Indo-US 2+2 Dialogue: With eyes on China, India & the US focus on Taiwan and Afghanistan

By: |
October 28, 2020 1:58 PM

“An equally important and significant aspect of the discussions between two sides were the exchanges on the evolving situation in Iran and a stalemate in Afghanistan and uncertainty for peace in Afghanistan,” says an Indian Army veteran Brig NK Bhatia.

The talks also focused on firming up of `Quad’ relationship, with Indo-China border standoff in Ladakh showing no sign of abating any time soon. (Twitter/@DrSJaishankar)

The recently concluded visit of US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and the Secretary of state Mark Pompeo for the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, close to the upcoming US Presidential elections shows the significance of evolving Indo-US relationship. The talks with their Indian counterparts defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar focused on various aspects of the bilateral relationship but also on China and its unilateral moves to destabilize Indo-Pacific region. The talks also focused on firming up of `Quad’ relationship, with Indo-China border standoff in Ladakh showing no sign of abating any time soon.

“An equally important and significant aspect of the discussions between two sides were the exchanges on the evolving situation in Iran and a stalemate in Afghanistan and uncertainty for peace in Afghanistan,” says an Indian Army veteran Brig NK Bhatia.

Experts’ Views

“The 2+2 meeting Indo-US ministerial meeting which concluded on Tuesday assumes significance for several reasons: it happened at a time when India and China are engaged in a prolonged military standoff; Washington is actively pursuing its regional powers to curb the influence of China in the Indo-Pacific; India is at the centre of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy; and, the signing of BECA and other military agreements will elevate the relationship a few notches,” opines Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU.

While sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Prof Rajan says, “Regional issues figured prominently in the discussions between the two countries. From India’s standpoint, its concerns in Afghanistan and Iran become urgent. While imposing harshest unilateral sanctions on Iran, the Trump administration did not pay heed to India’s economic and security concerns in the region. India managed to get the Chabahar port exempted from the purview of the US sanctions, but it has become difficult to develop related rail and other construction projects because of logistic procurement issues. China is taking advantage of the vacuum created by India and other countries in Iran. This does not serve the interest of Washington which seeks to curb Chinese influence.”

“In Afghanistan, the moderation of New Delhi’s stance on the Taliban is a welcome change. New Delhi participated in the intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha. In his address, External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar reiterated that the peace process must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.” India has high strategic stakes in Afghanistan. Its interests converge with the US in ensuring a stable, prosperous and sovereign Afghanistan. There is a concern that the withdrawal of the US forces will allow Pakistan’s military to dictate its terms and provoke the Taliban against India. India and the US should try to develop a roadmap on this issue,” Prof Rajan observes.

In conclusion, Prof Rajan says, “Both Washington and New Delhi are warming up to the state of Taiwan. Disregarding Chinese protests, they have begun to establish commercial and informal diplomatic ties with that state. The US has committed the supply of sophisticated weapons to Taiwan. The Indo-Pacific strategy of the US is geared at ensuring free navigation in the South China Sea and freedom of Taiwan from possible Chinese assimilation. The Quad and the Malabar exercises are aimed at deterring China from such misadventure.”

According to Brig N K Bhatia, an Indian Army Veteran, “India’s active diplomacy with the US seems to have had a positive impact in so far as Indian interests in Iran relating to Chabahar have been concerned. As a consequence thereof, India and its entities have been excluded from financial sanctions for work undertaken for development of Chabahar.”

“The humanitarian assistance comprising wheat and sugar to Afghanistan has been delivered through Chabahar. Similarly Indian assistance to Iran comprising food, medicines and pesticides have been allowed during the Covid pandemic. The back to back visit of the two senior Indian ministers to Iran in Sept 2020, who are were part of 2 plus 2 dialogue with their US counterparts, seems to have paid off dividends,” opines Brig Bhatia.

“Afghanistan continues to be an area of concern for both US and India. The US has committed to peace with the Taliban and withdrawal of its troops from Afghan soil by Christmas this year is definitely concerned with a high level of violence. Similarly, India is concerned about its interests in Afghanistan being undermined due to insecurity of the current Afghan regime due to onslaught of violence unleashed by the Taliban.”

What does the Joint Statement say about Afghanistan?

According to the Joint Statement issued after the talks, “The two sides talked about supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process; a sovereign and inclusive and stable Afghanistan.” Also, India’s efforts in building trade linkages and multi-modal connectivity infrastructure were also applauded.

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