India-US 2+2 talks: Defense agreement, regional security on agenda
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in India to participate in the third edition of 2+2 talks. For the discussions with EAM S Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, he will be accompanied by Secretary of Defense Mark T Esper. This meeting, just days ahead of the US Presidential polls, will focus on regional security, and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).
Both countries are hoping to ink BECA, which is the fourth foundational agreement after the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). BECA assumes significance as it will let India use the US' global geospatial maps, which in turn will improve the accuracy of cruise and ballistic missiles.
About BECA, senior officials in President Donald Trump's administration said significant progress has been made. "We are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between our respective militaries as well as between our foreign defense ministries and that figures prominently in what we are trying to accomplish in the information-sharing space," they said last week. The US leaders will also attend separate bilateral meetings.
Separately, another US official said both countries were working toward building stronger interoperability. "The passing exercise between the Indian Navy and USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group this summer is just one example. The recent refueling of one of our Navy P-8 aircraft in Port Blair is another," the person said, reports IE. Following the same idea, a US liaison officer was also deployed at Information Fusion Center-Indian Ocean Region.
To recall, both the countries turned a new leaf in their relations in 2016 when India became US' major defense partner. The inaugural 2+2 meeting was held in 2018, followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US in 2019, and Trump's first State visit to India in February, 2020. Days ago, Pompeo met Jaishankar in Tokyo, spoke about further improving ties, and slammed Chinese aggression.
The top US leaders are also expected to meet PM Modi and NSA Ajit Doval, during their brief stay that will end on October 27. As he embarked on the journey for India, Pompeo said he was grateful for "the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations."
Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open #IndoPacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations. pic.twitter.com/IoaJvtsHZC— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 25, 2020
Just last month, India and the US held the first-ever Defense Cyber Dialogue. A defense space dialogue could happen in 2021. Notably, ahead of the 2+2 talks, the US State Department said it "welcomes India's emergence as a leading regional and global power." "The United States looks forward to collaborating closely with India during its upcoming term on the UN Security Council," it added.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo, arrive in Delhi.— ANI (@ANI) October 26, 2020
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is in India today to participate in the third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/Fxzzr6TvXh