India-US Summit & 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue
A virtual summit of the fourth ‘2+2’ India-US Dialogue between the Indian Prime Minister and the American President, to be followed by an in-person dialogue between India’s External Affairs and Defence Ministers, S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh, with their American counterparts, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held on 11 April 2022.
The 2+2 dialogue is a format of meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of India and its allies on strategic and security issues. A 2+2 ministerial dialogue enables the partners to better understand and appreciate each other’s strategic concerns and sensitivities taking into account political factors on both sides, in order to build a stronger, more integrated strategic relationship in a rapidly changing global environment. India has 2+2 dialogues with four key strategic partners: the US, Australia, Japan, and Russia. Besides Russia, the other three countries are also India’s partners in the Quad.
The first 2+2 dialogue between the two countries was held during the Trump Administration, when then Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and then Secretary of Defence James Mattis met the late Sushma Swaraj and then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi in September 2018. The second and third editions of the 2+2 dialogues were held in Washington DC and New Delhi in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
India and the U.S. discussed a broad range of issues — from the COVID-19 response, supply chains and climate action to global and regional issues, but Russia’s war on Ukraine and its ramifications for the world, appeared to have been the major theme. On the defence side, the countries announced several measures at enhancing cooperation, including India joining the Bahrain-based multilateral partnership, Combined Maritime Force (CMF), as an associate partner. India and the U.S. also signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Space Situational Awareness — to further cooperation in outer-space. The two sides discussed other countries in India’s neighbourhood — presumably, Sri Lanka, which is in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades, and Pakistan, which, after intense political drama, has a new Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, who replaced former Prime Minister Imran Khan, following a no-confidence vote in Parliament. While the Indian Ministers did not mention China at the press conference, the U.S. Defence Secretary made a reference to the country.
Russia, China, Pakistan, and the American allies in Europe and Asia were eagerly following the developments. But the outcome of the summit and the 2+2 dialogue appears to have disappointed them all. First of all, India-US strategic partnership and defence collaborations did not fall apart and rather got further strengthened with newer resolve. Second, India did not follow the Western strategy on Ukraine like a shadow. Third, India said or did nothing to counter the US policy to back Ukraine and punish Russia. Fourth, India appears to have convinced the Biden Administration that its approach toward the Ukrainian crisis in no way strengthens Russian power or policy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed to President Joe Biden the following Indian stands: A) That India upholds the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty B) That India condemned the brutal killings of civilians in Bucha city and called for independent investigation C) That India has spoken to both the Ukrainian and Russian president calling for dialogue and ending the violence D) That India supplied humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and would continue to do so.
Over the years, the strategic bilateral relationship with its partners, including the dialogues held in the 2+2 format, have produced tangible and far-reaching results for India. It was downright clear after the dialogue that the India-US strategic partnership has been able to stay stable and robust amidst a serious war in Europe that has led to talk of even a possible nuclear exchange. The two sides resolved to address the “destabilising consequences” of the war on the global economy and the international order. But, more significantly, the high-level interlocution stays focused on the recent developments and potential threats to peace, prosperity and political stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
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