WASHINGTON - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates leaves for India on Monday (today) seeking to boost bilateral military cooperation and take forward talks on unresolved defence pacts with the South Asian country. The January 19-21 visit will mark the first high-level talks between the two nations since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was honoured at the White House in November at the Obama administrations first state dinner. The Pentagon said Gates will meet Singh, and the countrys external affairs and defence chiefs. The Indian premier has been urging US to use its influence with Pakistan to do more against extremists blamed for the attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Briefing reporters ahead of the trip, US officials acknowledged the meetings would likely touch on tensions between India and Pakistan as well as efforts by both US and Indian militaries to work closer together, including counter-terrorism efforts. We obviously share an interest in protecting both of our homelands from attack of terrorist organisations, a senior US defence official said. The United States is also calling on allies like India to step up their roles in Afghanistan following President Obamas decision last month to send an additional 30,000 troops to battle a resurgent Taliban. As we are doing more, of course we are looking for others to do more, the official said. The trip comes as Washington is trying to strengthen Pakistan as it fights militants in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where US troops are stationed. Last month, Gates told the US Senate he believed Al-Qaeda wanted to provoke a conflict between India and Pakistan in order to destabilise Pakistan. Diplomats say the United States and India are enjoying their best relations in decades. US defence officials have repeatedly described India as a global partner with common interests extending well beyond regional issues like Afghanistan. One area closely watched by investors is Indias growing appetite for arms purchases. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said bilateral trade would be a significant part of conversations in New Delhi. Currently the worlds 10th largest defence spender, India is looking to dole out more than $50 billion over the next five years to modernise its armed forces. A US official suggested such defence deals can often bring militaries closer together. Really the context is: how do you improve cooperation between our two militaries? Common equipment, common experiences create further opportunities to cooperate with India, the official said. US aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co said this month the Indian Air Force was interested in acquiring 10 C-17 aircraft, in a deal Indian defence ministry officials say is potentially worth more than $2 billion. And last August, India started field trials to buy 126 multi-role fighter jets. Indias market reforms in the early 1990s led to a rapid expansion of trade ties with the United States, while the 2008 civil nuclear deal Singh signed with former U.S. President George W. Bush ended the long nuclear isolation imposed upon India after it tested an atom bomb in 1974.