New York, Dec 19 (IANS) India and the US have signed an agreement to facilitate transfer of defence technology during a 2+2 meeting of the top foreign affairs and defence leaders on growing strategic relations between the world’s largest and most powerful democracies.
India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper participated jointly in the Second 2+2 Strategic Dialogue in Washington on Wednesday.
Singh said after the meeting: “Today’s 2+2 meeting was meaningful and successful in maintaining the momentum of the India-US relationship and taking it forward.”
The two nations “have convergence on views” on most International and bilateral issues and “the cooperation will be critical to the security and management of the global commons,” he added.
Counter-terror cooperation and the threat from Pakistan were also discussed.
Singh said that the Indian side had spoken up about the belligerent statement and the “incitements to anti-India violence by Pakistani leaders.”
Pompeo said: “India has, rightful concerns that they have about a terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and we assured them that we would take that into account.”
Jaishankar said that counter-terrorism cooperation has been boosted by a growing consensus on the nature of terror threats in the region, and the dangers of cross-border terrorism and sanctuaries.
On the defence technology transfer agreement known as Industrial Security Annex that was signed, Singh said it “will enable smooth transfer of classified technology and information between private entities of USA and India.”
In addition, Pompeo said the two countries finalised three agreements under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, “which will enhance our ability to co-produce and co-develop critical technologies.”
He said that agreements on space cooperation and on a new exchange programme for legislators from the two countries were also reached.
While ties have been progressing smoothly on strategic issues as New Delhi’s Act East and Washington’s Indo-Pacific policies mesh together, trade has been a divisive subject which is manifest vividly in the US decision to withdraw the General Scheme of Preference import facilities for India.
Pompeo said that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer “is working hard with his Indian counterpart on a fair and reciprocal trade deal.”
“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,” Jaishankar concurred.
He added, “Our bilateral trade has registered double-digit growth of late.”
Another point of divergence between the two countries is Iran, where US is following an aggressive policy and has forced India to stop oil imports from there.
Pompeo said, “On Iran, we discussed the maximum pressure campaign and why it’s necessary for getting the outlaw regime in Tehran to behave like a normal nation.”
But Washington has granted India an exemption for its Chabahar port project in Iran that is used to move aid to Afghanistan.
Jaishankar said, “I’m very grateful to Secretary Pompeo for reiterating the US Government support of the Chabahar project, which will immensely benefit Afghanistan.”
Although the Indo-Pacific focus of both countries is driven by the China factor, only Pompeo made a brief mention of it: “We discussed the risks that Chinese-built communication networks, including 5G, pose to our treasured freedoms and how China’s unfair and predatory economic activity in the Indo-Pacific presents a risk to those very freedoms.”
On Indo-Pacific, the area of focus, Jaishankar said they discussed “ways to leverage our respective strengths to benefit not just our two countries but the entire region. Our cooperation is aimed at advancing a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific based on the recognition of ASEAN centrality.”
Before the joint meeting of the four leaders, Jaishankar and Pompeo met at the State Department while Singh and Esper held discussions at the Pentagon.
Singh was given a guard of honour and received a 19-gun salute when he arrived at the US military headquarters.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)