By Elton Gomes
The first 2+2 dialogue involving the United States and India will finally take place on September 6 as defence and foreign ministers of both countries will meet in New Delhi, the US state department announced Friday.
The meeting was scheduled to take place on July 6, but has been postponed twice by the US. The US state department said that the four ministers will “discuss strengthening strategic, security, and defence cooperation as the United States and India jointly address challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” according to a report in the Hindustan Times.
“The United States is pleased to announce that the inaugural US-India ‘2+2 dialogue’ will be held in New Delhi, India, on September 6,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement, as per the Indian Express. Nauert added that US Defense Secretary James Mattis and foreign secretary Mike Pompeo would be travelling to India for the dialogue.
Nauert said further, “Pompeo and Mattis look forward to meeting with their Indian counterparts, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman, to discuss strengthening strategic, security and defence cooperation as the US and India jointly address challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
This will be the first time India’s defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj meet with their US counterparts James Mattis and Mike Pompeo in a format announced in 2017. The 2+2 dialogue was finalised after a phone call between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump.
US postpones dialogue in June
Citing “unavoidable reasons,” the US postponed the dialogue – scheduled to be held on July 6 – in June. External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet that Pompeo had spoken with Swaraj “to express his regret and deep disappointment at the US having to postpone the 2+2 Dialogue for unavoidable reasons”.
The postponement came amidst a backdrop of the US pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. A state department official claimed that Washington had asked India and China to stop imports of Iranian oil by November 4 or face sanctions. Experts claim that a potential reason for the postponement could be Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which took place on July 16 in Helsinki.
US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that the postponement had nothing to do with Indo-US relations. “Our relationship will mark a new milestone when the US and India conduct the first-ever 2+2 dialogue. The delay in that meeting was completely unrelated to India. The time and location are being rescheduled now. It will happen soon,” Haley said, as per a report in Business Standard.
According to the Economic Times, defence secretary James Mattis wrote to Nirmala Sitharaman and assured her that Washington’s last-minute decision to postpone the meeting was not aimed at giving a lower priority to Indo-US relations. In the letter, Mattis said that the “trajectory of the strategic partnership” will be unaffected and that the sudden cancellation of the dialogue was not linked to India.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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