2+2 is 5 for warming India-U.S. ties

Updated - November 14, 2023 02:32 pm IST

Published - November 13, 2023 04:34 pm IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, in New Delhi on November 10, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, in New Delhi on November 10, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

(This article forms a part of the View From India newsletter curated by The Hindu’s foreign affairs experts. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.)

India and the United States last week took another step forward in enhancing their defence ties as both sides held their ‘2+2’ dialogue with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin visiting New Delhi.

Both sides announced agreements to enhance defence industrial cooperation and progress in getting industries on both sides to work together in developing and producing defence systems.

The 2+2 dialogue, however, was about more than the deals: it also saw both sides express a unified stand on strategic issues in the region, and most significantly, saw Defence Minister Rajnath Singh directly mention “China’s aggression” as one of those issues – something that Indian officials rarely mention explicitly in the context of India-U.S. relations, and also something that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.

Singh observed that the India-U.S. defence relationship “has evolved into a strategic partnership characterised by mutual trust, shared values, and a growing recognition of common interests in maintaining regional and global security. “We are charting new pathways of cooperation by pursuing stronger defence, industrial engagement, easing of technology restrictions, resilient supply chains in all domains, and maritime security,” he said. The U.S. Secretary of Defence noted both “did discuss the security challenges and the threat posed by China during the meeting but we did not spend our entire dialogue on that matter... Our relationship is not just about the People’s Republic of China and is based on many things,” he said.

Dinakar Peri reports that both sides have been in talks for the purchase of 31 MQ-9B unmanned aerial vehicles and for the licensed manufacture of General Electric’s F-414 jet engine in India, which has been chosen to power the MK2, an indigenous light combat aircraft. With regard to the MQ-9B deal, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane told journalists that India has sent a letter of request and is waiting for the U.S. to respond, as the American company is required to get a clearance from its government. With regard to the Stryker, an infantry combat vehicle, Aramane said that it was part of the defence industry cooperation roadmap, which aims to co-develop and co-produce the machinery, weapons, and equipment required by the two countries.

The ministers also reviewed the progress of the India-U.S. Defence Industrial Ecosystem, INDUS-X, which was launched in June this year and aims to expand the strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of the two countries. Ahead of the ‘2+2’, the maiden INDUS-X investors meet was organised last week which also saw the launch of the INDUS-X educational series (Gurukul) which is aimed at guiding start-ups on both sides.

Also during the 2+2, India reiterated the need for a two-state solution to end the current Israel-Palestinian crisis. The Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries focussed on the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and called for the “immediate release” of those being held hostage in the Gaza Strip. As the crisis in Gaza worsens and deaths continue to mount, there was no mention of a ceasefire; instead, India and the U.S. called for “humanitarian pauses” in the conflict.

Closer together

India and Bhutan last week agreed to discuss new routes of regional connectivity and upgrade border and immigration posts to support Bhutan’s 5th King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s plans for a smart city at Gelephu on the border between Bhutan and Assam, after his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. While no mention was made of India’s overhanging concerns over Bhutan’s boundary delimitation agreement process with China, the Ministry of External Affairs said the two leaders “held discussions on the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and regional and global issues of mutual interest”.

The decision by India and Bhutan to focus on infrastructure and connectivity during the visit, observed an editorial in The Hindu, is an important marker towards more bilaterally driven regional initiatives.

Top Five Reads

What we are reading this week – the best of The Hindu’s Opinion and Analysis

1. Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | One month of Israel-Hamas war

Suhasini Haidar in this week’s World View looks at 10 big outcomes that the Israel-Hamas war will have on the world and analyses India’s evolving position on the conflict. You can read or watch World View here

2. Israel-Hamas war: What international laws apply and whether the ICC can prosecute 

Aaratrika Bhaumik explains what constitutes ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes’ as the humanitarian costs mount from the Israel-Hamas war, and the legal questions involved.

3. The U.S.’s signal of a huge digital shift

Parminder Jeet Singh writes on the implications of the U.S. withdrawing from its centrepiece digital trade positions at the WTO — data flows/localisation, access to source code, and location of computing facilities – and the implications of this “watershed moment” for developing countries.

4. ‘Loss and damage’ fund talks leave developing nations at new disadvantage  

Indu K. Murthy on how the unwillingness of wealthy nations to fulfil their commitments in ‘loss and damage’ fund talks has undermined faith in global climate negotiations and left developing nations at a disadvantage.

5. Nawaz Sharif | A new sheriff in town 

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s former three-time Prime Minister, who came back from a self-imposed exile in London, has daunting tasks ahead, from tackling the corruption cases against him to steering his party to victory at February’s polls despite the continued popularity of Imran Khan, writes Suhasini Haidar.

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