Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will embark on his five-day visit to the United States on March 19. During his tour, he is expected to hold extensive talks with the top military brass of the Trump administration to consolidate bilateral naval cooperation, including in the Indo-Pacific region.
The visit is aimed at consolidating the cooperation between the armed forces of both countries and also to explore new avenues of defence cooperation.
The Navy Chief will hold bilateral discussions with US Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of the Navy Richard V Spencer, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F Dunford Jr, and other senior ranking officials.
The Navy chief will also meet Commander of Pacific Fleet Admiral Scott Swift and Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Admiral Thomas J Moore.
Sources said China's growing military presence in South China Sea and its rising assertiveness in that region may figure in the talks that Admiral Lanba will have with top US military officials.
The US has been pushing for a broader role for India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.
In November last year, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free from Chinese influence.
India, the US and several other nations have been calling for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. The US has been periodically sending naval ships and planes to assert freedom of navigation to the critical sea lanes, much to the chagrin of China.
In addition to holding bilateral discussions, Admiral Lanba will also visit the Pacific Command Headquarters at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, the Naval Surface Warfare Centre (NSWC) in Dahlgren, the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC.
The defence and security ties between India and the US have been on an upswing in the last few years as both the countries have concluded a number of major agreements to further bolster strategic ties.
India and USA have traditionally maintained close and friendly relations, including defence relation, wherein both countries have concluded major agreements in the recent past, including the Defence Framework Agreement, signed in 2015, which lays a blueprint for collaboration between their defence establishments and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed in 2016, which is a foundational agreement, facilitating reciprocal logistics support between their armed forces.
India has also been accorded Major Defence Partner status during by the US.
The Indian Navy cooperates with the US Navy on many issues, which include operational interactions such as the Malabar, and RIMPAC series of exercises, training exchanges, exchange of White Shipping Information and Subject Matter Experts in various fields through the medium of Executive Steering Group (ESG) meetings. Warships from both navies have also been regularly visiting each other's ports.
(With agency inputs)