NEW DELHI - The day-long visit by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to New Delhi on Tuesday will focus on building ties with his Indian counterpart, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and on “cementing progress on India-US ties”.
Mattis, the first member of the Trump administration to visit India, will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Sources told The Indian Express that the only tangible outcome expected during the visit was the announcement of a bilateral maritime exercise between the Indian and US navies, which will be focused on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
The proposal for such an exercise, which will include amphibious and helicopter operations, was discussed during the Maritime Strategic Dialogue between the two countries earlier this year.“China is increasingly displacing India as the major player in HADR operations in the Indian Ocean, with all its new bases and facilities in the area. We want to partner with India as a partner of choice in this sphere and a new bilateral exercise is a step towards that,” a source said.
According to sources, while there will be discussions on the American offer for the F-16 fighter and Guardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), no announcement is expected during Mattis’s visit. “The proposal for F-16 is on the table.
It is about where India is on the decision-making cycle at this point. We have offered some technology transfer, and what more can be done as per the requirement,” sources explained.
“As far as the Guardian UAV is concerned, India wants something that is not on offer. The two sides are still trying to reconcile the differences. We are not on the same sheet. Once the political direction is established, it will take at least two months before any progress can be announced,” a source said.