“I would further operationalise India’s ”Major Defence Partner” status and continue to build upon existing strong defense cooperation to ensure the US and Indian militaries can collaborate to address shared interests,” Lloyd Austin said.

The objective of the incoming Biden Administration is to continue elevating the US’ defence partnership.

With India, the Defense Secretary nominee told lawmakers.

“If confirmed, my overarching objective for our defense relationship with India would be to continue elevating the partnership,” retired Gen Lloyd Austin told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. President-elect Joe Biden has nominated him as his Defense Secretary.

He said he would also seek to deepen and broaden the defence cooperation between India.

And the US through the Quad security dialogue and other regional multilateral engagements.

Austin said his understanding is that Pakistan has taken constructive steps.

To meet US requests in support of the Afghanistan peace process. Pakistan has also taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taeba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, although this progress is incomplete, he said.

“Many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan’s cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack,” Austin said.

Donald Trump had suspended all the financial and security aid to Pakistan in 2018 citing lack of cooperation from Islamabad in the fight against terrorism.

If confirmed, Austin said he will press Pakistan to prevent its territory from being used as a sanctuary for militants and violent extremist organizations.

“Continuing to build relationships with Pakistan’s military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues,” he said.

Observing that Pakistan an essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan, Austin said that if confirmed.

He will encourage a regional approach that garners support from neighbours like Pakistan, while also deterring regional actors from serving as spoilers to the Afghanistan peace process.