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US-India 2+2 talks: A platform that reviews the entire range of bilateral relationship

The two plus two is a high level dialogue mechanism between the foreign ministers, defence ministries of the two countries that befits their strategic partnership.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2018 07:20 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
2+2 talks,Sushma Swaraj,Nirmala Sitharaman
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj greets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his arrival at Palam Airforce Station, to attend first ever '2+2 Dialogue' between the two nations, in New Delhi on September 5.(AP Photo)

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will host their US counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis for the inaugural two plus dialogue in Delhi on Thursday.

The two plus two is a high level dialogue mechanism between the foreign ministers and defence ministries of the two countries that befits their strategic partnership. This is the highest level institutionalized mechanism for discussions between the two countries that have robust ties over a broad sweep of issues with 40 odd government-level working groups. It is aimed at addressing issues of concerns, charting a new course in ties and coordinating positions on broader regional issues such as the Indo-pacific strategy.

Why 2+2 two format?

The two plus two dialogue replaces the strategic commercial dialogue that was being held between the foreign and commerce ministers of the two sides. It’s a coincidence that Nirmala Sitharaman who took part in the last edition of the strategic commercial dialogue in 2016 as the commerce minister of the country is the Indian co-chair of the two plus two dialogue in her present avatar as the defence minister along with Swaraj.

The US has two plus two dialogue with Japan and Australia. Almost a similar dialogue mechanism has been put in place between China and the US after their Mar-a-Lago summit between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping in April 2017. On its part India has a two plus two dialogue at the level of foreign and defence secretaries between India and Japan.

The significance

The India-US ties have come a long way overcoming the hesitations of history to be touted as one of “defining partnership of 21st century” as President Barack Obama had termed it. Under Trump administration, the ties are moving in the desired direction, amidst concerns over differences over trade issues, purported streamlining of work visas and the US sanctions on Russia and Iran affecting India’s defence purchase and oil import respectively. However, the foundational strength of the ties remains intact and the two plus two dialogue is set to open a new path in the relationship. But The Trump administration’s recent decision to elevate India to the the STA-1 status (Strategic Trade Authorization-1) is seen as a deserving acknowledgement of the growing synergy between countries on strategic issues. It also gives a stamp of approval that India’s India’s export control regimes conforms to the global non-proliferation benchmarks.

Key issues, subjects

The two plus two dialogue reviews the entire gamut of bilateral relationship ranging from defence ties to trade ties to counter-terrorism cooperation and devising ways achieve the ambitious target of $500 billion bilateral trade volume target by 2025.

COMCASA: (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) is a foundational defence pact which is expected to signed soon would be a key highlight of the meeting.

It aims to give a legal framework for the transfer of highly sensitive communication security equipment from the US to India that would streamline and facilitate interoperability between their armed forces. COMCASA is one of the three foundational agreements for a seamless military relationship between the two sides. India had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in August 2016. It provides for the military of each country. The third one in Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) is yet to gather much steam

S 400: New Delhi is planning to buy five S-400 Triumf missile air defence systems from Russia for around $4.5 billion and sought exemption for it from the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act that seeks to prevent such purchases.

Import of oil from Iran: India is also seeking leniency on the import of oil from Iran after the Trump administration has decided to put sanctions on Tehran after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear deal. Some 83 per cent of India’s oil needs are met through imports and Iran accounts for 24 per cent of this. The US is urging the countries to bring down the oil import from Iran t zero, which India finds too difficult to meet.

Counter terrorism: Two sides are set to strengthen their counter-terrorism cooperation.

First Published: Sep 06, 2018 07:20 IST