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NATION                                                                     MARCH 26, 2021  |      The Indian Eye                          8

             a great Partner: austin spells out India’s

                              role in Indo-Pacific and beyond

                       Issue of human rights in India did not figure in the talks: GoI sources

        Our Bureau                                                                                                    according to High-level Indian
        New Delhi                                                                                                     sources.
                                                                                                                          According to the sources,
                 S Secretary of Défense                                                                               human rights and values were
                 Lloyd Austin last Satur-                                                                             mentioned as shared attributes
        Uday termed India ‘to be                                                                                      and the only mention of minori-
        a great partner’. He also stated                                                                              ties was by EAM Jaishankar in
        that the two countries are pro-                                                                               the context of Afghanistan. This
        moting peace and stability in the                                                                             comes after some media reports
        region and providing for a free                                                                               said that EAM Jaishankar and
        and open Indo-Pacific region.                                                                                 Defence Secretary Austin, apart
            Stating that there was a lot                                                                              from geostrategic affairs, and
        of  opportunities  to  strength-                                                                              discussed the issue of Human
        en the partnership between the                                                                                Rights.
        two nations. “We consider India                                                                                   This issue assumes  impor-
        to be a great partner and again      Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin  tance in the backdrop of the
        I think we have done a number            III greet each other with an elbow bump, in New Delhi. (ANI Photo)   Freedom House report which
        of things to work well together.                                                                              has downgraded India and
        There’s just a lot of opportunity                                                                             called it “partly free”. India dis-
        there to strengthen that partner-                                                                             carded the report as inaccurate
        ship and to do some things, ad-                                                                               and distorted. Freedom House is
        ditional things to make sure that                                                                             a US-based global watchdog that
        we’re promoting peace and sta-                                                                                is also funded by the US govern-
        bility in the region and providing                                                                            ment.
        for a free and open Indo-Pacific                                                                                  According to sources, “Dis-
        region, as well,” he said at a press                                                                          cussions marginally focused on
        conference in New Delhi. “We                                                                                  the strategic situation in the In-
        covered a wide range of topics                                                                                do-Pacific. The US side briefed
        that included equipment. It also                                                                              about recent visits in East Asia.
        included information sharing; it                                                                              EAM spoke  about  India’s  cur-
        included additional opportuni-       US Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III meets External Affairs Minsiter of  rent security challenges and our
        ties for assisting each other lo-          India Dr. S. Jaishankar, in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo)     long-term strategic outlook.
        gistically and just a number of                                                                               The conversation also covered
        things. And those were really,  and Association of Southeast  tive we’re always willing to work  changing global scenario, includ-
        really good conversations,” add- Asian Nations (ASEAN), Aus- with countries who share our  ing Europe and West Asia.”
        ed Austin.                           tin shared, “Yes, I, clearly from  values and have like goals and            Defence Minister Singh said
            Regarding India and US co- a defense perspective, we do  aspirations. And so whether or  that Austin’s three-day visit to
        operation to counter Chinese  have a number of things in com- not those countries will choose  India during the coronavirus
        aggression, Austin said, “I think  mon, and if you just look at the  to align with the United States  pandemic  “shows  the  abiding
        -- I think that continuing to work  countries overall, if you look at  and others is up to them.”             commitment” of the US to the
        with like-minded countries as we  Australia, India, Japan, us, you           Indo-Pacific  region  is  large- bilateral ties.
        are working with India, we are  know we really are interested in  ly viewed as an area comprising                 Lloyd Austin, during his visit
        working  with  Australia,  Japan  maintaining a free and open In- the Indian Ocean and the west- to India stated that US President
        and others in the region to en- do-Pacific region. We’re interest- ern  and  central  Pacific  Ocean,  Joe Biden has not made a final
        sure that we maintain a freedom  ed in being able to navigate the  including the South China Sea.  decision on the pullout of US
        of navigation that we do -- we’re  seas and fly the skies and inter- China’s territorial claims in the  troops from Afghanistan yet.
        doing the right things to promote  national space and maintain that  South China Sea and its efforts              US media reported earli-
        peace and stability in the region  degree of flexibility. “              to advance into the Indian Ocean  er this week that the Joe Biden
        and that we really work togeth-         While answering over the  are seen to have challenged the  administration was consider-
        er to ensure a free and open In- expansion of Quad to include  established rules-based system.                ing extending the US troop de-
        do-Pacific region.”                  countries like South Korea and          Meanwhile, the issue of hu- ployment in Afghanistan by six
            Talking on engagement with  Australia becoming a permanent  man rights in India did not fig- months instead of pulling out all
        a multilateral group like Quadri- member of the Malabar exercise,  ure in the talks with US Defence  personnel by the May 1 sched-
        lateral Security Dialogue (Quad)  he said, “I -- from our perspec- Secretary Lloyd Austin here,  uled deadline.

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