NEW DELHI – The United States Secretaries of State and Defense, Mike Pompeo and James Mattis, respectively, together with their Indian counterparts, Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman, started on Thursday the first 2+2 ministerial dialogue where they will seek to advance their collaboration in defense.
Although the agenda of the meetings in New Delhi has not been released, India and the US have major issues to address particularly regarding the role played by both nations in regional security, in addition to the tensions caused by their relations with third parties, particularly Iran.
In May, the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and, from November, plans to impose sanctions on those countries that buy oil from Iran, something that will affect India, one of its main buyers and which is reluctant to reduce these imports.
Another point of concern could be the acquisition by India – the world’s largest arms buyer – of a Russian missile defense system.
Delhi and Washington both seem to agree on a free and open Indo-Pacific, to curb the expansion of China, in addition to collaborating on stabilizing Afghanistan and putting pressure on Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.
Pompeo, who arrived in New Delhi Wednesday night from Islamabad, had said in Pakistan that one of the reasons behind his India visit was to articulate his perspectives on the fight against Islamic radicalism in the region.
The series of meetings, agreed more than a year ago, was to be held Thursday for the first time after being postponed on two occasions.
The initiative is part of the announcement made in mid-2017 by the government of US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to create a platform for facilitating high-level dialogue between defense and foreign ministers of both nations.
In its annual report on priorities for US security published in December 2017, the White House considered India to be a world power and predicted that in the future it would become an increasingly strong strategic and defense partner for the US.
Bilateral trade between India and the US in 2017 reached $126 billion, according to US government data.