BY ARUL LOUIS
New York, Dec 13 (IANS) The India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue of the top foreign affairs and defence leaders will be held on Wednesday, the State Department has announced.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper will host India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishanker and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Washington to “focus on deepening bilateral strategic and defence cooperation, exchanging perspectives on global developments, and our shared leadership in the Indo-Pacific region,” the State Department said in a statement on Thursday.
“Building on the success of the inaugural US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in 2018, this year’s meeting reflects the rapid growth of the vital strategic partnership between the United States and India,” it added.
Then-Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the late External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj hosted Pompeo and former Defence Secretary Jim Mattis for the inaugural 2+2 last year in New Delhi.
A Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) to facilitate access to advanced military systems and enable India to utilise its existing US-origin equipment was signed at the meeting.
The four leaders also emphasised working “together and in concert with other partners toward advancing a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on recognition of ASEAN centrality.”
Next week’s 2+2 comes at a time of close cooperation between the two countries in defence with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region and US backing on the diplomatic front, while there has been a setback in trade with an agreement pending.
An inter-sessional 2+2 was held in Monterey, California, in August at the joint secretaries level with Gourangalal Das of the Ministry of External Affairs and V. Anandarajan of the Ministry of Defence and Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells and Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)