United States keen to strengthen relationship with India: Mattis

US secretary of defence James Mattis and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi on Thursday

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India and the United States on Thursday etched a new chapter in bilateral relations, signalling a deepening of their defence and strategic partnership with the signing of a pact that allows India access to the latest in U.S. technologies. She invited US companies to become active partners in India's efforts to promote its local defense industry. Washington and New Delhi share concerns over Pakistan-based anti-Western and anti-Indian Islamist militant groups.

Additionally, India and the U.S. are close to signing an agreement that would ensure communications between their two militaries are compatible and secure.

With the 2008 Mumbai attacks marking a decade this year, "we recognized the importance of justice and retribution for the masterminds behind this terrorist attack", Swaraj said, adding that India supported Trump's South Asia Policy that calls for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism. New Delhi has been seeking the drones to monitor the Indian Ocean where China, a close ally of Pakistan, has been making repeated forays in recent years.

Defence cooperation has emerged as the most significant dimension of our strategic partnership and as a key driver of ... the bilateral relationship. He said that Washington did not aim to "penalise great strategic partners like India".

US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis arrived separately and was received at the airport by his counterpart, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and other senior officials.

"The kickoff of the 2+2 was pretty special, a historic level of relationship that the two countries have not previously had", Pompeo said, speaking at a press breifing. "But something more significant the longer-term direction of United States foreign policy may be making India cautious", they wrote.

America's top defense official and top diplomat made their best effort to smooth over any simmering areas of tension between Washington and New Delhi, and they were able to come to an agreement with their Indian counterparts Thursday on a new security agreement.

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There are sticking points, however, including the purchase by India of Iranian oil and the Russian S-400 ground-to-air missile system, which could trigger US sanctions on India.

India's trade ties with sanctions-hit Iran and Russian Federation have been a key sticking point between the two sides in recent months. The purchase will violate sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by Congress on arms purchases from Russian Federation, but lawmakers have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver.

Analysts say the deal could result in the United States transfer high-tech equipment such as the Sea Guardian armed surveillance drones to India.

"They underscore the worldwide community's scrutiny over the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which has affected India and the United States alike".

Iran also "wasn't a big topic", he said. India signed the GSOMIA in 2002.

The United States and India on Thursday signed an agreement for closer intelligence sharing and military collaboration, the State Department announced.

Swaraj said India and the U.S. "agreed to work together to secure India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the earliest".

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