G20, 2+2 talks in focus during Jaishankar-Blinken meet
While India thanked US for its support during the G20 Summit, the two sides also announced they will hold the annual 2+2 dialogue, which brings together the defence and foreign ministers of both countries, in Delhi soon.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken discussed India’s G20 presidency and its outcomes, the recently unveiled India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), and spoke of deepening defence, space and clean energy ties as they focused on areas of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in Washington DC on Thursday.
While India thanked US for its support during the G20 Summit, the two sides also announced they will hold the annual 2+2 dialogue, which brings together the defence and foreign ministers of both countries, in Delhi soon. The meeting is expected in November.
There was no reference to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations linking “agents” of India with a killing of Canadian citizen, a man India designated as a terrorist, in the US readout of the meeting, neither was it mentioned by Jaishankar in his tweet about the meeting. But on Friday, Jaishankar confirmed that the issue had come up in the discussions and both sides had conveyed their views.
Before the bilateral meeting, the two leaders appeared briefly for a press appearance in the historic State Department building.
Blinken said it was a pleasure to welcome his “friend and colleague” Jaishankar. “We have had very good discussions over the last weeks – of course at the G20, in New York at the General Assembly – and I am looking forward to pursuing them this afternoon.” This was their third meeting in a month, giving a sense of the intensity of India-US engagement.
Jaishankar then said it was good to be back, and told Blinken, “We, of course, had the Prime Minister this summer. We thank the US for all the support at the G20 summit. And I actually look forward to seeing you in Delhi for the 2+2.” In his tweet about the meeting, Jaishankar said that it was great to meet his “friend” and that they had a wide ranging discussion, following up on PM Narendra Modi’s state visit in June. “Also exchanged notes on global developments. Laid the groundwork for our 2+2 meeting very soon.”
In a readout issued after the meeting, State Department spokesperson Miller said that the two had discussed “a full range of issues, including key outcomes of India’s G20 presidency, and the creation of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor and its potential to generate transparent, sustainable, and high-standard infrastructure investments”. He added they had also emphasised “the continued importance of cooperation ahead of the upcoming 2+2 Dialogue, in particular in the areas of defense, space, and clean energy.”
The fact that the two sides focused on sustaining the momentum in the bilateral relationship indicates the desire in both Delhi and Washington to not let the Canadian allegation interrupt ties. But the issue remains alive as Jaishankar confirmed in his remarks on Friday at a think-tank event in DC.
On the bilateral front though, the meetings in DC made it clear that the 2+2 dialogue as the next big event in the India-US calendar.
The last 2+2 dialogue was held in April 2022 in Washington DC, with defence minister Rajnath Singh and Jaishankar leading the Indian side and Blinken and secretary of defence Lloyd Austin leading the American side. President Joe Biden, in person, and Modi, virtually, had also spoken with the four ministers and set the tone for the meeting, held soon after the Russian war in Ukraine which had brought to public focus the divergences between the two sides. The 2+2 meeting was seen as an important step in ensuring that relations not just remained on track but set new ambitions.
This year, officials on both sides have noted that the 2+2 meeting were not held so far because of an already intense diplomatic calendar and the challenge of aligning calendars. Blinken has already visited Delhi twice, for the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in March and the Leaders’ Summit in September. Austin was in Delhi before Modi’s State visit in June to finalise the India-US defence industrial cooperation road map. Both Modi and Biden have already visited each other’s Capitals. And Indian ministers, particularly Jaishankar, have also had a packed calendar.
But the timing of the dialogue, which was already in the works and is not necessarily linked to recent developments, will now prove to be a signal from both governments that India-US bilateral relations remain a priority even as Canada remains an issue of discussion. In turn, it will lay the ground for Biden’s possible visit to Delhi in January, given US ambassador Eric Garcetti’s confirmation that India has invited the President for Republic Day.