US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin praised India for bolstering relations with “like-minded partners” as he convened talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Saturday. The key focus areas in talks between New Delhi and Washington was expected to be China’s assertiveness in the Indo-pacific region, AFP reported.

Also Read: Lloyd Austin meets PM Modi, expresses 'strong desire' to enhance strategic partnership

Austin "commended India's leadership role in the Indo-Pacific and growing engagement with like-minded partners across the region to promote shared goals," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

Shedding light on the details of the high-level diplomatic talk, Kirby added, "The two sides reaffirmed their dedication to promote a fee and open Indo-Pacific conduct and exchanged opinions on mutual challenges posed in the region and committed to strengthen their robust defense cooperation." 

This marks the first face-to-face meeting between New Delhi and Washington after President Joe Biden took over the office in January.

Also Read: India's proposed S-400 deal with Russia is sanctionable: US Senator to Llyod Austin

PM Narendra Modi without referring to China directly took to Twitter toshare his perspective on the US-India talks. "India and US are committed to our strategic partnership that is a force for global good." he tweeted on Saturday

Austin's two-day visit to India, which comes at the backdrop of hostile talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with top Chinese officials in Alaska on Thursday, may also include conclusive talks with Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday.

Also Read: Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin visits India with China in focus for talks

Secretary Austin is expected raise the human rights issue in talks with India as well since Biden administration calls it an important part of the defense and foreign policy under new regime in the meeting.

According to Manoj Joshi from India's Observer Research Foundation, Austin's visit to India soon after the power change in US reflects the priority Washington is assigning to India.

"Our relationship with the US on the military side has enhanced enormously and the US has been helping us in our confrontation with China," Joshi told AFP.

However, prior to India, Austin and Blinken visited Japan and South Korea, two other important partners in the Asia-Pacific region where China's growing forceful domination has alarmed its neighbours.

India and US, both share prickly relation with Beijing. India's ties with China went from bad to worse after the Ladakh face-off following territorial dispute in the region and the unfettered support to India's arch rival Pakistan.

US-China ties on the other hand deteriorated with Biden's predecessor Donald Trump's open allegations of spreading coronavirus and breaching security and continued to go south when Biden disapproved of China's human rights violation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.