The 4th Annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington DC is perhaps the most focussed upon event, at least in the US and India, on this day of the dialogue. The relationship between the two countries has grown over the decades. Perhaps, the worst phase was in 1971, when Nixon sent the 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal to deter India from liberating erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The US-Pakistan proximate alliance, its equipping of the Pakistani Army, and continuing to support the country militarily and economically had consigned the US-India relationship to a lower level of importance for both. However, the change in the global geopolitical environment, the rise of a belligerent China, and the commonality in values of both democracies have given the relationship a new vibe. Today, with Indo-Pacific being the focus of both nations, and India being a part of QUAD, there is far more wind in the sail to move forward together.
The text of the statement released by the Governments of India and the United States of America recalls the two country’s shared commitment to democracy and pluralism, a multifaceted bilateral agenda, and growing convergence of strategic interests, both countries seek to continue to promote a resilient, rules-based international order that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds democratic values, and promotes peace and prosperity for all.”
Global Partnership and Indo-Pacific Cooperation
Both countries asked for an “immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine. The Ministers unequivocally condemned civilian deaths. They underscored that the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, respect for international law, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states.”
The Ministers were also vocal about a free and open Indo-Pacific. “They further reaffirmed their dedication to regional stability and prosperity, with an inclusive regional architecture, abiding by the rule of law, the freedom of navigation and over-flight, peaceful resolution of disputes, and ASEAN centrality. They also reiterated the importance of adherence to international law to meet challenges to the rules-based order, including in the South China Sea.”
The ministers also welcomed ongoing discussions in the Quad Working Groups on vaccines, climate change, infrastructure, space, cyber security, and critical and emerging technologies for delivering practical and tangible benefits to the region.
About Afghanistan, the emphasis was on an inclusive Afghan government and unhindered access to the United Nations. Myanmar also featured in the discussions with a call for “Cessation of violence in Myanmar, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, and a swift return to the path of democracy and inclusive governance.”
Both parties were satisfied with the meetings already held and those programmed under the U.S.-India Cyber Dialogue and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Working Group to deepen cyber security cooperation. They also condemned ransomware and other cyber-related crimes and emphasized the need for the protection of critical networks and infrastructure.
Defence and Security
Both parties reaffirmed their objectives for building an “advanced and comprehensive defence partnership in which the U.S. and Indian militaries coordinate closely together across all domains.” They also underscored the importance of cooperation in space and welcomed plans of an inaugural Defence Space Dialogue in 2022.
The Ministers welcomed the progress made toward full implementation of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) to support the exchange of geospatial information, and the placement of liaison officers in each other’s military organizations. It would spur joint service cooperation between the militaries to support integrated and multi-domain cooperation. Navies of both countries have been the lead players in joint training and operations, and the Ministers discussed opportunities to further advance and deepen maritime cooperation, including underwater domain awareness. India’s decision to join the Combined Maritime Forces Task Force as an Associate Partner to expand multilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean, was also welcomed by the hosts.
Both participants “reaffirmed the importance of regular bilateral and multilateral exercises, “including the MALABAR exercise with inclusion of Australia, the tri-service TIGER TRIUMPH exercise, the multilateral MILAN naval exercise, the bilateral YUDH ABHYAS, and VAJRA PRAHAR Army exercises, the bilateral COPE India air exercise, and Indian participation in RED FLAG.” They looked forward to deepening cooperation between the Special Forces of both countries.
The U.S.-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), including a project to co-develop Air-Launched UAVs came up for discussions. Both sides were agreed upon increasing the number of projects under this initiative. Keeping in view Indian plans of boosting its defence sector, the Ministers also committed to work closely across their respective governments on co-production, co-development, and cooperative testing of advanced systems, investment promotion, and the development of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities in India.
The Pakistanis were referred to directly in the talks. The Ministers strongly condemned use of terrorist proxies and cross-border terrorism and called for the “perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack, and Pathankot attack, to be brought to justice. They called for concerted action against all terrorist groups, including groups proscribed by the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee, such as al-Qa’ida, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Hizb ul Mujahideen. The Ministers called on Pakistan to take immediate, sustained, and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its
A few dark clouds had off late appeared to cast a shadow on the India-US relationship. The 2 + 2 meet puts at rest any apprehensions that anybody could have. India’s differing stand at the UN on issues concerning Russia, its going ahead with the purchase of the S 400 missile system, and continued imports from Russia had all gone to paint a grey canvas, however, the 2 + 2 meet should put all that to rest. It also needs to be noted that the dialogue was preceded by a virtual meeting between PM Modi and President Biden.
(The article is based on inputs from US and Indian Government Releases)