New York, Feb 18: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin considers India "a critical partner" for meeting the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and gives priority to ties with it, according to Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby.
"The secretary is prioritising this relationship, wants to see it continue to grow and develop and to get stronger," Kirby said on Wednesday at a news briefing in Washington.
"He looks very much looking forward to working on initiatives to do just that," Kirby said in reply to a reporter's question about Austin's views on relations with India.
Austin considers India "a critical partner, especially when you consider all the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region," he added.
Austin spoke last month with India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and "emphasised the Department's commitment to the US-India Major Defence Partnership, observing that it is built upon shared values and a common interest in ensuring the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open", the Pentagon said.
President Joe Biden announced the formation of the new strategy task force so that "we can chart a strong path forward on China-related matters" during a visit to the Pentagon last week.
"We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep the peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally," he said.