Announcing next week’s 2+2 ministerial meeting of Indian and American defence and diplomacy leaders, the US has stressed the two countries’ “commitment to a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region” on the agenda.
During the meeting on April 11, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, they will “reaffirm the importance of the US-India Comprehensive and Global Strategic Partnership in ensuring international peace and security”, the State Department said on Thursday.
The Pentagon said that the US and India will “continue to chart an ambitious course in the bilateral defence partnership” that will aim “to meet the challenges of the 21st century”.
The two parallel announcements did not make any mention of the Ukraine situation, which is the pre-occupation of the US and a point of difference with India, which has stayed neutral frustrating Washington.
Nor did the Ministry of External Affairs’ (MEA) statement in New Delhi.
The MEA said: “The 2+2 Dialogue will also provide an opportunity to exchange views about important regional and global developments and how we can work together to address issues of common interest and concern.
“The Dialogue would enable both sides to undertake a comprehensive review of cross-cutting issues in the India-US bilateral agenda related to foreign policy, defence and security with the objective of providing strategic guidance and vision for further consolidating the relationship.”
The 2+2 meetings held since 2018 alternate between the two capitals and its fourth edition was to have been held last December but was postponed because of the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi that month.
This year’s event will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between India and the US, the State Department said.
Ahead of the 2+2 meeting with the Russian invasion of Ukraine taking precedence in US foreign policy, Blinken spoke to Jaishankar twice in the last eight days, and Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh and Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland visited New Delhi in March.
India showed a slight twitch away from its neutrality by demanding on Monday at the UN Security Council an independent international inquiry into the allegations of atrocities by Russian troops in Ukraine, but on Thursday it remained neutral on a General Assembly resolution to suspend Moscow from the Human Rights Council.
Laying out the broad scope of the meeting, the State Department said: “The 2+2 Ministerial is an important opportunity to advance our shared objectives across the breadth of the US-India Strategic Partnership, including enhancing our people-to-people ties and education cooperation, building diverse, resilient supply chains for critical and emerging technology, scaling up our climate action and public health cooperation, and developing a trade and investment partnership to increase prosperity for working families in both countries.
“The relationship between the world’s largest democracies is built on a foundation of common values and resilient democratic institutions, and the shared Indo-Pacific interests of a rules-based international order that safeguards sovereignty and territorial integrity, upholds human rights, and expands regional and global peace and prosperity.”
The MEA said that Jaishankar will also hold a bilateral meeting with Blinken and meet other US officials.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed @arulouis)