WASHINGTON: India and the US have agreed to further deepen their strategic ties in key areas like defence, counter-terrorism and trade, and to work with like-minded countries to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, amidst China flexing its military muscles in the region.
The decisions were taken at the second India-US 2+2 dialogue between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the State Department on Wednesday amidst the historic impeachment vote against President Donald Trump.
The first 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi in September last year after the mechanism was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Trump.
“The content and quality of our discussions today will commensurate with and reflective of the broad expanse of our ties,” Jaishankar told reporters at a joint press conference.
“We reviewed ongoing cooperation in all areas of the interface of foreign policy and defence and outlined new priorities” he said.
During the 2nd edition of the 2+2 dialogue, India and the US agreed to further expand their defence ties and concluded the crucial Industrial Security Annex.
Defence Minister Singh said the strong Indo-US defence ties were an integral component of the strategic bilateral partnership.
“In the last few years, we have made a conscious decision to diversify and indigenise our arms acquisitions. This increased defence trade with the US is one important aspect of this,” he said.
“We are also working to encourage greater collaboration between defence manufacturing sectors in India in the US.
The conclusion of the Industrial Security Annex with the US will provide the necessary framework for pursuing the co-development and co-production linkages in the defence manufacturing centre, Singh said.
Cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan also featured during the talks.
Singh said India shared its assessments of the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Indian Ocean region in general.
“We conveyed that the extreme rhetoric and belligerent statements and incitement to anti-Indian violence by Pakistani leaders is not conducive to peace,” he said.
Pompeo also spoke about cross-border terrorism from Pakistan.
“We understand the concerns that India has, rightful concerns that they have about terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and we assured them that we would take that into account,” he said.
“We are determined to protect the American people on the threat of terrorism, and we’re determined to work with our great democratic friends like the Indians to protect the people of India as well. And we’ll continue to work on it,” Pompeo said.
He stressed that the leaders of the US and India were working diligently to develop a relationship that is important strategically in the coming decades for the two countries.
“And we will – we won’t let the noise and the silliness here in Washington, D.C. distract us from that,” Pompeo asserted, referring to the impeachment of President Trump by the House of Representatives.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said counter-terrorism efforts have been boosted by a growing consensus on the nature of terror threats in the region and the dangers of cross-border terrorism and sanctuaries.
“We discussed ways to address these challenges, including by working closely together at the Financial Action Task Force, he said.
“Trade and services, including the movement of persons in a fair and non-discriminate discriminatory manner has contributed significantly to the deepening of ties,” Jaishankar said while also raising the problems of Indian H-1B visa holders.
He noted that bilateral trade has registered double-digit growth of late. “We have noted very good progress. There are ongoing negotiations on the subject of trade, and I’m very confident that we’ll find a balanced outcome that satisfies both sides,” he said.
He also praised Pompeo for reiterating the US government’s support to the Chhabahar project in Iran, which he said will hugely benefit war-torn Afghanistan.
During the dialogue, India and America reaffirmed their commitment to work together in support of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, the US State Department said.
Among the key issues that were discussed was the Indo-Pacific, Jaishankar said, adding that “Our cooperation is aimed at advancing a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific based on the recognition of ASEAN centrality.”
Defence Minister Singh noted that both India and the US have “the vision of a free, seamless, and peaceful Indo-Pacific, and we feel that this provides an opportunity for India to work with the US.”
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and with Japan in the East China Sea. Both the areas are said to be rich in oil and other natural resources.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the waterway, which includes vital sea lanes through which about USD 3 trillion in global trade passes each year.
The State Department also noted that the two sides reaffirmed the growing strategic partnership between the US and India, which is grounded in democratic values, shared strategic objectives, strong people-to-people ties, and a common commitment to the prosperity of their citizens.
Source: Economic Times