India and the United States began their first edition of the “2+2 dialogue” in New Delhi on Thursday that is aimed at improving defence, security and global strategic ties between the two countries. The meeting is a platform for Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis to discuss strengthening strategic, security, and defense cooperation with India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveeh Kumar said the meeting was a “reflection of a shared commitment to provide a positive, forward-looking vision to our strategic partnership and our growing convergence on important issues”.

Earlier on Thursday, Swaraj and Sitharaman held separate meetings with their United States counterparts. Several key bilateral matters were discussed during the two delegation-level meetings, officials told PTI. The American officials will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the day. “I am confident that our discussions and decisions that we’ll take today will help unleash the untapped potential of our relation and further elevate the level of our partnership,” said Swaraj.

Defence Minister Sitharaman hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump for taking the bilateral relationship to a higher trajectory. “This meeting is a reflection of tremendous focus that we have made in developing our ties over past few years,” she said. “It’s a strong recognition of immense potential of our bilateral partnership for benefit of our people, region and beyond.”

Pompeo said India and US have a “natural starting point” as the two countries were united by shared values of democracy, respect for individual rights and commitment to freedom. “We should continue to ensure freedom of the seas, skies, uphold the peaceful resolutions of the maritime disputes, promote market based economics and good governance and prevent external economic coercion,” he added.

Pompeo and Mattis arrived separately in New Delhi on Wednesday night. Swaraj received Pompeo at the airport and Sitharaman welcomed Mattis. Pompeo is the secretary of state and Mattis the secretary of defence in the US administration.

Before leaving Washington on Tuesday, Pompeo said the United States would discuss New Delhi’s purchase of Russian missile systems and Iranian crude oil during the dialogue, but these would not be the primary focus of the talks. The dialogue, which was supposed to be held earlier this year, was postponed twice.