India, US sign key defence pact, discuss cross-border terror at 2+2 meet
The signing of the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) would allow American manufacturers of defence equipment to strike deals with Indian private sector companies, expanding their ability to co-produce and co-develop sensitive technologies from the current confines of public sector partners.Updated: Dec 19, 2019 01:36 IST
India and the United States on Wednesday sealed a key defence agreement to further enhance the interoperability of their militaries and said they discussed the threat of cross-border terrorism India faces from Pakistan at the 2+2 meeting of their foreign and defence ministers.
The signing of the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) would allow American manufacturers of defence equipment to strike deals with Indian private sector companies, expanding their ability to co-produce and co-develop sensitive technologies from the current confines of public sector partners.
The defence agreements, which were expected to be the highlights were announced by US defense secretary Mike Esper at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and their Indian counterparts Rajnath Singh and S Jaishankar.
The Indian external affairs minister told reporters after the meeting the two sides discussed “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region centered around ASEAN and cross-border terrorism in the region and agreed to work closely at international forums including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Pompeo named Pakistan as the source of threat of terrorism faced by India, in response to a question about the future of Afghanistan.
Jaishankar said he was very “satisfied” with the discussions on cross-border terrorism.
The US secretary of state said the discussions about China included issues related to “predatory” practices and communications lines such as 5G.
Going into the meeting, Pompeo wrote on Twitter, “Throughout 2019 we’ve seen rapid growth in the #USIndia strategic partnership (and) … aim to review our successes and take this vital relationship to the next level.”
Pompeo and Esper met their Indian counterparts at the state department for the second edition of the 2+2 ministerial that was kicked off by the two countries in 2018, with New Delhi hosting the inaugural meet last September.
Singh and Jaishankar met one-on-one with their respective counterparts before the 2+2. Singh took to Twitter to say that he had an “excellent meeting” with Esper and “reviewed the full range of India-US defence cooperation”. The countries are “cooperating extensively in strategic & military areas”, he added.
The 2+2 ministerial came amidst growing strategic convergence between the two countries and continuing efforts to resolve the vexatious issue of trade, with a deal still not in sight, not even a modest, scaled down version the two sides have been aiming for leaving the more difficult issues to a later date, including an ambitious Free Trade Agreement.
The state department noted the importance of trade in the relationship even though it is not in the purview of the ministries participating in the meeting.
“The US and #India have shared interests in economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity,” it tweeted. “In 2018, bilateral trade between our nations was $142 billion, up 13% from the prior year. We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with India.”
The second 2+2 ministerial meet took place without the postponements and cancellations that had plagued the first round, delaying it almost a year, forced by the sacking of then secretary of state Rex Tillerson and President Trump’s preoccupation with talks with North Korea at that time.
The highlight of the inaugural 2+2 meet, which finally took place in September in New Delhi, was the signing of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), an enabling agreement that would dramatically expand interoperability between the militaries of the two countries. It had capped a year-long series of developments such as the US designating India a Major Defense Partner and according STA-1 status, bringing it at par with its NATO allies for the sharing of sensitive defense technology.
But the key substantial outcome of the second edition is the signing of the Industrial Security Annex, an enabling agreement that will allow US defense manufacturers to do business with Indian private sector companies.