India-US 2+2 talks tomorrow: Dialogue to involve defence, external affairs ministries, key security deal on agenda

FP Staff
·5-min read

With US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper to reach India on Monday, all eyes are now on the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries slated for Tuesday.

The dialogue, which comes in the backdrop of heightened tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control, will be crucial for New Delhi's defence and strategic interests.

The upcoming US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue will be the third such edition between India and the United States. According to a statement by the Union Ministry of External Affairs, the dialogue will entail a comprehensive discussion on cross-cutting bilateral issues as well as deliberations on regional and global developments.


Here is an overview of what the 2+2 dialogue is all about €"


The 2+2 dialogue format is named as such because it is a dialogue mechanism between two appointed ministries of the two countries taking part in the talks.

Japan has pioneered the format for many years, and has used it for its interactions with the US, France, Russia and Australia, according to an article in The Statesman.

India has also been holding the 2+2 dialogue with Japan almost every year since 2010. However, the talks have been led by secretary-level officers from both sides. The dialogue mechanism between the two countries was established as per the Action Plan to Advance Security Cooperation agreed between the two countries in December 2009. Among the topics that have been discussed in these talks are military logistics agreements and strategic infrastructure projects.

In the present case, the dialogue is between the defence and external affairs ministries of India and US. The 2+2 talks between New Delhi and Washington replace the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue that was held between the foreign and commerce ministers of the two countries in the Barack Obama era.

This year's meet is also particularly important as it comes amid the increasing relevance of the Quad grouping, which met earlier this month.

Who will participate in the upcoming 2+2 talks?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper will hold meetings with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh as part of the talks on Tuesday.

The visiting leaders will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hold discussions with other government and business leaders on ways to advance the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.

What is the dialogue expected to achieve?

A host of crucial bilateral, regional and global issues including China's efforts to expand influence in the Indo-Pacific region as well as its aggressive behaviour in eastern Ladakh is likely to figure in the talks.

Last week, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the talks will entail a comprehensive discussion on cross-cutting bilateral issues as well as deliberations on regional and global developments.

According to a report in The Indian Express, one of the items on the agenda will be the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). The pact deals with geospatial intelligence, and it will essentially allow India to use the US' geospatial intelligence for defence purposes. As mentioned in the article, this includes topographical and aeronautical data, and products that will aid navigation and targeting. These will help increase the accuracy of missiles and armed drones.

Another key point of discussion is expected to be what a key US diplomat recently described as 'the elephant in the room' €" increasing Chinese assertiveness. Security-related co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region in the face of China's aggressive behaviour and public health collaboration in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic will also be among the topics to be discussed, an article in The Times of India quoted US officials as saying.

Previous editions of the talks

The first edition of the two-plus-two dialogue was held in Delhi in September 2018 after the mechanism was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump.

During the first edition, the COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) was signed between the two countries. According to a joint statement issued at the time, the agreement "will facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilise its existing U.S.-origin platforms.

The second edition of the dialogue took place in Washington in December last year. At that time, India and the US signed the DTTI Industry Collaboration Forum agreement and DTTI Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

The DTTI (Defense Technology and Trade Initiative) Industry Collaboration Forum is meant to provide a standing mechanism for developing and sustaining an India-US industry dialogue on defence technological and industrial cooperation and to allow appropriate industry recommendations to be provided to the India-US DTTI Group, the Pentagon had then said.

2+2 talks with other countries

Apart from the US, India has also held a similar 2+2 dialogue with two other countries that are part of the Quad grouping €" Japan and Australia.

During the talks with Japan, held in November 2019, the two countries discussed a raft of strategic issues including developments in the disputed South China Sea, evolving security scenario in the Indo-Pacific region and ways to boost bilateral cooperation in co-development of military hardware, PTI had quoted officials as saying.

The third edition of the 2+2 dialogue with Australia was held in December 2019. According to a statement by the MEA at the time, the two countries "emphasised the need for enhanced collaboration to counter the threat of terrorism and violent extremism through increased information sharing."

With inputs from PTI

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