External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be visiting the United States for the “2+2” dialogue with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on April 11 in Washington DC, the Ministry of External Affairs announced on Thursday. The meeting will be held days after the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh conveyed to the Indian side that there will be “consequences” for continuing energy trade in local currency with Russia in the backdrop of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
“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 Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, announcing the visit.
The announcement from the U.S. State Department emphasised the role of democratic values and the expanding defence partnership between the two sides, covering areas like cyber security and public health, and said, “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.”
Welcoming Mr. Rajnath Singh and Dr. Jaishankar to the United States, Secretary of Defence General Austin said the upcoming meeting will feature talks on defence cooperation between the two sides for a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”.
Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said India and the U.S. are continuing to “integrate and operationalise” cooperation in areas such as space and cyber security.
The upcoming meeting between the two sets of Ministers will be held in the backdrop of a series of comments from the United States about India’s continued neutrality in the face of the Russian military operation against Ukraine. On March 22, American President Joe Biden had observed that India’s response regarding Russia had been “shaky” as compared to other members of the Indo-Pacific Quad grouping where other three members — Australia, Japan and the United States — had imposed layers of sanctions on Russia soon after the commencement of its military campaign in Ukraine.
This was followed by the visit of Mr. Daleep Singh, who cautioned there would be “consequences” if India went ahead on with trading with Russia on the basis of Rupee-Rouble transactions. The comment, however, did not have any impact on the Indian position as expressed by the EAM on Wednesday in the Lok Sabha, when he asserted that India is in favour of “stabilising” transactions with Russia. The exchange continued even in the backdrop of Dr. Jaishankar’s comments in the Lok Sabha, with President Biden’s top economic adviser Brian Deese warning of “significant and long-term consequences” if India continued to pursue its current policy of purchasing energy from Russia despite western sanctions on the latter.
The MEA’s Official Spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, however, did not specify what sort of consequences the American side had discussed with Indian diplomats while drawing attention to Dr. Jaishankar’s comments in the Lok Sabha, where the Minister had pointed out that the Government of India’s policy regarding purchase of energy from Russia should not be subjected to “political colouring”.