India-US 2+2 dialogue to focus on regional security cooperation and defence information-sharing
External affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh will meet their US counterparts Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper in New Delhi on October 27 for the third edition of the 2+2 dialogueUpdated: Oct 24, 2020, 15:10 IST
The India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue next week will focus on regional security cooperation and defence information-sharing so that the two sides can operate more cohesively and seamlessly while dealing with regional challenges, senior American officials said on Saturday.
The meeting will also focus on global cooperation, including public health collaboration to cope with Covid-19, economic cooperation, working together in the Indo-Pacific, and people-to-people ties, two senior US administration officials said during a background briefing.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh will meet their US counterparts Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper in New Delhi on October 27 for the third edition of the 2+2 dialogue. American officials have noted the decision by the US leaders to visit India in-person, amid the pandemic and just a week ahead of the presidential election, reflects the importance attached to ties with India.
One of the officials said there is no reason to believe the US’s policy for India will change if there is a new administration after the November 3 election. “I think both parties are largely aligned on their interest in supporting and deepening the partnership,” the official said.
India and the US are widely expected to sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), one of four so-called foundational pacts to facilitate sharing of classified satellite and sensor data, during the 2+2 meeting.
“We’ve made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence enabling agreement...the BECA. This agreement will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between our armed forces. We are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between our respective militaries as well as between our foreign and defence ministries,” the official cited above said.
The US is enhancing maritime security across the Indian Ocean by coordinating and building capacity with regional countries, the official said. India’s decision to include Australia with the US and Japan in the Malabar naval exercise in November “signals not only a strategic convergence between the Quadrilateral partners but a recognition that regional security requires strengthening allies and partnerships and working multilaterally on issues of mutual concern,” the official added.
The US is also building greater military interoperability with India by increasing the sophistication of combined exercises, and it has placed a liaison officer at India’s Information Fusion Center for the Indian Ocean to enhance coordination and information-sharing between the navies. “We also hope to confirm two additional Indian liaison officer placements in the near term to expand counterterrorism cooperation,” the official said.
The second administration official said it had become more important for the US to work with like-minded partners such as India in view of “China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour across the Indo-Pacific, from the Himalayas to the South China Sea”. The US side has already said the India-China border standoff in Ladakh is expected to figure in the 2+2 dialogue.
The first administration official said the US administration is “covering the situation in the Himalayas closely” and it wants to “ensure that the situation doesn’t escalate”. The US is providing support, “whether through defence sales, exercises [and] information sharing”, to India, and “not just as it relates to the tensions in the Himalayas”, the official added.
The first official also said the two sides have an ongoing dialogue about increased cooperation in Southeast Asia, not just in the South China Sea, and encourages India’s involvement in these regions. “And that cuts across development investments, it cuts across security cooperation, and then it also involves presence. And so we welcome greater Indian participation in Southeast Asia, across all three of those areas,” the official added.