Powered by growing strategic and economic ties between the world’s leading democracies, the second edition of the 2+2 dialogue between the Foreign and Defence Ministers of India and the US on December 18 is expected to raise the bar for this crucial partnership.
The agenda for the 2+2 talks between India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and their US counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper, is varied and will include fast-tracking defence technology transfers and deepening Indo-Pacific partnership through concrete initiatives.
Upscaling Defence Ties
The overarching focus at the second 2+2 dialogue will be on galvanizing Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTT) and enhancing defence inter-operability by fast-tracking the conclusion of the remaining foundational agreements. Building on the signing of COMCASA and LEMOA, this time round the two sides are likely to sign the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), which will enable US companies to transfer technologies to Indian private companies in high-value and sensitive defence deals. The ISI will be an important step forward to spur closer defence collaboration between India and the US. The ISA will allow the US government and American original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to share classified information with private Indian defence firms.
The 2+2 talks are also expected to unveil a road map for operationalizing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which will facilitate encrypted communications between the two-armed forces, said officials.
The two sides are expected to review progress in negotiations on the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), which will enable India to access geo-spatial maps from the US.
The 2+2 talks, said officials, are expected to finalize key defence purchases by India, including 24 multi-role helicopters, six additional Boeing P 8I multi-mission aircraft and six additional Apache helicopters. “Our defense procurement relationship has gone up from almost nil 15 years ago to nearly $20 billion today. India is now a major defense partner of the United States. We have signed a number of foundation agreements and our militaries exercise regularly with each other,” said India’s Ambassador to US Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
On the strategic side, the 2+2 dialogue will consolidate and expand the India-US partnership in the Indo-Pacific against the backdrop of a shared unease with China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The two sides are pushing for a new template to synchronize India’s Act East policy with the US vision of the Indo-Pacific, with a view to finalizing some joint connectivity and infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region.
The 2+2 dialogue will underscore common positions of India and the US on joint efforts to advance a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. This shared vision of the Indo-Pacific will be underpinned by the centrality of ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific and respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law, good governance, free and fair trade, and freedom of navigation and overflight.
The second India-US 2+2 dialogue will reaffirm the pivotal importance of this crucial partnership not only for each other, but also for shaping an inclusive and peaceful Indo-Pacific region. The US was the first country with which India initiated the 2+2 dialogue at the level of defence and foreign ministers in September 2018, followed by Japan in November this year. India and Australia have also launched a 2+2 dialogue between their foreign and defence secretaries. Put together, this string of 2+2 dialogues suggest a deepening strategic connect between the Quad countries against the backdrop of their shared concerns about a rising and assertive China, which also happen to be a key economic partner for all of them.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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