India and the US have signed an agreement that will make them logistical allies and enable use of each other's military assets.
In a step seen as countering the rising maritime assertiveness of China, the agreement will also enable both the militaries to share and benefit from each other's land, air and naval bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said the pact will "make the logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient", Reuters reported.
In a news briefing at the Pentagon with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar, Carter said: "The US and India share a common vision for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region." He added that the ties between the two nations are "destined to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21<sup>st century".
The deal will allow the US to cooperate with India in both strategic and technological areas at par with other close and long-standing allies of Washington. Besides, it will help the navies to have an "easier time supporting each other in joint operations and exercises and when providing humanitarian assistance", Parrikar said.
The Pentagon reportedly has long wanted to have deeper security ties with India just like its relations with other countries. But India is said to have remained wary as signing a deal would mean Delhi commit to hosting US troops at its bases. When the two leaders met in April they reached an agreement "in principle".
Meeting for the sixth time now, both Parrikar and Carter have made it clear that the current logistics agreement does not allow for India to host US troops. "It's not a basing agreement of any kind," Carter said.
Earlier in June, during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US, Delhi was designated as a "major defence partner" of the US. Since the meeting with President Barack Obama, India is thought to have removed all hurdles that came in the way of signing a defence cooperation deal with the US.
According to the Times of India, Carter welcomed India's membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) while also confirming that Washington would continue to back India's membership bid in the elite Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG).
Washington is also reported to have underlined the need for more cooperation with India, especially in tackling China's military expansion in the seas. Both the defence secretaries also emphasised the importance of free flow of trade, without directly mentioning China.
"India and the United States have a shared interest in freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce as part of rule-based order in [the] Indo-Pacific," Parrikar said.