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2+2 dialogue: PM Modi to meet US secretaries Mike Pompeo, James Mattis on Sept 6

High on the two-plus-two agenda will be synchronization of the two countries’ views on the Indo-Pacific and stability of Afghanistan.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2018 07:27 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Narendra Modi,Mike Pompeo,James Mattis
The first edition of the 2+2 dialogue on strategic affairs between the US and India will take place on September 6 in New Delhi (REUTERS)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Thursday as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the strategic linkages between the two countries and prepare the ground for a possible visit by President Donald Trump early next year. Pompeo and Mattis arrive separately on Wednesday evening for a so-called two-plus-two dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

South Block officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told Hindustan Times that this was the biggest India-US engagement after PM Modi met President Trump in June and seemed confident that the dialogue and the meeting will be followed by a positive joint statement. PM Modi is also expected to meet President Trump on the sidelines of November 30-December 1 G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. It is, however, unclear whether Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis will be carrying a message about Trump’s India visit when the two leaders interact with PM Modi. While Secretary Mattis is flying directly to India, Secretary Pompeo (the former CIA Director) is expected to have separate conversations with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan,Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Army Chief Qamar Bajwa on Af-Pak (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and impress upon them the need to take urgent action against jihadist groups targeting Afghanistan and India. The Pentagon has already cut a much needed $300 million in aid to Pakistan over Islamabad’s failure to take strong action against proscribed groups.

Although the government is tight-lipped about the forthcoming dialogue, HT learns that the Union Cabinet will take up the vital Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which allows for interoperability of the defence forces of the two countries, for approval on Wednesday with the view to get it initialed during the dialogue. It has also been decided that India will place a liaison officer in the Silicon Valley-based Defence Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx; as previously reported by HT) so that it has access to the best and the latest commercial technologies. The DIUx is funded by Pentagon with offices in Boston, Austin and Washington.

“The India-US relationship is destined for an upward trajectory and Washington has a lot to offer. It is for the Indian bureaucracy which needs to exorcise its ghosts of 1971 and 1962 wars and look towards US with an eye on China and Russia,” said a senior official who asked not to be named, referring to India’s need to balance China’s influence in the region.

Meanwhile, both India and the US are currently engaged in working out a mutually agreement on trade with Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffery Gerrish expected to travel to India after Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan had positive discussions in Washington in August. With a desire to remove irritants in trade issues, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu engaged USTR Robert Lighthizer last June following which two rounds of official talks were held before Wadhawan’s visit.

High on the two-plus-two agenda will be synchronization of the two countries’ views on the Indo-Pacific and stability of Afghanistan. While India and the US will be engaged in military exercises to ensure freedom of navigation with the help of other Quad partners—Japan and Australia-- the two countries differ on the role of the Taliban for stability of Afghanistan. However, they agree that the solution to Afghanistan lies in eradication of support to terrorists groups by Pakistan’s deep state.

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 07:26 IST