U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter began a three-day trip to India Sunday amid heightening tensions between Washington and Beijing over China’s growing power in the region. The visit will be an important step in the implementation of some of the key decisions being taken by U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last two years, local media reports said.

“Exciting new projects” will be discussed to boost Indo-US strategic ties, Carter said on the eve of his visit but did not detail the decisions to be taken during his India trip that would take him to Goa and New Delhi. The visit is Carter’s second to the South East Asian country in less than a year.

“India is already a very influential and powerful force in the whole Indo Asia Pacific region, starting with the Indian Ocean,” Carter told the Press Trust of India.

The defense secretary made it clear that the U.S. would like to forge closer ties with India, especially in countering China's moves.

"There's no question about where the United States-India relationship is going," Carter said Friday, at a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Last month, Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said the U.S. wanted to expand the naval exercises it held with India each year into joint operations across the Asia-Pacific.

"India's very reluctant to be seen as too close to the United States, but the Pentagon is very bullish on this relationship," Shane Mason, a research associate at the Stimson Center in Washington told Reuters.