US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday said there has been a remarkable advancement of defence relationship between India and the United States in the last few years.
"There have been remarkable advances made just in the last few years," Gates told reporters on board flying with him on his trip to India -- his first as the US Defense Secretary in Obama Administration.
"I see it as a natural follow--on to Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh's visit to Washington last November and the regular exchanges that we have had with the Indian military leadership, both civilian and in uniform," said Gates, who had a separate meeting with Singh during his State Visit to the US in November.
Gates last time went to India as the Defense Secretary in the previous Bush Administration.
"I was last here two years ago. Last time I was here was with a broken arm, so at least I now have two working wings for this trip," he said.
The Defense Secretary said during his meeting with the Indian leadership, he would be talking a lot about how the two countries can expand their defence cooperation.
Gates is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister and ministers of Defence and Foreign during his visit.
"We are halfway through the 10-year agreement that was signed in 2005, and there'll be a further review of the progress we're making in expanding the relationship, whether it's training exercises, defence trade and so on.
All of these things have grown significantly since that agreement was signed in 2005," he said.
Afghanistan too would be an important part of his talks with the Indian leaders, he said.
"We will obviously talk about the situation in Afghanistan, and I will be interested in their further views of the new strategy that the United States -- the President (Barack Obama) has approved and the measures that he announced at West Point (in New York in December).
All that was still being finalised when Prime Minister Singh was in Washington," he said.
"The Deputy Secretary was over here last November, was in India last November as part of the ongoing strategic dialogue.
So I see this as a continuation of the effort to expand the relationship in a lot of different ways," Gates said.
Noting that regional stability is very important for everybody involved in South Asia, specially between India and Pakistan, Gates said: "I think it's clear that both sides prefer to deal with this bilaterally and that others not be involved.
Obviously if there's anything we could do to help that we got asked to do, we would be prepared to do.
But this really is both sides, I think, prefer to deal with their relationship in a bilateral way".