Free and open Indo-Pacific, joint production of military platforms, new technologies, drones and global issues of mutual interest are topping the agenda of the fourth India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue on April 11, 2022.
MEA announces the visit
On Thursday the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced the visit of external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar to the US for the 2+2 ministerial from April 11-12, in Washington DC. Both defence Minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister Dr Jaishankar will have joint dialogue with their counterparts Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.
Objective of the visit
Bilateral agenda related to foreign policy, defence and security and providing strategic guidance and vision for further consolidating of relations. The dialogue between the two countries next week will also provide an opportunity to the two sides to discuss and exchange views on the regional and global developments and how the two sides can work together to address issues which are of common interest and concern.
On Social Media
Secretary of State Blinken wrote on social media that the two countries mark 75 years of US-India diplomatic relations. Adding, the fourth 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue will reaffirm the strategic growing partnership between the two countries.
Also, as part of an ongoing and regular dialogue, Dr Jaishankar will also have a separate meeting with his American counterpart and to further advance the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, according to MEA he is scheduled to meet senior members of the US Administration.
Importance of the visit of the two top ministers to the US
The visit comes at a time when the Russia-Ukraine crisis has deepened, and the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution to suspend the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council. The West and its allies are pushing for more strict sanctions against Russia, countries like Iran, Russia have started accepting payments for oil imports in local currencies, and the pressure is on India to take a stand against Russia.
Military trade, Indo-Pacific, QUAD (India, Japan, Australia and the US) and QUAD of Israel, UAE, the US and India, deepening of military ties, maritime security, are on the table for both sides to talk about.
Military trade to touch $ 25 billion soon.
In 2016, US under the Trump administration has designated India as a Major Defence Partner, following this in 2018, India was elevated to Strategic Trade Authorization Tier 1 status.
Under this status India will get a license-free access to an entire range of military and dual-use technologies. These technologies have been regulated by the US Department of Commerce.
The military trade between the two countries is expected to touch USD 25 bn by 2025. The trade between the two sides is through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.
Both countries have already inked critical agreements for deepening defence cooperation like the Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications, the Industrial Security Agreement (ISA) and BECA.
Deals expected to be discussed
Deals including 57 fighters for the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier, 114 combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force, UAVs for the three services, equipment for the Special Forces, large aircraft infrared countermeasure, a missile defence system for large aircraft, the Integrated Air Defence Weapon System (IADWS), and more.
The two countries are expected to talk about deeper cooperation in Outer Space, and the launch of the jointly developed NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite in 2023.
Space agencies of both countries are already working together in the Satellite Navigation (SatNav) and the US Congress has in principle decided to designate the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) as an “allied system”.
KC-46 Tanker for the IAF
Recently, state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) had signed an agreement for the conversion of the B767 class of civil aircraft to a Multi Mission Tanker Transport (MMTT) aircraft.
Last year, in an exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, Torbjorn Sjogren, VP, International Government & Defence, Boeing Global Services, had said that the company is in talks with the Indian Air Force (IAF) KC-46 tanker which is a derivative of the Boeing 767 passenger aircraft.
Financial Express Online had reported recently that the F/A-18 Super Hornet will be on the agenda of 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
Recent reports indicate that next month F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft will land in Goa for the trials. These aircraft are expected to be shortlisted for the Indian Navy’s requirement of 57 deck based jets for the IAC 1. Also, according to sources, the numbers of the aircraft needed for the aircraft carrier could go up as the Russian-Ukraine crisis continues and the upgrade of the existing MiG-29K could get delayed.
Will the F-15EX feature in talks?
Ahead of the dialogue, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager Pratt Kumar was in India. The company has offered F-15EX for the requirement of 114 fighter jets for IAF. Sources have told Financial Express Online that he had met with senior officers in the Ministry of Defence.
UAVs from General Atomics is another big ticket item which is going to be discussed when defence minister Rajnath Singh will discuss the pending deals with his counterpart and other senior officers in the Biden administration.
Also, sale of a USD 189 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure, a missile defence system for large aircraft used by VVIPS is pending.
Another deal valued at USD 1.867 billion — the Integrated Air Defence Weapon System (IADWS) has yet to fructify. This was already approved by the previous US administration for sale to India.
A deal estimated to cost USD 5 million is Communications Security Account and Equipment. A relatively small deal is a very important component for enhancing interoperability and is used for advancing communication.
Since the Indian armed forces are open to the idea of leasing military platforms to meet urgent requirements, this too will be discussed with the US side on Monday.