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Pentagon chief urges India to ‘move away from Russian equipment’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) speaks with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh during a joint media briefing held in New Delhi on March 20, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has warned India against its planned purchase of an advanced Russian S400 missile system. 

Austin discussed India's plan at a meeting with his Indian counterpart on Saturday, reiterating that US allies should steer clear of Russian equipment to avoid sanctions.

"We certainly urge all our allies, our partners to move away from Russian equipment ... and really avoid any kind of acquisitions that would trigger sanctions on our behalf," Austin told reporters in New Delhi.

Austin is making the first visit by a top member of the administration of President Joe Biden to India as part of efforts to forge a US alliance of countries agianst China's growing clout both in the region and across the globe.

To counter that influence, the leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan – countries together known as the Quad – held a first summit last week pledging to work together for a free and open Indo-Pacific and to cooperate on maritime and cyber security against Beijing.

"India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner among today's rapidly shifting international dynamics," Austin said after meeting Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, during which they discussed strengthening security ties.

"We discussed opportunities to elevate the US-India major defence partnership ... and we'll do that through regional security cooperation and military to military interactions and defence trade," Austin added.

The United States is India's biggest arms supplier.

India plans to buy armed drones from the United States and it will also order over 150 combat jets for the air force and the navy to help narrow the gap with China, Reuters reported on Friday.

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