US Navy chief Admiral John Richardson said his recent visit to India was a "critical opportunity" to strengthen ties between the two navies and sharing views on a multilateral approach in maintaining maritime domain awareness in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.
Richardson, who was on a three-day visit to India, met his Indian counterpart Admiral Sunil Lanba and other senior officers and discussed joint exercises between the two navies amid rising Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
We explored ways to make the growing relationship between the US Navy and the Indian Navy "more vibrant", he told reporters here via a conference call from Manila on Thursday. His India trip ended on Tuesday.
Earlier, a US Navy press release quoted him as saying, "This visit provided a critical opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the Indian Navy and the US Navy."
The two heads of navy also discussed the strategic importance of growing the two navies' partnership and the need to focus on information sharing and exchange. They also discussed their shared view on a multilateral approach in maintaining maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific region.
"Our mutual commitment and shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific enables even more opportunities for the future. We took the opportunity during the visit to discuss specific steps that will set the stage for further cooperation between our two navies," Richardson said.
China has been trying to spread its influence in the resource-rich Indo-Pacific region. To counter Beijing, the US has been pushing for a broader role by India in the strategically important region.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military maneuvering in the region, which is a large swathe of land and sea stretching all the way from the west coast of the US to the shores of east Africa.
Richardson also praised Admiral Lanba's vision and said that the Indian Navy chief, who is retiring later this month, has been a strong advocate for a closer partnership between our two navies, and "we have made significant progress."
"We took the opportunity during the visit to discuss specific steps that will set the stage for further cooperation between our two navies," he said.
The two sides also shared concerns over the maritime dimension of terrorism and determined to take coordinated steps to combat it.
"We (India and the US) have common views in terms of the importance of addressing all measures that we can take to minimize the possibility of terrorism - whether it comes from land or from sea," Richardson told reporters.
Responding to a question, he said the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) signed between the US and India last year was "the foundational framework agreement that allows us to exchange information".
The US Navy said Richardson also met the US Ambassador of India, Kenneth Juster to discuss how to further strengthen relations between the two countries and navies.
Richardson's visit follows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statement that the US was "banding together with like-minded nations like Australia, India, Japan and South Korea to make sure that each Indo-Pacific nation can protect its sovereignty from coercion".