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India, US to discuss “converging interests” in Asia-Pacific

New Delhi/Washington, Aug 2 Strategic partners India and the US will hold talks next week on defence cooperation and their “converging interests” in the Asia-Pacific region, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country next month.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel will discuss with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley strengthening bilateral defence cooperation, including co-production and co-development, research and new technologies, trade and military exercises.

Hagel is likely to call on the prime minister and will meet other Indian leaders during his three-day visit beginning Aug 7.

Both sides will discuss the situation in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.

The two countries held a round of strategic dialogue this week and Hagel’s visit is another step in the American efforts to prepare for Modi’s visit to the White House next month.

Kirby said the election of the new Indian government “offers an opportunity to fulfil the potential of our strategic partnership.”

“Secretary Hagel’s meetings will focus on the United States’ and India’s converging interests in the Asia-Pacific.”

In a wide-ranging policy speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in May, Hagel had said his visit to India was aimed at “transformational cooperation” with the country which is playing an “active role” in strengthening security in Asia.

“We welcome India’s increasingly active role in Asia’s regional institutions, which strengthens regional order. We also welcome India’s growing defence capabilities and its commitment to freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean.”

To further strengthen US-India defence ties, “I plan to play an active and very personal role in expanding this (Defence Trade and Technology) initiative because it is a centrepiece of America’s defence cooperation with India, and it should reflect the trust and confidence President Obama and I have in our nation’s relationship with India.”

In his talks with Jaitley, Hagel will discuss the Initiative.

Hagel will deliver a speech at the Observer Research Foundation in which he is expected to talk about the converging interests and the enormous opportunities to be capitalised upon in the region.

After visiting India, Hagel will go to Australia.

Kirby said the trip underscored Hagel’s personal commitment to U.S. partnerships and “shared interests in a stable, rules-based order that can continue to deliver peace, he added.

Across the Asia-Pacific region, US plans to increase foreign military financing by 35 percent and military training and education by 40 percent by 2016.

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