India-US to sign key defence pact during second 2+2 dialogue in December
The second 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, featuring the foreign and defence ministers of the two sides, is expected to be held in Washington on December 18, people familiar with developments said on Thursday.
The scheduling of the meeting has faced delays over the course of the year. The inaugural 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi in September last year. The special format reflects the growing proximity between the two countries on defence, security and strategic issues.
After concluding two foundational agreements to strengthen military cooperation in the past three years, India and the US are closer to finalising a new pact to deepen defence industry collaboration.
It is expected that the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), which aims to shore up defence cooperation, will be signed during the upcoming dialogue, the people cited above said. The ISA will allow the US government and American original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to share classified information with private Indian defence firms.
Currently, the US can share such information only with the Indian government and state-run firms under the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) signed 17 years ago.
Work on another key foundational agreement, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (Beca) for sharing geospatial intelligence, is yet to begin. Last month, India and the US agreed to a joint statement of intent to deepen defence technology cooperation and interoperability consistent with shared national security interests.
During the first 2+2 meeting, the two sides signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) to give India access to advanced US hardware.
India is close to inking a Rs 17,500-crore deal with the US for naval helicopters. India is buying 24 Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters to strengthen the navy’s anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare and surveillance capabilities.
The ministers involved in the dialogue have changed since last year, when India was represented by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and their American counterparts were Mike Pompeo and James Mattis.
This time around, external affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh will hold talks with their counterparts Pompeo and Mark Esper. The talks are expected to focus on defence acquisitions, the global and regional security situation, including Afghanistan, counter-terrorism and joint production of military hardware.