US Defense Secretary James Mattis to meet Narendra Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday

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Mattis will also participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the India Gate

Secretary of Defense James Mattis (Courtesy of twitter)

The US Secretary of Defense James Mattis began his first ever visit to India and is expected to hold high-level meetings on Tuesday with a focus on boosting India – US defense and strategic ties.

During the visit, Secretary Mattis will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defense Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman. He has  arrived in New Delhi on Monday evening and will leave for Kabul early on Wednesday.

“The secretary will emphasize that the United States views, India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia,” the defense department said in a press release.

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Mattis will express US appreciation for India for the country’s important contributions toward Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity, and security.

Mattis’ visit is the first Cabinet-level visit to India under the Trump administration and he will also participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the India Gate.

According to a report by The Indian Express, the only expected outcome of the visit will be an announcement of a bilateral maritime exercise between the India and US navies that will focus on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).

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“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,” the newspaper quoted a source.

The report also suggests that there may be no announcement about the US’s offer for the F-16 fighter and Guardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV); Trump’s Afghan strategy will be discussed though.

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Mattis, ahead of the visit, met Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna at the Pentagon on Saturday. The Secretary came down to the entrance of the Pentagon to receive Sarna, which is considered as a rarest of the rare gesture.

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