India bats for two-state solution during talks with U.S.

India, U.S. express support for Israel, call for immediate release of hostages; without mentioning a ceasefire, they called for “humanitarian pauses” in the war; India-Canada row on the meeting’s agenda

Updated - November 11, 2023 08:19 am IST

Published - November 10, 2023 11:05 pm IST - NEW DELHI

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar ahead of the 5th India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi on November 10, 2023. Photo: X/@DrSJaishankar via ANI

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar ahead of the 5th India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi on November 10, 2023. Photo: X/@DrSJaishankar via ANI

India reiterated the need for a two-state solution to end the current Israel-Palestinian crisis, during a ministerial meeting between India and the United States on November 10. 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. There was no mention of a ceasefire; instead, India and the U.S. called for “humanitarian pauses” in the conflict

“Noting horrific terrorist attacks against Israel, the Ministers reiterated that India and the United States stand with Israel against terrorism and called for adherence to international humanitarian law, including with regard to the protection of civilians. They called for the immediate release of all remaining hostages,” read a joint statement issued after the ‘2+2’ ministerial meeting.

Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra added that India had proposed the “two-state solution and early resumption of dialogue” as a way forward in dealing with the crisis.

Editorial | Endless woes: On the Israel-Hamas conflict and Palestine

‘Humanitarian pauses’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s interactions in Delhi were a continuation of his diplomacy on the Israel-Palestinian crisis which has taken a heavy humanitarian toll due to the continued Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The joint statement reflected Mr. Blinken’s recent arguments made during a meeting with Arab Foreign Ministers in Amman on November 4, where the U.S. had refused to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“They expressed support for humanitarian pauses and committed to continue close diplomatic coordination, including with key partners in the region,” the joint statement said.

The ‘2+2’ meeting was led by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the Indian side, and Mr. Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin on the American side. A broad range of issues were discussed, including the India-Canada spat over Khalistani groups, the upcoming election in Bangladesh, and the Indo-Pacific situation.

‘Core security concerns’

India-Canada ties nose-dived in September, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that Indian agents were involved in the June 18 murder of Khalistan Tiger Force leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The U.S. had earlier come out in support of Canada, after India expelled 41 Canadian diplomats on the grounds of “parity” in diplomatic representation.  

The Ministers discussed the latest threat from Sikhs for Justice spokesperson Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, asking people to avoid flying Air India after November 19, hinting at sabotage. “We have core security concerns and I am sure you are all aware of recent video that has surfaced from one such individual,” Mr. Kwatra said, laying out India’s position on the row with Canada during a press conference.

Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Friday evening. “Our shared belief in democracy, pluralism and the rule of law underpins our mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse sectors. The India-U.S. partnership is truly a force for global good,” said PM Modi in a message. 

‘Bangladesh poll: internal matter’

U.S. officials have made several recent remarks on the upcoming election in Bangladesh, which was a topic of discussion at the meeting. The U.S. has imposed a policy of visa cancellation for those individuals that it considers responsible for manipulation or disruption of the electoral process in Bangladesh.

“It is not our [India’s] space to comment on the policy of a third country,” Mr. Kwatra said, in response to a question. “The election in Bangladesh is their internal matter and it is for the people of Bangladesh to decide their future. As close friends and partners of Bangladesh, we respect the democratic process in Bangladesh and will continue to support the country’s vision of a stable, peaceful and progressive nation,” he added. This emphasis on the continuity of India’s policy on Dhaka highlights the close India-Bangladesh developmental partnership under the government of PM Sheikh Hasina. This articulation of the Indian position is a significant sign as it comes just days before elections are due to be announced in Bangladesh. 

Indo-Pacific stability

Mr. Singh highlighted the importance of stability in the Indo-Pacific region. “Our partnership is critical for ensuring a free, open, and rules-bound Indo-Pacific region. We look forward to closely working with the U.S. across the domains of capability and for partnerships which can address challenges,” he said.

Indicating growing harmony between India and the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific area, Mr. Austin said, “We are integrating our industrial bases, strengthening our interoperability, and sharing cutting edge technology.”

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