Singapore: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said the Indo-American partnership, which is based on shared democratic values and vital economic and security interests, will be an indispensable pillar of stability in South Asia and beyond.

"The United States and India are working more closely together than ever before. During the Cold War there was an uneasy co-existence between the world's largest democracy and the world's oldest," Gates said in his speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

"A partnership that will be an indispensable pillar of stability in South Asia and beyond whether countering piracy, increasing participation in multilateral venues, or aiding the development of Afghanistan, our partnership is playing a vital role," Gates said in his speech in which he emphasised on the need to have engagement with top Asian countries.

He said the US is a Pacific nation, and that requires it to sustain its allies while maintaining a robust military engagement and deterrent posture across the Pacific Rim.

The US engagement in Asia has been guided by a set of enduring principles that have fostered the economic growth and stability of the region, Gates said.

These principles, supported by both US major political parties, include free and open commerce; a just international order that highlights rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law; and open access by all to the global commons of sea, air, space, and now, cyberspace.

The US will do more and expand into other areas in non-traditional ways, he added.

"We've taken a number of steps towards establishing a defence posture across the Asia-Pacific that is more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable," Gates said.

The military posture proposed will maintain American presence in northeast Asia while enhancing US presence in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean area, he noted.