U.S.- India 2+2 talks will focus on regional issues

File picture of Joint Statement of Second U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. Seen from left to right: Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper Photo / Courtesy US Embassy in India

NEW DELHI (TIP): US Secretary of State Mike  Pompeo and  US Secretary of Defense Mark T.  Esper will arrive in New Delhi on October 26 and meet with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh the next day to discuss “salient regional” issues . They are also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

“The Third India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue will entail a comprehensive discussion on cross-cutting bilateral issues of mutual interest. In addition, both sides will also exchange views on salient regional and global issues,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava during a weekly briefing with journalists.

On Wednesday, October 21,  Mr. Pompeo had said talks during his visit will include “discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”

However, the MEA did not respond to a specific question about whether LAC tensions, and the ongoing talks with China would feature during the 2+2 meeting, nor would Mr. Srivastava comment on which agreements, including the geo-spatial agreement BECA would be signed at the meetings, adding that he would rather not “prejudge the outcomes” of the visit.

“India and U.S. have a comprehensive global strategic partnership which includes political, security and defense, economic, commercial, technology and people-to-people contacts. We have regular dialogue for various levels to discuss ongoing bilateral cooperation and to exchange views on developments in the region,” the MEA statement said.

The MEA denied that the timing of the visit of senior U.S. officials exactly one week before U.S. elections on November 3, was unusual, and said it followed the pattern of “2+2” meetings in previous years.

“As regards the timing of the meeting, you know that diplomatic calendars have their logic, and you will notice that the earlier two meetings have been held towards the end of the year,” Mr. Srivastava said in response to a question from The Hindu.

In a separate response on progress in border negotiations with China, the MEA said, “India and China continue to have discussions through both diplomatic and military channels to peacefully resolve the issues along the LAC in India China Border areas.. []The immediate task is to ensure a comprehensive disengagement of troops in all the friction areas.”

Mr. Pompeo will also travel to Maldives, Sri Lanka and Indonesia during the visit, where his focus will remain on the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which he has frequently repeated, will involve “countering” the challenge from China.

The 2+2 Foreign and Defense Minister’s mechanism, which was announced by U.S. President Trump and PM Modi during their first meeting in 2017, was held in Delhi in September 2018 and in Washington DC in December 2019. It replaced the “India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial dialogue”, involving the Foreign and Commerce Ministers, announced by then U.S. President Barack Obama and PM Modi in 2015.

(Source: EAM / The Hindu)

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