AKIPRESS.COM - U.S. President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Pentagon, Gen (retired) Lloyd Austin, during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing said that he will work to continue elevating the defence partnership with India and work to “further operationalize India’s ‘Major Defense Partner’ status”, The Singapore Post reported.
Austin, 67, would be the first African American to head the Department of Defense, but needs to be granted a waiver by both the House of Representatives and the Senate because the National Security Act requires the Secretary of Defence to wait seven years after active duty service before taking up the job. He retired from U.S. military service in 2016. Gen. Austin’s nomination as Secretary of Defense has since been confirmed by the Senate with confirmatory vote ratio of 98-2.
He said he assessed the “rapid development and operational focus” of China and the modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army, including its ability to conduct information, cyber and space operations, “constitutes a significant and long-term security threat to the United States and to our allies and partners.”
China’s “increasingly aggressive actions” in the Indo-Pacific too are concerning and the U.S. needs a “more resilient and distributed force posture in the Indo-Pacific in response to China’s counter-intervention capabilities and approaches,” he said.
Asked if there had been any change in Pakistan’s cooperation with the U.S. after American security aid was cut off in 2018, Austin replied: “I understand Pakistan has taken constructive steps to meet U.S. requests in support of the Afghanistan peace process. Pakistan’s action against terror groups, such as, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, although is incomplete.”
“Many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan’s cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack.”
In response to a question on his priorities for India, Austin said his “overarching objective for our defense relationship with India would be to continue elevating the partnership”.
He added, “I would further operationalise India’s ‘Major Defense Partner’ status and continue to build upon existing strong defence cooperation to ensure the US and Indian militaries can collaborate to address shared interests. I would also seek to deepen and broaden our defence cooperation through the Quad security dialogue and other regional multilateral engagements.”