Sunday 14 August 2022, 09:36 PM
2+2 dialogue opened new chapter in Indo-US relations
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 10/10/2018 1:49:28 PM
2+2 dialogue opened new chapter in Indo-US relations

Has India, yet again managed to balance its ties between the US and Russia? The first-ever 2+2 dialogue, between the  India and the US in New Delhi on September 6 was landmark event in many ways, however, only time will tell if the US agrees to India’s point of view  on buying crude oil from Iran and military equipment from Russia.India and the US inked a vital agreement on seamless exchange of military information — Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) — even as New Delhi made it clear that its military relations with Moscow cannot suffer. 

The pact, valid for 10 years, will ensure interoperability among the US and the Indian armed forces.The COMCASA enables the US-made weapon systems procured by India to use secure American communication channels as well as gain greater ‘domain awareness’ during operations. But there’s a catch, too. Firstly, the US taps into our military communications and modus operandi and secondly the equipment will have to be installed and serviced on relevant US-made equipment  stationed on sensitive bases like Panagarh and Hindon ( c-130), Aarakonam ( P8-I). The official explanation is that neither side can terminate Comcasa unilaterally without giving six-month notice. 

The S-400 issue: The purchase of state-of-the-art S-400 Russian air-defence missile system is at the heart of the threat of US sanctions against countries dealing with Moscow. When Indian delegations led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met their US counterparts Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis, the US told India that it understood the need for New Delhi to maintain its Russian-origin military equipment, but in case big-ticket items (like the S-400) are purchased, cooperation with the US could be “affected”. India is buying the system for Rs 39,000 crore to have a protective air-defence umbrella.

India, in turn, has assured the US that its purchases from Russia do not harm the US’ strategic interests in any manner. A US legislation Countering America’s Adversaries Though Sanctions Act (CAATSA) provides for a waiver against sanctions to India, it’s not a blanket waiver. Pompeo’s remarks released to the press say, “Our effort is not to penalise great strategic partners like India. The sanctions are intended to have an impact on the sanctioned country, which is Russia. So we’ll work our way through the waiver decision as the days and weeks proceed”.

In another important development the two countries committed to start exchanges between the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy. India will post an attaché at Bahrain to coordinate with US forces. India and the US will begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration.

Greater political convergence and Iran oil: With a long term view of relations and enhanced synergy the two sides had three sessions on energy and people to people ties, Defence cooperation and regional security were components for the 2+2 dialogue.

India Explained concerns  Iran sanctions to US.The Americans reportedly shared India’s position that its energy suppliers could not be switched overnight to independent systems. Indian officials sounded hopeful to carve out a deal on  Chabahar port , given its strategic importance to Afghanistan , to avoid heat of US sanctions against Iran. 

Secretary Pompeo at an interaction with the US media (text made available by state department)   said :“We have told the Indians  that on November 4th, the sanctions with respect to Iranian crude oil will be enforced, and that we will consider waivers where appropriate, but that it is our expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil will go to zero from every country, or sanctions will be imposed. So we’ll work with the Indians”.

India’s argument is that it gets oil from Iran at much cheaper  rates and its long ties with Iran cannot   be snapped. In the past New Delhi has stood by Iran and continued to get its oil. On trade, India assured that it was working to reduce the high bilateral trade deficit which Donald Trump has disapproved of openly. New Delhi  pointed out to significant order placed for aircrafts and helicopters with US . 

Pakistan relations:  Pompeo shared notes following his meetings with Pakistani PM Imran Khan and Army Chief Bajwa in Islamabad enroute Delhi and the missives shared to act on terror and towards reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.“In the 10th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, we recognized the importance of justice and retribution for the masterminds behind this terrorist attack,” said Sushma Swaraj. “India supports President Trump’s South Asia Policy. His call for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism finds resonance with us,” she added.

Pompeo, it is learnt,  mentioned at the meeting that ‘it is too early to judge the new Imran Khan government but Pakistan has been asked to step up counter terrorism efforts and encouraged to take right decisions and actions’.Pompeo was asked by the Indian team to sustain the pressure on Islamabad to crack down on terror entities.The sentiments were reflected in the joint statement issued after talks in a significant tweak. The words ‘under Pakistan control’ were used to describe terror groups.

Sushil Sharma


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