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US Defense Secretary Carter signs defence projects with India | AFP

NEW DELHI: United States Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Wednesday finalised agreements with India to jointly develop next-generation chemical and biological protection for troops and military mobile hybrid power sources.

Carter met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and signed a 10-year strategic defence framework pact, which was agreed to during President Obama’s visit to New Delhi in January.

The Pentagon chief also met his counterpart Manohar Parrikar and finalised the defence project agreements for the joint development of “mobile electric hybrid power sources and next generation protective ensembles.”

“(The two) reaffirmed their commitment to expand and deepen the bilateral defence relationship… (and) also reviewed the existing and emerging regional security dynamics,” a joint statement released after the meeting said.

The visit comes as Washington and Beijing are engaged in a bitter war of words over China’s actions in the disputed South China Sea, with the US looking at India as a partner to play a bigger strategic role in the region.

“The United States is looking for new ways to complement India’s Act East policy and find meaningful areas of cooperation in Asia-Pacific,” Carter said last week.

Experts say Carter sent a signal to China on closer India-US military cooperation in the future after he began his three-day trip Tuesday with a visit to Visakhapatnam, the base of India’s eastern naval command.

“Certainly a clear message for the East that India and US will increase their military cooperation in the region,” Manoj Joshi, a fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told AFP.

India, which is among the world’s top arms importers, pushed for closer cooperation and joint defence development projects.

“(The two) agreed to expedite discussions to take forward cooperation on jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction, and other areas,” the statement said.

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