US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper will hold the third edition of the 2+2 ministerial talks with their Indian counterparts – Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh – on Tuesday, reported PTI. Pompeo and Esper will arrive in New Delhi on Monday.
“Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia,” Pompeo tweeted on Sunday night as he left for New Delhi. “Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open IndoPacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations.”
The agenda for the dialogue includes regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military-to-military interactions and defence trade. New Delhi and Washington may sign the Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, or BECA, during the talks. It largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence.
The US State Department said Pompeo and Esper will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss ways to advance the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with business leaders, reported NDTV.
The talks come days before the US presidential election on November 3. Ahead of the discussions, the US State Department said America welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power. “As outlined in our National Security Strategy, the United States welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power,” it added. “The United States looks forward to collaborating closely with India during its upcoming term on the UN Security Council.”
The two sides agreed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington DC in June 2017 to hold discussions in this new format. The first two 2+2 talks were held in New Delhi in September 2018 and Washington DC in 2019.
The dialogue comes at a time when India and China are locked in a border standoff for the last five months. On October 24, the United States said that it was closely watching the tension between India and China along the border in Ladakh and wants to ensure that the situation does not escalate. US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson had said that the situation along the Line of Actual Control would be discussed at the key meeting. The US had been offering strategic help to India.
Earlier this month, Pompeo had said that the “quad” alliance comprising India, US, Japan and Australia could be a “fabric” to counter Chinese threat. “Once we’ve institutionalised what we’re doing – the four of us together – we can begin to build out a true security framework,” Pompeo had told Nikkei Asia ahead of the Second Quad Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo.
In June, Pompeo had said the border clashes initiated by the Chinese military against India in Ladakh were the latest example of the “unacceptable behaviour” of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.