U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin arrived in India on Thursday for the 2+2 Ministerial dialogue scheduled to be held on Friday. He was received at the Palam technical area by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and was given a tri-service Guard of Honour.
“Various issues will be discussed but I would not like to prejudge it,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in response to questions at the weekly press conference on the expected outcomes from the dialogue.
This is the first major visit between the two countries since the attacks in Israel by Hamas and the tensions in West Asia are expected to figure prominently in the discussions.
Secretary Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will co-chair the Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue with Mr. Singh and Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar on November 10 and it will be followed by a bilateral meeting between Secretary Austin and the Defence Minister, a Defence Ministry statement said. “A number of strategic, defence and technology issues are expected to be discussed during the 2+2 dialogue and the bilateral meeting.”
Mr. Austin last visited India in June 2023 and had held talks with Mr. Singh.
Two major deals
On the defence front, there are two major deals in the pipeline between the two countries, the 31 MQ-9B high altitude long endurance drones and the manufacture of the General Electric F-414 jet engines in India which has been chosen to power the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft-MK2. The process is under way and expected to be concluded early next year.
The 2+2 will enable a high-level review of progress being made in cross-cutting aspects of defence and security cooperation, technology value chain collaborations and people-to-people ties, the MEA said. “The Ministers will take the opportunity to progress the futuristic road map for the India-U.S. partnership as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joseph Biden, in their discussions in June and September this year.”
India has invited Mr. Biden as chief guest for the Republic Day parade on January 26 as also the Quad leaders summit and a decision on it is awaited.
Both sides will also take stock of contemporary regional issues and exchange views about shared priorities for augmenting cooperation in multilateral platforms, and through frameworks such as Quad, the MEA added.