US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in New Delhi on a two-day visit today seeking a more active role for India in Afghanistan as the international forces draw down after a decade of war.
During his two-day visit, the Pentagon chief will discuss a range of issues relating to the strategic partnership of the two countries as also military trade.
Panetta will meet defence minister A K Antony, prime minister Manmohan Singh and national security
adviser Shivshankar Menon.
On Wednesday, he will deliver a lecture on 'Indo-US Defence Relations' at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, which will be followed by an interactive session.
Ongoing defence co-operation and regional security situation will figure prominently during the discussion that Panetta will have with defence minister AK Antony on Wednesday.
Panetta will lay a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti and will be presented a tri-services guard of honour at South Block. Antony will also host a dinner in honour of the visiting dignitary.
This is Panetta's first visit to India since assuming office last summer and is the last leg of a nine-day swing through Asia, which also took him to Singapore for the Shangri La Dialogue, an inter-governmental security forum of 28 Asia-Pacific states, and Vietnam.
"India is the only country we mention in the defence strategic guidance as a partner. And we are really shifting to a point at which our defence interactions with India are becoming routine," a senior defence official told reporters in Washington last week.
"The secretary has been eager to visit India since assuming his post last summer," the official said.
"We're trying to have a relationship with India that is broad, strategic and continual," the official said.
US officials, however, acknowledged the longstanding rivalry between India and Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan but insisted that both countries had a stake in working with the international community to ensure stability in the region.