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US calls India 'closest ally', pledges to work for New Delhi's entry into NSG

NEW DELHI, 6 SEP. Calling India its 'closest ally' and a 'major defence partner', the United States on Thursday assured full help in securing New Delhi's entry into the coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The assurance from the US Administration of President Donald Trump came during the first-ever 2+2 dialogue between India and the United States in the national capital on Thursday during which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held wide-ranging deliberations with US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis.

Terming India as its major defence partner, United States Secretary of Defence James Mattis said that the US is elevating the defence relationship to be at par with its closest allies.

"India's leadership in the world supports our shared democratic values regionally and globally. We also recognise the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, renaming US Pacific Command to the US Indo-Pacific Command. With India as a major defence partner, we are elevating our defence relationship to be on a par with our closest allies as we deepen the broader US-India relationship, enhancing our interoperability, our defence trade, our technology innovation and industrial collaboration, and bolstering our people-to-people bonds," Mattis said while speaking to the media after the India-US 2+2 Dialogue.

Talking about terrorism, Mattis noted that 2018 marks 10 years since the Mumbai attacks, where innocent citizens from the US as well as 10 other nations perished at the hands of international terrorism. "And we do not forget," he said.

During the first-ever 2+2 dialogue, both India and the US agreed to work together to secure Nuclear Suppliers Group's membership for New Delhi at the earliest.

Addressing a joint press conference, Swaraj said the recent decision by the US to put India in the list of countries eligible for Strategic Trade Authorisation Tier-I License Exemption reflected India's robust and responsible export control policies.

"The United States welcomed India's accession to the Australia Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Missile Technology Control Regime and reiterated its full support for India's immediate accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group," a joint statement issued after the talks said.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is an elite club of countries that deals with the trade in nuclear technology and fissile materials. India's bid for entry into the 48-member NSG is being opposed by China citing that New Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Pompeo, in his remarks, hailed the civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries as an important component of their strategic partnership.

"We now look forward to what we can achieve over the next 10 years. In particular, we look forward to finalising the Westinghouse civil nuclear project that will provide clean and reliable power to millions of Indians," the US Secretary of State said.

After the conclusion of the talks, the two sides signed crucial defence pacts and agreed to work together to combat terrorism.

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