India, US two-plus-two meeting postponed
India’s foreign and defence secretaries were here early this week for preparatory talks with their American counterparts.india Updated: Mar 18, 2018 20:13 IST
The inaugural 2+2 meeting of Indian and US defence and foreign ministers will be “most possibly” postponed to “later in the year” due to uncertainty about the participation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has yet to be confirmed.
The four principals were to meet in Washington DC on April 18 for the first 2+2, and senior Indian officials were on their way here for preparatory talks when President Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson and gave his job to Pompeo, the CIA director.
Pompeo could not have been confirmed by US Senate by the scheduled date, US and Indian officials had said.
They had feared, and were certain, that the ministerial would have to wait longer.
There was no announcement of the postponement and a decision had not yet been communicated by either side to each other despite discussions to that effect — but sources in New Delhi said the talks had been put off “most possibly”.
Calling the dialogue “really a rare moment for the relationship” between the two countries, a senior US administration official has said they will take place “later in the year”.
An unidentified US official told PTI the talks have been “postponed for now”.
The 2+2 ministerial was announced last August after a phone call between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump to “elevate…strategic consultations” between the countries. It replaced a similar 2+2 strategic and commercial dialogue, involving the foreign and commerce ministers started a few years earlier.
Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman would meet their American counterparts Pompeo and James Mattis whenever the next place and date are determined.
Both American and Indian officials knew soon after Trump fired Tillerson that the April 2+2 was in jeopardy as there was no possible way for Pompeo to be confirmed by then, which he must be before assuming office.
Senate foreign affairs committee announced it planned to hold Pompeo’s confirmation hearing — or hearings, the process can last a few days—in April and given the congressional calendar, it could not have been kicked off before April 9.
The 2+2 talks were first expected to be held in New Delhi in 2017, but the US was unable to schedule the visits of Mattis and the then secretary of state Tillerson to be in India at the same time — they visited a month apart from each other. (With inputs from PTI)