Indo-US Jt secretary-level 2+2 dialogue likely to focus on Indo-Pacific region

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NEW DELHI: India and the United States are planning to hold a mini 2+2 dialogue at the joint secretary level in Delhi next week to review implementation of the measures agreed at the maiden dialogue among the foreign ministers and defence ministers of the two countries in September last year.

The meeting of joint secretaries of the ministries of external affairs and defence with their US counterparts, which is proposed despite the partial government shutdown in the US, is being planned on the sidelines of the geopolitical conference, Raisina Dialogue, which will be held for three days from January 8. The partial shutdown restricts travel of US officials except for important business matters.

The mini 2+2 dialogue is likely to focus on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region, amid China’s moves to spread its influence, and defence partnership in the backdrop of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) signed by the two nations at the September 2018 meet, sources said.

They said the exit of James Mattis as US defence secretary on December 31may have been a setback to India since he was a strong votary of bilateral ties, and that India would like to be assured about the commitment of his successor, Patrick M Shanahan, to the partnership.

In a balancing act, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will speak at the Raisina Dialogue in the presence of senior US and Israeli officials. His visit will provide India and Iran a chance to discuss conducting business amid US sanctions. India enjoys US waiver for importing Iranian oil and Chabahar Port and railroad to Afghanistan border from the port. Last week, India formally opened an office in Chabahar for managing the port.

India and the US are in talks to enable the visit of US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, and US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, Randall Shriver, amid the partial US government shutdown, the sources said. Partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, where the two sides are engaged in joint projects, is expected to be a key item on the agenda of the mini 2+2 dialogue. US President Donald Trump signed a number of legislations on December 31, significant among which, with respect to India, was the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA).

Under ARIA, around $1.5 billion funding will be channelled into improving US ties with partners in the region in the next five years. Though the Act frames a strategy for the US in Asia, it singles out India as an important military partner.





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