US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel held talks yesterday with India's new foreign minister at the start of a three-day visit to New Delhi aimed at boosting military trade and cooperation with the world's biggest arms importer.
Asked about India's reluctance to embrace the United States as an ally and defence partner, Hagel said: "The US is mindful of the sensitivity of India's independence, and it has been an independent non-aligned nation since it became a democracy.
"No nation wants to be seen as a second-cousin type of arrangement to the US or any other country. That is as it should be."
Hagel said renewing a 10-year defence framework agreement due to expire next year would be high on the agenda.
Hagel said Afghanistan would also be on the agenda, as US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Kabul to try to resolve disputed elections that have raised fears of civil war.
The US has been racing to make up for lost time in building ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist leader who was denied a US visa in 2005 over allegations he turned a blind eye to anti-Muslim riots as leader of the state of Gujarat.
Washington also sees India as a key strategic partner in the face of an increasingly powerful and assertive China.
India is close to finalising a US$1.4 billion deal to buy at least 22 US Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters, an Indian defence official said.
Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg