US Def Sec Austin thanks India for its cooperation on Afghan evacuation

Washington, Sep 21 (PTI) US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in a phone call with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh has thanked India for its cooperation during the recent evacuation from Afghanistan and the two leaders committed to continue monitoring the situation in the war-torn country, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The conversation between Austin and Defence Minister Singh came ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US this week to attend an in-person summit of Quad leaders in Washington and address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

Secretary Austin thanked India for its cooperation throughout the evacuation and retrograde mission in Afghanistan, and both leaders committed to continue to monitor the situation in Afghanistan and to assist remaining at risk groups, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a readout of the call.

India and the United States are in touch with each other on the Afghan crisis after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15.

In reflection of India’s views on the Afghan crisis, Prime Minister Modi, during a virtual address at a meeting on Afghanistan of the heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, on Friday said the global community should decide “collectively” and “thoughtfully” on according recognition to the new set-up in Afghanistan in view of questions over its acceptability as the change of power was not “inclusive”.

Kirby said, they reiterated their commitment to ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open.

Austin applauded continued progress in deepening the US-India defence relationship and said that he looks forward to hosting Minster Singh in Washington this fall for the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue meeting, said the Pentagon Press Secretary.

The fourth annual 2+2 dialogue between India and the US would be held in November this year in Washington.

The 2+2 ministerial dialogue takes place between foreign and defence ministers of both sides. The inaugural ‘2+2’ Indo-US dialogue was held in New Delhi in 2018.

The last meeting of the 2+2 was held in New Delhi and the next meeting is to be hosted by the US here.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh would be hosted by their American counterparts Secretary of State Blinken and Defence Secretary Austin for the maiden India-US 2+2 meeting under the Biden administration.

Earlier, Austin had paid a three-day visit to New Delhi in March.