In a major boost to the Indo-US strategic relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US Defence Secretary James Mattis in Singapore. The meeting assumes significance in the backdrop of the United States renaming its Pacific Command as Indo-US Pacific Command while giving further impetus to strategic ties between the two countries.
Modi, who is in Singapore on the last leg of his three-nation tour, held a closed-door meeting with Mattis during which both sides discussed all security-related issues of mutual and global interests, sources said.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue which was addressed by the Prime Minister on Friday.
In his keynote address at the Dialogue, Modi had said an "Asia of rivalry" will hold the region back while an Asia of cooperation will shape the current century.
Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together with trust and confidence while being sensitive to each other's interests, he had said.
"We should all have equal access as a right under international law to the use of common spaces on the sea and in the air that would require freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law," PM Modi had added.
Mattis also addressed the dialogue where he stressed upon freedom for all and "reaffirmation for rule-based order".
The meeting between the two leaders assumes significance as in his address Mattis has stressed upon both countries working together and with other nations for ensuring peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
"It is only appropriate that waterways remain open for all nations," Mattis said.
The meeting comes days after the US renamed its oldest and largest military command - the Pacific Command, to Indo-Pacific Command, amid heightened tensions with China over the militarisation of the South China Sea.
The US move came in the wake of a series of measures by China that have raised tensions in the South China Sea. China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims over the area. The US also rejects China's claims of ownership of the area.
The Pentagon's move is also reflective of the growing importance of India in US strategic thinking.
India was granted the 'Major Defence Partner' status by the previous Barack Obama Administration, providing for the transfer of technology and deeper cooperation in the defence sector.
In 2016, India and the US had signed a crucial logistics defence pact enabling their militaries to use each other's assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, making joint operations more efficient.
Soon after coming to power, the Trump administration had renamed the Asia Pacific as Indo-Pacific and identified India as one bookend of the region.