By Elton Gomes
As India and the United States continue to prepare for the inaugural 2+2 dialogue to be held in September, the Donald Trump administration has said that the meeting is an indication of the strategic partnership between the two countries.
Scheduled to be held on September 6, the high-level meeting will see the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in New Delhi. Pompeo and Mattis will meet with their Indian counterparts – External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to discuss Indo-US relations on critical diplomatic and security issues, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said to the media.
Nauert said, “The dialogue is an indication of the deepening strategic partnership between our two countries, and India’s emergence as a net security provider in the region,” PTI reported.
“We have an opportunity to really advance the relationship in significant ways. We’ll talk about regional issues and strategic issues, but we’re also going to have a set of actual concrete outcomes,” Randall Schriver, US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, according to a PTI report.
What is the 2+2 dialogue?
The 2+2 dialogue was announced in August 2017 after a phone call between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Trump. The inaugural dialogue was initially scheduled to be held in April 2018 but was stalled after Trump fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson. The meeting was supposed to have focused on “strengthening strategic, security and defence cooperation”.
When was the dialogue first scheduled to be held, and why was it postponed?
After the dialogue was postponed in April 2018, it was scheduled to be held in July 2018. However, the dialogue was postponed once again. Raveesh Kumar, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said, “U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo spoke to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj a short while ago to express his regret and deep disappointment at the U.S. having to postpone the 2+2 Dialogue for unavoidable reasons,” the Hindu reported.
Although the US did not provide an official reason for the abrupt postponement, it stated that the partnership between the two countries remained a priority and that it was strongly committed to maintaining ties with India. The US embassy said in a statement that the change in schedule “was prompted by reasons entirely unrelated to the bilateral relationship,” as per an Indian Express report.
It was reported that the US had earlier postponed the dialogue as Secretary Pompeo had to travel to North Korea to discuss the country’s denuclearization plan.
What is the purpose of the dialogue?
The 2+2 dialogue aims to get four important policymakers on the same page. In recent years, there have been concerns that though military ties have improved, diplomatic alliances have continued to lag. Since several deals and technology purchases require approval from the US Congress, there was a need for defence and diplomatic units of New Delhi and Washington to meet.
What’s in it for India?
India and the US are expected to sign the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that has been pending for some years as India refused to share critical information as part of the agreement. A senior US official said that the meeting could discuss how to “operationalise India’s status as a major defence partner.”
India might also press for an international ban on Jaish-e-Muhammed chief Masood Azhar. India’s attempt could be taken positively by the US as the Trump administration seems keen to continue this pursuit.
China looks to defuse tensions with India
Amidst a growing trade war between Washington and Beijing, China sought to woo India by calling it a natural partner in its Belt and Road initiative. China has also attempted to calm India’s concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor by saying that India should not worry about this project as China’s neutral stance on the Kashmir issue will not be affected.
US warns India
The US has sternly warned India regarding its military and strategic partnership with Russia. The development comes as India prepares to buy five S-400 missile defence systems from Russia as part of a Rs 39,000 crore deal. The US has indicated that the sanctions waiver is not absolute, and has offered to negotiate with India concerning the transfer or sale of weapons that India purchased from Russia.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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