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With a message for Pakistan and China, India & US conclude 2+2 talks, vow to deepen ties

The biggest takeaway from the talks was the signing of BECA, a key defence pact that will enable India to avail of US expertise on geospatial intelligence.

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New Delhi: India and the US concluded the third round of the bilateral 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue Tuesday with a message for China and Pakistan, and a promise to deepen defence and security ties between New Delhi and Washington.

The 2+2 meeting saw Union External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hold talks with their US counterparts, Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper, respectively. 

The biggest takeaway from the talks was the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), a key defence pact that will enable India to avail of US expertise on geospatial intelligence, and sharpen the accuracy of weapons and automated hardware systems used for military purposes. 

With this, India has completed the signing of the three key US defence foundational agreements that are all aimed at interoperability of various platforms. New Delhi and Washington signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018. 

Both sides also signed the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), another agreement aimed aimed at deepening defence and strategic ties between the US and India.

“India welcomes an expanded partnership with the United States … Our national security convergences have obviously grown in a more multipolar world. We meet today to not only advance our own interest but to ensure that our bilateral cooperation makes a positive contribution in the world we are in. We are also committed to addressing global issues,” Jaishankar said at a press conference addressed by the four leaders after the talks.

The external affairs minister also said the Indo-Pacific strategy was the main focus of the talks.

“A multipolar world must have a multipolar Asia… Discussions also covered developments in our neighbouring countries. We made it clear that cross-border terrorism is completely unacceptable,” he added.

Also Read: India should not feel alone as it confronts Chinese Communist Party, US’ Mike Pompeo says

‘US will stand with people of India’

Pompeo, who also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi before he emplaned for Sri Lanka, lashed out at China and said the US “will stand with the people of India as they confront threats to their sovereignty and to their liberty”.

“Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is no friend to democracy, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific…” he said at the press conference. 

“I am glad to say that the US and India are taking steps to strengthen our cooperation against all manner of threats and not just those posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” he added.

Pompeo also made a reference to the death of 20 Indian soldiers during a clash with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in the Galwan Valley, which is one of the points of friction in the ongoing India-China stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

Addressing the press conference, Esper also took aim at China even as he noted that defence ties remain a key pillar of the overall bilateral relationship between India and the US.

“Based on our shared values and common interests, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, particularly in light of increasing aggression and de-stabilising activities by China,” he added. 

The ministers welcomed the inclusion of the Royal Australian Navy in the US-India-Japan Malabar Naval Exercise, which is scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in November 2020.

In his opening remarks, Defence Minister Singh made a reference to China, saying, “in the area of defence, we are challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders”.

Later, at the press meet, he also sought increased investments from American defence firms, highlighting the relaxed foreign direct investment norms and other steps the government has taken to provide an enabling environment for setting up manufacturing lines for defence platforms in the country.

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

‘Pakistan should act against cross-border terrorism’

In a joint statement issued Tuesday evening, both sides referred to cross-border terrorism and asked Pakistan to take “immediate, sustained and irreversible action” on terrorists and terror entities operating from its soil.

“The ministers called on Pakistan to take immediate, sustained and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators and planners of all such attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai, Uri, and Pathankot,” the statement said.

The ministers also vowed to continue information exchanges about sanctions against terror groups and individuals, as well as efforts to counter the financing and operations of terrorist organisations, radicalism and terrorist use of the internet, and cross-border movement of terrorists. They also vowed to prosecute, rehabilitate, and reintegrate returning terrorist fighters and family members.

Later this year, India and the US will hold the first virtual meeting of the India-US Counter-Narcotics Working Group, announced earlier this year during President Donald Trump’s visit, followed by an in-person meeting in 2021.

On cooperation in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, both sides decided to further strengthen cooperation in the development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, ventilators and other essential medical equipment.

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


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