New Delhi: US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin III, who is on an official visit to India, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Friday, March 19. Secretary Austin conveyed greetings of President Joe Biden to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister welcomed the warm and close relationship between the two countries, which is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment to a rules-based order, an MEA release said. Prime Minister Modi outlined his vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries and emphasized the important role of bilateral defence cooperation in India-US ties. He requested Secretary Austin to convey his best wishes to President Biden. Secretary Austin reiterated the U.S. Government’s continued commitment towards strengthening the bilateral defence relations between the two countries. In a tweet, Secretary Austin wrote: "Thrilled to be here in India. The breadth of cooperation between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defence partnership, as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region". He also expressed the US’s strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. The visit assumes greater significance in the wake of the fact that the Quad leaders — US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Prime Minister Modi — held their first-ever meet on a virtual platform. Notably, for India, the Covid19 vaccines got the endorsement from the Quad and Japan and the United States, in particular, have extended help to India's efforts in financing and distribution of the vaccines. Austin’s is happening at a time when Indian and Chinese troops are working towards an effective disengagement after the standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh. In another development, days ahead of the high-profile visit, Senator Robert Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter to Austin, urging him to take up with Indian leaders the issue of New Delhi procuring a Russian S-400 missile defence system. In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, notwithstanding strong reservation from the Trump administration. Austin's high-level visit comes as the first such tour from the US after President Joe Biden won the elections and formed his government. Austin also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and will call on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. In a missive, Rajnath Singh said, "Warm welcome to Delhi, @SecDef Mr. Austin. Your visit to India is definitely going to further deepen the cooperation and partnership between India and the United States."
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External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar on Monday said that he had "very productive talks" with Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, where they discussed a wide range of regional and global issues, including the in-principle agreement on mutual recognition of Covid vaccination certification. During the meeting, the two ministers agreed to resume FTA (Free Trade Agreements) negotiations next month. "Very productive talks today with APM and FM @YairLapid ...