New Delhi: India and the US on Friday announced fresh dates for the twice-postponed inaugural ‘2+2 dialogue’, which involves their defence and foreign ministers and is aimed at opening a new chapter in the strategic partnership between the two countries.
The talks between foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the one side and their US counterparts defence secretary James Mattis and secretary of state Mike Pompeo will now take place on 6 September in New Delhi, the Indian foreign ministry and the US state department said.
The ‘2+2’ talks were initially scheduled for April but were postponed after then US secretary of state Rex Tillerson was replaced by Pompeo.
It was rescheduled for 6 July in Washington but was delayed once again by Pompeo’s trip to North Korea to take forward the high-stakes diplomacy action launched by US President Donald Trump to bring peace to the Korean peninsula.
The postponement of the talks had led to news reports in the Washington Post and the Economist noting that the US was not giving enough priority to its ties with strategic partner India.
“The United States is pleased to announce that the inaugural US-India ‘2+2 dialogue’ will be held in New Delhi, India, on September 6," state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
Mike Pompeo and James Mattis “look forward to meeting with their Indian counterparts", Swaraj and Sitharaman, “to discuss strengthening strategic, security and defence cooperation" as the US and India jointly address challenges in the India-Pacific region and beyond, Nauert said.
In New Delhi, foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said “the 2+2 meeting will cover a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues of shared interest, with a view to strengthening strategic and security ties between the two countries".
The new dialogue format was agreed to during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in June last year. It is seen as a means to elevate the strategic relationship between the two countries.
In recent years, the US has emerged as one of India’s key sources of military hardware—a far cry from the period when India was seen as a friend of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War years.
The dialogue will take place amid a rise in irritants between India and the US over trade and US sanctions on Russia, and the four ministers are expected to try and find ways to insulate their strategic partnership from the impact of these factors.
India wants the US to recognize that its purchase of the S-400 air defence system from Russia is a legacy decision that predates the enactment last year of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions ACT, which sanctions countries that purchase significant military equipment from Moscow.
There are also concerns over how US sanctions on Iran will impact India’s energy ties with Tehran and New Delhi’s plans to develop the Iranian port of Chabahar.