US stresses renewed commitment to Indo-Pacific, defence partnership in 2+2 ministerial with India

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U.S. Navy ET1, Roel Cabales, left, a surface warfare specialist with the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), and U.S. Marine Cpl. Toriano Taylor, a field artillery cannoneer with Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), salute the Indian INS Rajput (D51) to render honors while Anchorage and embarked 13th MEU participate in a cooperative deployment with the Indian vessel, INS Rajput (D51), to test their ability to communicate and improve on maritime capabilities between partners, Dec. 26, 2018. Photo by Sgt. Victoria Decker/Released). defense.gov

The United States has stressed its “commitment to a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region” while announcing next week’s 2+2 ministerial meeting of Indian and American defense and diplomacy leaders. The Pentagon said that the US and India will “continue to chart an ambitious course in the bilateral defense partnership” that will aim “to meet the challenges of the 21st century”. This year’s event will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between India and the US, the State Department said.

At the meeting on Monday of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, they will “reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-India Comprehensive and Global Strategic Partnership in ensuring international peace and security”, the State Department said on Thursday.

201120-N-DQ752-1013 INDIAN OCEAN (Nov. 20, 2020) A Sailor signals an Indian Navy H3C Sea King helicopter on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) while participating in Malabar 2020 in the Indian Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheyenne Geletka/Released)

The two parallel announcements – from the Pentagon and State Department – did not make any mention of the Ukraine situation, which is the pre-occupation of the US and a point of difference with India, which has stayed neutral frustrating Washington. Nor did the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement in New Delhi.

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The MEA said, “The 2+2 Dialogue will also provide an opportunity to exchange views about important regional and global developments and how we can work together to address issues of common interest and concern”.

It added, “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, defense and security with the objective of providing strategic guidance and vision for further consolidating the relationship”.

From left, PM Yoshihide Suga of Japan, PM Narendra Modi, President Biden, and Australian PM Scott Morrison pose for a photo before the Quad meeting Sept. 24, 2021. Photo Twitter PMOIndia

The 2+2 meetings held since 2018 alternate between the two capitals and its fourth edition was to have been held in December but was postponed because of the visit of Russian President Vladimir to New Delhi that month.

Ahead of the 2+2 meeting with the Russian invasion of Ukraine taking precedence in US foreign policy, Blinken spoke to Jaishankar twice in the last eight days, and Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh and Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland visited New Delhi last month.

India showed a slight twitch away from its neutrality by demanding on Monday at the United Nations Security Council an independent international inquiry into the allegations of atrocities by Russian troops in Ukraine, but on Thursday, April 7, 2022, it remained neutral on a General Assembly resolution to suspend Moscow from the UN Human Rights Council.

Laying out the broad scope of the meeting, the State Department said, “The 2+2 Ministerial is an important opportunity to advance our shared objectives across the breadth of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership, including enhancing our people-to-people ties and education cooperation, building diverse, resilient supply chains for critical and emerging technology, scaling up our climate action and public health cooperation, and developing a trade and investment partnership to increase prosperity for working families in both countries”.

“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”, it added.

The MEA said that Jaishankar will also hold a bilateral meeting with Blinken and meet other US officials.

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