A high powered MEA and MoD delegation is headed to the United States of America (USA) to prepare grounds for the second edition of the 2+2 dialogue between the two strategic partners. Scheduled to be held in the Naval Postgraduate School in California, the 2+2 intersessional meeting will be held on the sidelines of the annual Maritime Security Dialogue between India and the US.

Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver will set the tone for the Intersessional meetings.

The US’ State Department in a statement, said “On August 22, Acting Assistant Secretary Wells and Assistant Secretary of Defense Schriver will co-host their Indian counterparts for an Intersessional Meeting of the U.S.-India 2+2 Dialogue.  During the Intersessional, the two sides will discuss ways to advance cooperation on critical diplomatic and security priorities, including our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and review preparations for the next 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.”

The second edition of the 2+2 dialogue is scheduled to be held late this year in America. The inaugural 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi on September 2, 2018 with the attendance of Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman and former Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The 2+2 Dialogue has been termed as a reflection of the shared commitment by Prime Minister Modi and President Trump to provide a positive, forward-looking vision for the India-U.S. strategic partnership and to promote synergy in their diplomatic and security efforts.

USS Nimitz sails with INS Vikramaditya in the Bay of Bengal as part of Exercise Malabar 2017; Courtesy – US Navy

While the strategic partnership between India and US grown multifold in the past decades, there still exists multiple roadblocks which hamper the full exploitation of opportunities promised under the strategic partnership. Both the partners are eager to conclude the agreement of Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and Industrial Security Annex (ISA) agreements in the upcoming 2+2 dialogue. India and the US have negotiated for concluding these agreements for decades.

While BECA agreement enables Indian and US military to exchange geospatial information on a realtime basis through ultra-secured channels, conclusion of ISA will make way for exchange of state-of-the-art defence technology between the partners. The US’ promise for no-strings attached Transfer of Technology (ToT) could only be realised if ISA is concluded.

Besides conclusion of these fundamental agreements, the partners are also working on energising the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) that was setup to encourage co-production and co-development projects. While at least 12 projects have been earmarked under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), none of them have achieved commendable success.

The United States on its part would be looking forward to set tune for making a strong pitch to its defence products which are in contention for several multi-billion dollar modernisation programs launched by India. While the US manufactured Boeing and Lockheed Martin fighter aircraft are in contention for the Air Force’s 114 MMRCA aircraft acquisition program, the Navy is looking to acquire at least 12 additional Boeing P8 LRSR aircraft and the F-18 fighter aircraft. US’ Sikorsky is also betting big on the Navy’s requirement for 124 NMRH helicopters.

While the partners have negotiated for years to conclude these high-stakes programs, none of them have treaded close to fructification. Through the dialogue between the key principals, both the partners are looking to effectively addressing any concerning roadblocks.

The State Department has also revealed that the Acting Assistant Secretary Wells and Assistant Secretary of Defense Schriver will co-host their Indian counterparts for the fourth U.S.-India Maritime Security Dialogue, in which the two sides will exchange views on maritime developments in the Indo-Pacific region and consider steps to further strengthen bilateral maritime security cooperation.

Both the strategic partners are also in active consultation to prepare grounds for an impending visit of the US President Donald Trump to India. Diplomats at both the State Department and MEA have been holding consultations for enabling the high-level visit which has been pending since President Trump was installed in the White House in 2016 .