India-US 2+2 strategic dialogue in September: Nirmala

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New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) The first 2+2 India-US strategic dialogue, deferred at the last minute last month, will now take place in the first week of September, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday, dismissing speculations that the American decision to put off the talks on July 6 signalled a lower priority to the ties between the two countries.

“The 2+2 dialogue with the US is to happen in the first week of September. The agenda will be to develop and strengthen strategic defence cooperation and to follow-on with what had transpired during the meeting with US Defence Secretary Jim Matti”,” she told reporters here.

The minister asserted that there were no reasons for deferring the talks other than the fact that the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had to be in North Korea in the first week of July for unscheduled meetings with officials of that country.

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“That was the only window (available to them for North Korea talks). There is no other reason.”

The structured talks between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries were scheduled to happen in the first week of July. As such Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj were to meet US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on July 6.

But days before that, the US informed India that the meetings had to be put off due to “unavoidable reasons”.

The “2+2” dialogue for strategic level talks, which was agreed between the two sides during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 2017 US trip, will replace the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between the foreign and commerce ministers of the two countries held during the Obama administration.

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The sudden decision to call off the talks in July triggered speculation that the US may not have been happy with India going ahead with its plan to buy military equipment from Russia despite American sanctions targeting Moscow under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

–IANS

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