We also share fundamental values and interests,” she said.
But training of the Afghan National Army and supply of more hardware and weapons platforms to the Afghan security forces by India cannot be ruled out.
She said there was a growing convergence between India and the US over the issue of terrorism in the region and condemnation of those who use terror as an instrument of state policy.
Mattis said the US values India’s “invaluable contribution to Afghanistan” and welcomes further efforts to promote democracy, safety and security there.
US Secretary of Defence Mattis said, India and the US have suffered due to the menace of terrorism and they have recognised the global threat of terrorism. He said, high degree of team work is needed to wipe out the menace.
Mr Mattis appreciated India’s efforts to put pressure of North Korea. He said his country will continue to maintain diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea. He also appreciated India’s leadership in Indian ocean. US Defence Secretary had arrived in New Delhi yesterday.