Free Press Journal

2+2 dialogue: India-US ink key defence pact, discuss H-1B visa; 11 significant takeaways


US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (L), US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2L), Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (2R) and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (R) pose for a photo prior to a meeting in New Delhi on September 6, 2018. - US President Donald Trump's top two envoys were expected September 6 to press India not to buy Russian military equipment or Iranian oil, while seeking to bolster ties as China grows more assertive in the region. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH / AFP)

A long-negotiated defence pact under which critical and encrypted defence technologies will be provided to the Indian military by the US was inked on Thursday after the two countries held their first 2+2 dialogue during which they also discussed key issues, including cross-border terrorism, India’s NSG bid and the contentious H1B visa issue.

The two sides held their first 2+2 talks between India External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and their US counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis. Sitharaman and Mattis signed the pact as key discussions were held.

Here are some major takeaways from the 2+2 dialogue:

  • Recognising their rapidly growing military-to-military ties, the two sides decided to have a new tri-services exercise as well as further expand scope of jointly developing military platforms and equipment. The first tri-services – army, navy and air force – exercise will take place next year.
  • The talks among other key outcomes culminated into the signing of Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA). The pact guarantees India access to critical US defence technologies and communication network to help the militaries of the two countries in their interoperability. The provision of the pact came into effect immediately and it will be valid for next 10 years.
  • Indian armed forces will now also be allowed to install US-made high-security communication equipment on defence platforms sourced from America.
  • During the talks, India has conveyed to the US about its reliance on the Iranian crude oil to meet the country’s energy requirement to which the US side conveyed that it will help it deal with the situation and that both sides will remain engaged on the issue, reported PTI.
  • According to reports, New Delhi’s plan to buy S-400 air defence missiles and other defence platforms, the US told India that it understands the decades-old Indo-Russia defence and military cooperation. The purchase of the S-400 missile system could trigger US sanctions on India as the Trump administration has imposed restrictions on military purchase from Russia.
  • Sources said India also explained strategic importance of New Delhi’s involvement in the Chabahar port project in sanction-hit Iran to the US, particularly for trade with Afghanistan and the US concurred with the view. The ports in Iran are also coming under US sanctions, reported PTI.
  • Talking about cooperation in the energy sector, the joint statement said both sides resolved to full implementation of the civil nuclear energy partnership and collaboration between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company for the establishment of six nuclear power plants in India.
  • Addressing a joint press conference, Swaraj said, “I have requested Secretary Pompeo to adopt a balanced and sensitive view on the issue of proposed changes in the H-1 B visa regime as this could affect the people-to-people links which are important for energising ties.”
  • The US has agreed to nominate a Point of Contact in its Department of Defence to help address procedural complexities and facilitate Indian companies to join the manufacturing supply chains of US defence companies.
  • India and the US will soon begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration. India has invited the US companies to be part of the Make in India.
  • On stepping up maritime cooperation, the ministers committed to start exchanges between the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy, underscoring the importance of deepening their maritime cooperation in the western Indian Ocean.