US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to Meet Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman in India

The retired Marine Corps general, who will be in the subcontinent until Thursday, is scheduled to meet with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The bilateral talks between Swaraj and Tillerson and the upcoming visit of Mattis follow the announcement of two-plus-two strategic and defense dialogue between the two countries at the White House in June after the India-US summit between Modi and Trump. During his two-day visit starting from September 26, the Pentagon chief will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the India Gate, and meet the prime minister and Sitharaman in New Delhi, reports PTI.

The Trump administration wants to sell F-18 and F-16 fighter planes to India, built by American companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin respectively.

In his speech on new Afghanistan policy last month, Trump had said a “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India” and asked for more help from India in Afghanistan, where he was recalibrating USA policy.

Indian Ambassador to United States Navtej Sarna said that the India-U.S. relationship have been transformed into a global partnership.

This is also the first follow up visit by a U.S. cabinet official after Modi’s June trip to the US.

Last month, US President Trump had announced his Afghanistan policy with focus on beefing up US military presence and pressing India towards helping in “economic assistance and development” of the nation.

Mattis, it is learnt, is taking along with him some of his own ideas in this regard, which he would like to discuss with the Indian leadership and get their feedback.

This could be seen as a major climb-down, as India had been resisting from signing any foundational agreements for the past several years because of sovereignty concerns.

On the other hand, the issue of Afghanistan is also expected to gain some priority in the meetings.

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