Mattis Hails 'Historic' Opportunity to Expand US-India Ties

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But Afghanistan will dominate talks when Mattis meets Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who will host her highest-level foreign delegation since being appointed this month.

Mattis's trip marks the first time the US defense secretary visits South Asia since President Trump unveiled his Afghanistan war strategy last month.

The two-day visit starting Tuesday aims at strengthening defence partnership between the two nations as US President Donald Trump envisions a stronger role for India in the Asian region. She made India's stand clear after holding wide-ranging parleys with her visiting U.S. counterpart James Mattis here.

India already provides assistance in Afghanistan, and has spent billions of dollars in infrastructure, health and education sectors. "As global leaders, India and U.S. resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge, Mattis said without referring to Pakistan". In all likelihood, India will also be training Afghan police force members.

"For its part Pakistan often gives safe havens to agents of chaos, violence and terror", Trump said.

"I am confident that we are entering a new phase in our strategic defense partnership with the United States", said Sitharaman.

A joint statement issued after their meeting called on the need for India and the United States to come together to combat the scourge of terrorism.

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Echoing Trump while talking to reporters on his flight to New Delhi, the defense secretary praised India's important support to Afghanistan, indicating that Islamabad should not construe its regional rival's expanded involvement in the war-devastated country as a threat.

Thus, while the US finds it hard to pull out of its 16-year-old war, India has taken a "welcome and significant step" in the opposite direction.

"These will continue. These engagements will continue", Sitharaman told Mattis, but "there shall be no boots on the ground in Afghanistan".

"There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe havens", he said in a statement.

Mattis said the talks covered ways to further enhance defense trade and technology collaboration between defense industries.

Many in Pakistan are skeptical about burgeoning USA defense ties with India.

Fighter jets, drone deals and shared concerns over Afghanistan's security look set to dominate the agenda when US Defense Secretary James Mattis visits India this week.

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