Plus two dialogue:
A ‘two plus two dialogue’ is a term — adopted in foreign parleys — used for installation of a dialogue mechanism between two countries’ defence and external affairs ministries. To put it simply, ‘two plus two dialogue’ is an expression used to indicate that two appointed ministers from each country, the ministers of defence and external affairs in this case, will meet up to discuss the two countries’ strategic and security interests. The goal is to establish a diplomatic and security resolution mechanism in place at one go.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alongwith Defence Secretary Mike Esper is in New Delhi for the 2 days 2+2 ministerial meeting of the top foreign affairs and defence leaders of the India that is External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.
The two day meeting in New Delhi follows an earlier meeting that Pompeo had this month in Tokyo with his counterparts from India, Japan and Australia, which together make up the four Indo-Pacific nations known as “the Quad.”
The 2+2 meeting that is held every year alternating between the capitals of the two countries has been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and last week Pompeo said: “I am glad that we’re going to execute that in person.”
Though they are likely to discuss the threats from China., meetings come amid a recent flareup in military tensions between India and China over disputed mountainous border with tens of thousands of their soldiers in a standoff since May. Trump has has offered to help defuse tensions but has yet to receive any indication of interest from either side.
Pompeo had told reporters last week that he was “sure” next Tuesday’s meeting will have a “discussion about how free nations can work together to thwart the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”. Secretary Pompeo’s views on China are very clear and can be read here in his recent speech in Washington.
This will be the third edition of the meeting that has raised the level of strategic cooperation between the two giant democracies, while cooperation in trade has stalled as the two countries have not been able to reach a trade agreement.
President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” priority has yet to find common trade ground. The problem is that India is self reliant in most of agrarian products USA would like to dump in India. That leaves mostly defence equipment. None the less, in last few years improt from USA increased and bilateral defense trade has increased from near zero in 2008 to $15 billion in 2019. India would like to have defence manufacturing shifted to India in two of it’s mega projects being set up ner Bundelkhand in U.P. and near Chennai in Tamil Nadu.
Pompeo will also visit Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia. The first two South Asian nations that are strategically placed on the key international maritime route are under pressure due to the impractical loans that they received from China and are now finding it difficult to service China want to control their key infrastructure.
According to Pompeo “On every stop I will discuss a broad range of bilateral topics but also work to find out what each of those countries the best ways we can make sure that we cooperate to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific” In other words he will assure them not to do anything stupid in a hurry as USA will backthem against China. This is obvious. India has also recently bailed out Maldives with 500 dollar million loan.
Earlier Esper too had called New Delhi the most important partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific noting that India faces Chinese aggression every day. He said at a meeting of the Atlantic Council on Tuesday in Washington, that “India will well be the most consequential partner for us, I think, in the Indo-Pacific for sure in the century”. He emphasized that Indians “face-off every day, the Chinese aggression in the Himalayas, specifically along that line of actual control.”
Both of them travelling half the globe to be in New Delhi, in the middle of Presidential election in USA is not for ordinary chit-chat. Obviously some deals are in the making. Deputy Defence Secretary of USA was also in India early this month or so. We can definitely expect a deal on sharing the naval resources of each other taking forward from previous level of logistics arrangement. That is for sure. Would something more be on the table?
That we will know soon.