Washington : The US on Thursday did not spell out the “unavoidable reasons” that forced the postponement of the first 2+2 dialogue with India again, a development that India watchers here say was “unfortunate” and “more than a little embarrassing” for the Trump administration.

One observer noted that President Donald Trump’s preoccupation with Russia could have led to the postponement.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were to travel to Washington to take part in the meeting with US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis on July 6.

This new dialogue format was agreed upon between the two sides during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June 2017.

It was seen as a vehicle to elevate the strategic relationship between the two countries with special focus on on bolstering strategic, security, and defence cooperation. Safe to say that US-India relations have taken their “biggest tumble” in quite some time, tweeted Michael Kugelman from the Wilson Center.

“In the Trump era, no US relationship is foolproof,” he said. “This is really big. 2+2 could have been used to reset a relationship experiencing growing tensions on the econ side,” he said in another tweet.A State Department spokesperson told PTI that External Affairs Minister Swaraj and her American counterpart Pompeo during a phone call on Wednesday agreed to reschedule the 2+2 dialogue as soon as possible at a mutually convenient time and location.

Pompeo spoke over phone with Swaraj on June 27 to discuss further strengthening US-India cooperation. Pompeo conveyed to Swaraj “his regret at the postponement” of the 2+2 dialogue previously scheduled to take place on July 6, the spokesperson said.

“The Secretary and Minister Swaraj agreed the 2+2 dialogue would be rescheduled as soon as possible at a mutually convenient time and location,” the State Department spokesperson said, hours after Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted that during the call Pompeo expressed his “regret and deep disappointment” at the US having to postpone the 2+2 Dialogue for “unavoidable reasons.” Without explaining the “unavoidable reasons”, the State Department Spokesperson asserted that the US-India relationship was “a major priority” for the Trump administration, and it looks forward to continuing to strengthen the partnership.

The postponement of the 2+2 talks is “unfortunate and more than a little embarrassing for the United States,” said Joshua T White, a former Obama administration official. “But frankly I’m more worried that the growing cascade of disputes surrounding trade and investment will slowly sap momentum from this very important relationship,” White, currently a fellow at the Edwin O Reischauer Center for East Asia Studies at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

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