New Delhi: The inaugural India-US “2+2" dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries that was to be held in Washington on 6 July has been postponed for a second time, an Indian official said on Wednesday.
The talks between Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and their US counterparts were initially scheduled for April but were postponed after then US secretary of state Rex Tillerson was replaced by Mike Pompeo.
“US @SecPompeo spoke to EAM @SushmaSwaraj a short while ago to express his regret & deep disappointment at the US having to postpone the 2+2 Dialogue for unavoidable reasons. He sought EAM’s understanding, and they agreed to identify new mutually convenient dates at the earliest," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a Twitter post.
There was no explanation on what the “unavoidable reasons" were.
News of the postponement of the talks came as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, on a two day visit to India met Prime minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and urged India to its oil imports from Iran after the last month pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated with Iran by the UN Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany, besides the European Union. A news report said that Haley had added that the United States would still allow India to use the Chabahar port as a corridor to Afghanistan.
India and the US had on 21 June announced the schedule for the talks in the new dialogue format—agreed by during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June last year. The “2+2" defence and foreign ministers’ meet was to replace the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between the foreign and commerce ministers of the two countries held under the previous Obama administration.
“The two sides are expected to share perspectives on strengthening their strategic and security ties and exchange views on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest," the statement issued by India had said.
In its release, the US state department had said the talks would “focus on strengthening strategic, security, and defence cooperation as the US and India jointly confront global challenges."
People familiar with the developments had said that the two countries would look at ways to insulate their strategic partnership from recent irritants over US trade protectionism, and new sanctions on Russia that could imperil an Indian missile deal with Moscow.
The announcement of the “2+2" dialogue had coincidentally come on a day when India announced that its retaliatory tariffs against 30 US products worth $240 million would come into effect starting 4 August to counter the Trump administration’s move to unilaterally hike duties on Indian steel and aluminium.