India, US third 2+2 inter-ministerial dialogue today, geospatial pact BECA to be signed

With a focus on regional security cooperation, India and the United States are set to hold the third 2+2 ministerial dialogue on Tuesday during which both the sides will sign a military agreement to expand geospatial information sharing between armed forces of the two countries.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence secretary Mark Esper arrived in New Delhi on Monday for talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The timing of the secretaries’ visit holds significance as the US is going into the presidential election next week.

The visit also comes at a time when India and China are locked in a serious military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh. At the same time, tensions between China and the US have also soared over a range of issues.

On Tuesday, both the US leaders would visit the war memorial and lay wreaths in honour of the soldiers. The 2+2 inter-ministerial talks are scheduled to be held at 10 am today. Later the two visiting Secretaries will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence. Later, the U.S. officials will leave for Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.

On Monday, the Indian Defence Ministry announced that the two sides will sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) that would enhance the geospatial cooperation between them and it is likely to help in improving the accuracy of missile systems of India.

In a briefing on Friday, a State Department official said that India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue will focus on four themes — regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military-to-military interactions and defence trade.

Before the departure of Pompeo and Esper for India, the State Department, in a statement, said that holding of the third US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in just over two years demonstrates a high-level commitment to shared diplomatic and security objectives, adding that New Delhi and Washington are expanding cooperation between the armies of two countries.

The US and India enjoy robust defense industrial cooperation. Through the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, both the nations work together on co-production and co-development of defense equipment, the department said.

“India maintains the largest fleets of C-17 and P-8 aircraft outside of the United States, and as of 2020, the United States has authorised more than $20 billion in defence sales to India,” the State Department statement added.

On Monday, the two US secretaries held separate talks with Indian counterparts —- Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh.

Singh and Esper held talks yesterday during which the defence ministers of the two countries reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning “military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues” and also discussed ways to take bilateral cooperation forward.

The Indian Defence Ministry announced following the meeting between Esper and Singh that “the two Ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit.”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, also had a meeting on Monday wherein they agreed that US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership is “critical to the security and prosperity” of both the countries, the Indo-Pacific region and the world.

Taking to Twitter, Pompeo said that the leaders had a “great discussion” ahead of the third US India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. They discussed key bilateral regional and global issues.

Pompeo and Jaishankar discussed a wide range of issues during the meeting ranging from addressing the shared challenges of COVID-19 and responding to regional security issues, to collaborating on vaccine development and economic prosperity, according to the US State Department.

The two sides had agreed during Modi’s visit to Washington DC in June 2017 to hold discussions in this new format. The first two 2+2 talks were held in New Delhi in September 2018 and Washington DC in 2019.

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