New Delhi, India – Defense Secretary James N. Mattis arrived here yesterday, ready to engage with senior Indian officials to ensure the Indo-Pacific region remains free, safe, prosperous and secure.
Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet in two-plus-two sessions with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Mattis told reporters his visit to India “is a firm indicator of what we see as India’s place among our most strategic, and I would even call them ‘consequential,’ emerging partners.”
The secretaries will also meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval during the visit.
Mattis sees India taking a more prominent role in world affairs.
“Our nations share more than just democracy, of course,” he said. “We share a steadfast commitment to a safe and a secure, a prosperous, and especially, a free Indo-Pacific.”
The current system has allowed the countries of the region to prosper. The system “is underpinned by our steadfast commitment to the rule of law, the freedom of navigation, freedom from coercion for all nations no matter their size or the age of their independence,” the secretary said. “And as the world’s largest democracy, we see India as taking on a greater regional and global responsibility, a stabilizing force.”
In the meetings, the leaders will examine how to counter terrorism and increase defense innovation. “We are all, of course, looking for how can we enhance stability in South Asia,” he said. “We look forward to discussing our respective visions for further strengthening this relationship.”
Mattis continued, “Relationships don’t stay the same, ever. They get stronger or they get weaker. You pay attention, or you lose attention. So we are there to pay attention. We do not take the relationship for granted, and we’ll be working to strengthen that.
“It is a steady relationship with honest discussions built on common ground that we share as democracies,” he added, “but it’s ground that provides a firm foundation for our future relationship, a foundation that can take any perturbations in stride … without alarm.”