India’s first 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with the Biden Administration on April 11

Two sides to chart future course of ties amidst divergence on Ukraine, Rajnath to visit INDOPACOM Hq at Hawaii amidst push for stepped-up defence cooperation

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The 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue also marks 75 years of India-US relations

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are visiting the US for the fourth India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with their American counterparts Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on April 11. 

This will be the first comprehensive review of India-US strategic ties following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in which the two sides have taken diverging positions.  It is also the first 2+2 Dialogue with the Biden Administration. 

“The Dialogue would enable both sides to undertake a comprehensive review of cross-cutting issues in the India-US bilateral agenda related to foreign policy, defence and security with the objective of providing strategic guidance and vision for further consolidating the relationship. The 2+2 Dialogue will also provide an opportunity to exchange views about important regional and global developments and how we can work together to address issues of common interest and concern,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs stated. 

The US Department of State termed the forthcoming meeting as “a chance to highlight the growing Major Defense Partnership between the United States and India”.  

“The relationship between the world’s largest democracies is built on a foundation of common values and resilient democratic institutions, and the shared Indo-Pacific interests of a rules-based international order that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds human rights, and expands regional and global peace and prosperity,” it stated. 

There was no mention of Ukraine in the US statement, which emphasised common interests with India in the Indo-Pacific. Since the onset of the Ukraine war on February 24, the US has repeatedly urged India to take a definitive position against the Russian invasion but India has charted an independent course, calling for cessation of war and respect for territorial integrity but stopping short of a condemnation of Russia and abstaining from votes against Russia in the United Nations. 

The US statement also made a reference to the completion of 75 years of India-US ties. “This year’s event will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations and reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-India Comprehensive and Global Strategic Partnership in ensuring international peace and security. It will reaffirm our shared commitment to a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” it stated. 

“The 2+2 Ministerial is an important opportunity to advance our shared objectives across the breadth of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership, including enhancing our people-to-people ties and education cooperation, building diverse, resilient supply chains for critical and emerging technology, scaling up our climate action and public health cooperation, and developing a trade and investment partnership to increase prosperity for working families in both countries,” the US statement added. 

“As we mark 75 years of US-India diplomatic relations, I look forward to our fourth  2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. Secretary Defense and I will welcome India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh to reaffirm the growing US-India strategic partnership,” Secretary Blinken stated on social media. 

As part of ongoing and regular dialogue, the Minister of External Affairs will separately meet his US counterpart Secretary Blinken while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will also hold separate talks with his opposite number Lloyd Austin. Singh will also visit the Headquarters of US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) at Hawaii after his visit to Washington DC while Jaishankar is scheduled to meet senior members of the US Administration. 

India’s Ministry of Defence in a separate statement indicated that Singh will “discuss defence cooperation including defence industrial collaboration and capability building through military-to-military engagements” in his meeting with Austin at the Pentagon. 

At the last India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in October 2020 at New Delhi during the terminal phase of  the Donald Trump Administration, the two sides signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) on sharing geo-spatial intelligence and sharing of satellite images for military purposes. This was the last of the pending foundational defence agreements which the US requires for deeper military ties.    


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