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India delighted to host US Defence Secy, talks to deepen ties: Rajnath

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New Delhi, Oct 26: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday said that talks with US Defence Secretary Mark Esper were fruitful and were aimed at further deepening defence cooperation in a wide range of areas.

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    Rajnath Singh holds talks with his US counterpart Mark T Esper

    In a tweet, the minister said that "India is delighted to host the US Secretary of Defence, Dr. Mark Esper. Our talks today were fruitful, aimed at further deepening defence cooperation in a wide range of areas. Today's discussions will add new vigour to India-US defence relations & mutual cooperation."

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    United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Esper arrived here on Monday on a two-day visit for the third edition of Indo-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue which will take place on Tuesday during which the two sides will focus on further boosting overall defence and security ties as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

    The Indian side at the 2+2 dialogue would be led by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Singh.

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    The talks are taking place at a time India is engaged in a bitter border row with China, and the issue is expected to figure in the deliberations.

    The two key officials of the Trump administration will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and meet National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

    The US Defence Secretary was given a tri-services guard of honour outside the South Block in the Raisina Hills ahead of his talks with Singh.

    In the last few months, the US has been very critical of China over a range of contentious issues including the border row with India, its military assertiveness in the South China Sea and the way Beijing handled the anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

    It is expected that the two sides may finalise the long-pending BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement to further boost bilateral defence ties. The BECA will provide for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.

    The Indo-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years.

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    In June 2016, the US had designated India a "Major Defence Partner" intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners.

    The first edition of the two-plus-two dialogue was held in Delhi in September 2018 after the mechanism was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump.

    The second edition of the dialogue took place in Washington in December last year.

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