Mattis in India for Talks on Jets, Afghanistan

Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, left, escorts U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis to Defense Ministry office for a delegation level meeting in New Delhi, India, Sept. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, left, escorts U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis to Defense Ministry office for a delegation level meeting in New Delhi, India, Sept. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was in the Indian capital on Tuesday, marking the first visit to the country by a Cabinet-level official from President Donald Trump's administration.

In meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials, Mattis was expected to focus discussions on security in Afghanistan, military technology and a possible deal on fighter jets.

Mattis began his visit by meeting staff at the U.S. Embassy early Tuesday, before reviewing an Indian military honor guard in New Delhi.

Later, he was meeting with Modi, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Mattis' newly appointed Indian counterpart, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Defense Department said that the "United States views India as a valued and influential partner, with broad mutual interests extending well beyond South Asia."

Discussions are likely to involve how the two democratic countries can bolster cooperation on security in Afghanistan and make progress on a deal for the U.S. to supply India with fighter jets.

Last month, Trump urged India to help more with security efforts in Afghanistan, as Washington steps up its own military campaign against Taliban insurgents who have gained ground.

So far, New Delhi has contributed around $3 billion toward building highways, power transmission lines and dams, as well as to aid public health and education in the war-ravaged country.

In his talks with Indian officials Tuesday, the Pentagon said Mattis would seek to discuss other ways India could help bolster security in Afghanistan. Some officials in New Delhi have suggested India could train Afghan soldiers in counterterrorism.

Mattis will also be looking to seal new deals with India, one of the world's biggest defense equipment buyers.

India's military has been negotiating with major global arms producers for drones, combat aircraft and submarines, while also pressing the U.S. to share technology and the ability to manufacture its own fighter jets.

The U.S., however, is eager for India to buy Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70 fighter jets, while U.S. aircraft maker Boeing has offered to manufacture its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet in India if it can supply combat jets to the Indian navy.

The two countries were also expected to discuss maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, amid concerns about an increasingly aggressive China. 

--This article was written by Nirmala George from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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