The five key takeaways from India-US 2+2 dialogue
India and the United States on Thursday made a push to elevate their strategic ties at their first 2+2 dialogue that centred on key issues including cross-border terrorism, India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the contentious issue of H-1B visa.
Here are five highlights of the joint statement released by the two countries after the talks between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, defence minister Nirmala Sitharam and their US counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Jim Mattis.
1) Hotline between foreign, defence ministers
Joint statement: “The two sides further decided to establish secure communication between the minister of external affairs of India and the US Secretary of State, and between the minister of defence of India and the US Secretary of Defense”
The remarks symbolise the growing synergy between the two countries, as the hotline is aimed at maintaining regular high-level communication on emerging developments between them or regional issues they need to discuss. This comes in the wake of the two sides seeing themselves as “major and independent stakeholders in world affairs” committed “to work together on regional and global issues, including in bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral formats.”
2) Strengthening defence ties
Joint statement: “The mutually agreed upon steps to strengthen defense ties further and promote better defense and security coordination and cooperation.”
This reflects the increasing defence ties between the two nations, a highlight of the strategic dialogue. The efforts included the signing of a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that will facilitate access to advanced military systems and enable India to utilise its existing US-origin platforms. There were also negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that will support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration, and steps to increase personnel exchanges between the two militaries.
3) Message to Pakistan
Joint statement: “They called on Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.”
This shows that India and the US are trying to put collective pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorist outfits on its soil. They also named Pakistan-based outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in the joint statement.
4) Focus on Indo-Pacific region
Joint statement: “Work together and in concert with other partners toward advancing a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on recognition of ASEAN centrality.”
In the backdrop of China’s expanding footprint in the region, India and the US discussed their larger cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. With the reset in ties between India and China, the two stuck to general positions rather than any posturing. Their remarks reflect that they will work in concert with other partners toward advancing a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on recognition of the centrality of the 10-member ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Countries).
5) Infrastructure development
Joint statement: “Sustainable debt financing practices in infrastructure development.”
This is an oblique reference to the massive connectivity project the Chinese have undertaken under the ‘One Road One Belt’ initiative. India has reservations about the financing of huge infrastructure projects that lead countries into debt traps. So, along with the US it has emphasised the need to work collectively with other partner countries to support transparent, responsible and sustainable debt financing practices in infrastructure development.