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U.S. postpones “2+2” strategic dialogue with India

U.S. postpones “2+2” strategic dialogue with India

NEW DELHI (Compiled by PPA) — The United States has postponed the “2+2” dialogue with India that was scheduled to be held in Washington next week, Indian officials confirmed on June 28, 2018.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj “to express his regret and deep disappointment at the US having to postpone the 2+2 Dialogue for unavoidable reasons,” India’s foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar wrote on Twitter. The spokesman did not elaborate on the “unavoidable reasons” but said both sides agreed to identify new mutually convenient dates to hold the dialogue “at the earliest, in India or the U.S.”

Indian Foreign Minister Swaraj and Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were to travel to the United States to take part in the meeting with Pompeo and U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis on July 6.

The “2+2” dialogue format was agreed upon between the two countries during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last year.

According to PPA correspondent in Washington, the U.S. was disturbed by India’s expanding defence deals with Russia including the purchase of S-400 anti-missile system and refusal to accept U.S. sanctions on Iran. India has also agreed to make payments for Iranian oil in rupees instead of US dollars.

However, the Indian Express quoted official sources as saying that during preparatory talks, Washington had pressed the Indian side to sign two foundational agreements for defense cooperation: the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

According to Indian media, “New Delhi has not been convinced about signing COMCASA as a blanket agreement encompassing all communication across military platforms,” it reported, quoting sources as saying that “India is willing to consider signing a COMCASA kind of agreement separately for every equipment that it imports from the US.”

The Hindustan Times reported in January that instead of piecemeal purchases, India wants a “full defense package” from the United States, including 22 Guardian maritime surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and the latest Avenger UAVs on the condition that they will be weaponized and upgraded at a later stage.

Hindustan Times also claimed that India will also reportedly insist during the dialogue that the United States should not release its frozen military aid to Pakistan.

India was also looking towards a greater role in Afghanistan and Central Asia but U.S. officials had some reservations about the Indian demands.

Only last week, on June 21, 2018, the U.S. State Department had said that Washington will host the U.S.-India “2+2 dialogue” to be attended by the foreign and defense ministers of the two nations on July 6, after the meeting was postponed once.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis was to host Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman in Washington, D.C. for the inaugural dialogue.

The meeting was scheduled to focus on strengthening strategic, security, and defense cooperation as the United States and India jointly confront global challenges, the statement read.

In May, Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the dialogue had said earlier that the dialogues were aims to enhance bilateral cooperation on regional security issues such as combating terrorism in Afghanistan, maritime security and navy collaboration.

India’s Indian Express daily reported in April that Washington offered to hold a formal meeting between the two defense ministers but it was declined by New Delhi, because “it didn’t want to diminish the importance of India’s first ‘2-by-2’ dialogue at the ministerial level.” (Xinhua/PPA)

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