India, US ties not to hinder relations with other strategic partners
05 September 2018
India has made it clear that its relations with the United States will not in any way hinder its association with equally important partners ant that is upcoming 2+2 dialogue with the US would not impact its “open, independent and transparent” relations with major powers like China and Russia.
India also wanted the US to recognise the importance of its strategic relations on issue of purchase of S400 missiles from Russia in the wake of sanctions against Moscow by Washington under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
New Delhi will also seek to placate the Trump administration on major trade concerns while expressing its own like the increase in steel and aluminium tariffs. India will underline that a 5 per cent decrease in bilateral trade deficit worth nearly $1.5 billion was recorded last year.
The United States and India will seek to finalise a number of defence agreements during high-level talks this week that aim to draw their two militaries closer and counter-balance China’s influence in the region.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will hold talks with India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on a range of issues, including enhancing security cooperation, trade and immigration.
India, on its part, will seek to iron out significant differences with the United States on issues, including India’s ties with Russia and Iran.
Already cancelled twice this year, the so-called two-plus-two discussions is the highest level of engagement between the two countries after US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided last year to take bilateral ties to a new level.
“The 2+2 presents an historic opportunity to develop our growing partnership and to explore ways of enhancing our security cooperation,” the top U.S. military officer, Marine General Joseph Dunford, told reporters travelling with him to the talks.
Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, predicted last week that the discussions would produce “a set of actual concrete outcomes.”
The United States and India have increased defence ties over the past decade, in part because of mutual concerns over an increasingly assertive China.
India has had to face off an aggressive China in the northern border recently, while Beijing has been excessively assertive in the South China Sea, which it claims as own territory.
US has also been leaning on India to justify its Asia-Pacific initiatives. Earlier this year, the US military renamed its Pacific Command the US Indo-Pacific Command, a move underscoring the growing importance of India.
On the US agenda is the finalisation of an agreement on a communications framework that would allow for securely sharing information.
The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) has long been a demand of the United States and would open the door for Washington to sell sensitive defence equipment to India, like the armed version of Guardian drones.
But, passing on such sensitive information is too heavy a price India may have to pay in return for what Washington thinks it can share with India and this remains a sticking point – the matter is too sensitive even for close allies.
US considers that an agreement on this would be a big deal, in terms of advancing the interoperability of the defence forces of the two countries.
The two sides are also negotiating another agreement, a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which would enable them to share advanced satellite data for navigation and missile targeting, Indian military sources said.
The United States, which is keen to tap into India’s large defence market, has already emerged as India’s No 2 weapons supplier, closing $15 billion worth of deals over the last decade.
Reports quoting an unnamed senior US defence official also said the two countries were looking at a carrying out a major joint exercise - involving troops on land, at sea and in the air.
While the two countries engage in naval and air exercises and even drills involving Special Forces, war games involving all three services is a big scale-up in defence cooperation.