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China discussed at length as Jaishankar meets US counterpart Pompeo on eve of 2+2 talks

Issues concerning H-1B visa were also discussed at Jaishankar’s meeting with Mike Pompeo. India and US will be signing a key defence pact, BECA, at the third round of 2+2 talks Tuesday.

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New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed China at length Monday as they met a day before the bilateral 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi. The two sides will sign a key military pact — Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), for geo-spatial cooperation — Tuesday, taking the countries’ strategic partnership to the next level. 

This was the second in-person meeting in a month between Pompeo and Jaishankar, who also held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Quadrilateral ministerial dialogue in Tokyo earlier this month. 

“Pleased to welcome @SecPompeo. Taking our Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership forward,” Jaishankar tweeted before the meeting.

The meeting went on for about two hours and was followed by a dinner reception hosted by Jaishankar.

According to official sources, both sides exchanged views on the “current global situation and its contemporary challenges, discussed our shared concerns and interests including stability and security in Asia, and how best that can be ensured”.

Discussions also centred on the Indo-Pacific and Quad, maritime security, counter-terrorism, open connectivity and resilient supply chains, which are all aimed at containing China’s aggression, the sources added.

India also raised the issue of H-1B visas, which the US has suspended until the end of 2020, and “stressed the uniqueness of our technology and talent flow connects”, sources said.

Jaishankar, it is learnt, also referred to the visa issues stemming from the fact that many American colleges are offering online classes amid the Covid pandemic, and the US has refused to permit entry for students enrolled in such institutes. “Education is a special bond between us and both sides should work to expand it further,” sources quoted him as having said.

Apart from this, both ministers discussed multilateral consultations and cooperation in the context of India’s United Nations Security Council membership, which begins next year.

In a media statement issued Monday night, the US State Department said the two sides had discussed a host of issues.

“From addressing the shared challenges of Covid-19 and responding to regional security issues, to collaborating on vaccine development and economic prosperity, the secretary and the minister agreed that the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is critical to the security and prosperity of both countries, the Indo-Pacific region, and the world,” State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown said.

Also Read: India & US agree on deeper cooperation in Indo-Pacific as Rajnath meets Mark Esper

Signal to China

Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be meeting their US counterparts — Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, respectively — for the third round of the India-US 2+2 dialogue Tuesday. 

Singh and Esper also held a meeting separately Monday, as did Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla and US Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao, who has come to India as part of the American delegation.

The 2+2 dialogue comes at a time when India and the US are ramping up their security cooperation with Japan and Australia. The four countries will soon hold a joint maritime drill in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in major signal to China, whose aggression has emerged as a matter of concern worldwide.

India and China, which remain locked in a months-long stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), are expected to hold the eighth round of military talks this week. India has pushed for a comprehensive disengagement from all friction areas, while China is seeking that India back away from the southern bank of the Pangong Tso first. 

The US has said that it is watching the LAC situation closely, and is also sharing sensitive information with India on the developments. Washington has also assured India of bipartisan support as it stands up against China.

This report has been updated with the US State Department’s statement on the meeting

Also Read: Trump or Biden? Doesn’t matter to India-US ties as they’re in a full, strategic embrace


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