India, US hold first '2+2' talks: All details here
On Thursday, India and the US signed a crucial agreement on military communications that could see Washington sell more arms to New Delhi. The agreement was resultant of the first '2+2' talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and their US counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Here are the details.
The pact, called Comcasa, will enable the armed forces of India and the US to securely communicate with each other. The signing of the pact had been stalled year after year because of India's reservations about opening up its military communications network to the US military. Now, however, the defense partnership has opened up several strategic advantages for India.
The signing of the pact could allow the transfer of hi-tech defense equipment, including armed drones. With China making increasing forays in the Indian Ocean, the procurement of drones could be a big advantage for India as far as surveillance is concerned. Additionally, the pact might deter the US from imposing sanctions on India for looking to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.
India and the US also agreed to hold joint military, air force, and navy exercises off the east coast of India in 2019. Additionally, an agreement was reached to open a hotline between the two countries' foreign and defense chiefs. Other key issues like India's bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), cross-border terrorism, and the contentious H-1B visa rules were also discussed.
"Specifically, I conveyed our expectation for a non-discriminatory and predictable approach to the H-1B visa regime, given its high impact on innovation, competitiveness and people-to-people partnership, all of which are a vital source of strength for our relationship," said Swaraj at a press conference.
Swaraj also noted that there was a growing convergence of views between India and the US, especially pertaining to views on the Indo-Pacific, and approaches to terrorism. She explained that India welcomed US efforts to expand its economic footprint in the Indo-Pacific region as they complemented India's own efforts. Indo-US ties in international forums would also be deepened to combat terrorism, she added.
"India supports President Trump's South Asia Policy. His call for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism finds resonance with us," Swaraj said, praising President Trump's hardline Pakistan policies.
Prior to this meeting, Swaraj had held a bilateral meeting with Mike Pompeo to discuss the direction of Indo-US relations. Recounting that meeting, Swaraj said that rapidly growing trade and investment ties between the two countries was seen as an important part of the Indo-US relationship, and that this growth would give rise to further opportunities to bolster ties in future.