Indo-US 2+2 Dialogue: Focus on addressing ‘dragon in the room’, taking strategic partnership to a new level

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Updated: Oct 23, 2020 3:20 PM

The defence Minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar will be meeting their counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper, who will be in New Delhi from Oct 26-27.

The defence trade between the two countries has touched $ 18 billion and the next big deal expected to be finalized and announced is 10+10+10 UAVs from the US-based General Atomics. (Photo source: US embassy)

Just days ahead of the US Presidential elections, the third edition of the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue is finally confirmed to take place in New Delhi next week. Besides discussing the growing tensions along the Line of Actual Control between India and China, both countries are expected to ink the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial cooperation. Also, India has requested the US to expedite the delivery of certain defence equipment and this will be on the table for discussion.

The defence Minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar will be meeting their counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper, who will be in New Delhi from Oct 26-27.

Both the US Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper as per the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval during their visit to New Delhi.

Will any major defence deal be announced?

The defence trade between the two countries has touched $ 18 billion and the next big deal expected to be finalized and announced is 10+10+10 UAVs from the US-based General Atomics.

No. “Due to the forthcoming elections in the US there is no major defence deal expected to be announced,” explained a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous.

Posting an officer at IFC

With the Chinese presence growing in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the US has already decided to post a liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre (IFC), located in the NCR here. The US has so far not sent any officer to be posted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this is expected to be expedited now.

With the focus on interoperability and cooperation between the armed forces, India too is planning to post liaison officers at the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier, sources have confirmed that while an Indian Army officer will be posted at the USSOCOM, a naval officer will be posted as a liaison officer at the USINDOPACOM.

Areas of interest in Defence

India has been keen on Anti-Missile Defence, Anti-Submarine warfare, Network Centric Warfare. The joint production of different platforms including UAVs as well as deeper cooperation in R&D in the Space sector as well in aerospace and naval designs. The Maritime Domain Awareness as well as focus on Underwater Domain awareness are some points of interest.

Also, some modalities are expected to be made to the COMCASA agreement.

A Letter of Acceptance (LoA) for the sale of Integrated Air Defense Weapon System (IADWS) is awaited. And once the letter is received then the talks between the US-based Raytheon Corporation and Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace will start.

Areas of interest in Foreign Policy

Right now the biggest concern for the two sides is how to contain the presence of China both on land and in waters.

The Indo-Pacific, the growing unrest in West Asia, the recent UAE-Israel deal, and seeking cooperation from the neighbouring countries in the region to deal with the growing presence of China.

The US State secretary has also announced his visit to Sri Lanka, Maldives & Indonesia.

The focus will be on the fight against terrorism, and further enhancement of cooperation in various sectors including the long-pending Nuclear Reactors.

What will be the Agenda of 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue — MEA

At the weekly briefing, the official spokesperson of the MEA, Anurag Srivastava said, “ There will be a comprehensive discussion between the two sides when they meet for the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. The focus will be on bilateral issues as well as the two sides will exchange their views on the regional and global matters.”

Background of the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue

This dialogue is based on the line of the Japanese format of establishing such a level of dialogue. And both India and the US had the first round in September 2018, which witnessed the inking of the foundational agreement Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). This agreement enables India to optimally use the existing US-origin platforms being used by the Indian Forces including the Special Forces.

And with this agreement in place, the doors have been opened for India to import sensor technologies from the US which is critical for communication and guidance in the platforms being used here by the forces.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), too will be talked about.

The long-awaited BECA to be inked?

Earlier this the week the BECA was discussed at the Cabinet meeting which was headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Amidst the growing tensions between India and China, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation Agreement (BECA) is expected to be inked next week.

Why is this important?

Now that the `Quad’ is going in for Ex Malabar next month, once such an agreement becomes operational it will give India access not only to nautical data but it will also get a range of topographical data. And this will help in the interoperability of the various platforms Indian forces are using.

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