“The Secretary made it very clear that we’re going to remain committed to a strong US-India bilateral relationship,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters at a news conference here on Thursday.
“(They) had a good chat yesterday. They discussed a lot of issues, including our two nations’ response to the coronavirus,” Kirby said responding to a question on the maiden phone call between Austin and Singh.
Retired general Austin became the first African-American to lead the Pentagon when the Senate confirmed him as US Defence Secretary on January 22.
During his conversation with Singh on Wednesday, Austin pledged to work collaboratively with India to sustain the progress in the bilateral defence relationship, the Pentagon said earlier.
“During the call, Secretary Austin emphasised the Department’s commitment to the US-India Major Defence Partnership, observing that it is built upon shared values and a common interest in ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open,” Kirby said on Wednesday.
“Secretary Austin noted the great strides made in the US-India defence relationship, and he pledged to work collaboratively with the Defence Minister to sustain progress,” Kirby said in a readout of the call.
The Indo-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years and in June 2016, the US had designated India a “Major Defence Partner”.
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 use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies as well as provides for deeper cooperation.
The two sides have also signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for sale of high end technology from the US to India.