24.11.2023 Author: Vladimir Terehov

Fifth annual India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue took place in New Delhi

military officials Rajnath Singh and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar

On November 10 of this year, the fifth annual India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue took place in New Delhi, with Indian diplomats and military officials Rajnath Singh and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar serving as the hosts. Among the guests were their American counterparts, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin.

It is necessary to stress once again that the sheer fact that such a bilateral platform exists typically suggests a high degree of trust between those who established it. The relations between the United States and India generally have followed this rule in recent years, which is further supported by the fact that both nations are represented in increasingly multilateral settings.

Let us single out the Quad, which includes Japan and Australia. For obvious reasons, it now appears highly unlikely that the United States, India, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates will join another quadripartite formation, I2U2.

On the backdrop of the ongoing regular UN General Assembly, another brief meeting of Quad foreign ministers took place on September 22 in New York. It took less than an hour but ended nonetheless with a rather interesting joint statement reflecting the attitudes of the participating countries toward the major political issues of the Indo-Pacific region.

All of the countries specified in the pairing system share the same “2+2” forum platform. Indeed, the United States and Australia held their 33rd regular meeting at the end of July this year, and India and Japan met in a comparable manner for the second time in September last year. As the NEO has consistently pointed out, the primary driver of Quad participants’ engagement (both collectively and in paired combinations), is the cautious approach toward the PRC’s rise to prominence as the second world power.

The Joint Statement that was agreed upon at the conclusion of the latest India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi clearly demonstrates the same logic. But first, let us observe the starting point of the event that is the subject of this article before we quickly address the principal features of the joint statement.

And it started with a memorable incident that showed, among other things, that bilateral relations are not always as straightforward as they look. It concerns the continuation of an event, “developed” earlier, which looked like a minor incident, in these crazy times, that took place in Sarri, Canada, on June 18, during the meeting. It had only helped to significantly cool relations between India and Canada until recently.

But there are information leaks that India’s intelligence services are involved in this incident, quite unpleasant for the “world’s largest democracy.” In other words, the nation that the current patrons of the “bright side” of the world are presently placing on their field (without requesting its permission). The evidence was reportedly given to Canada by US intelligence agencies. The Indian leadership views this as, to put it kindly, “not cool” on Washington’s part, given that Washington has been working very diligently in recent years to place India on the precise abovementioned “field.”

This, based on remarks made by the Indian Foreign Ministry, is what the American counterparts were told during the recently held meeting. However, this was done in an indirect form, with a reference to threats made by one of the leaders of the Sikh separatist movement against the largest Indian airline company Air India.

What the US side replied in response has not been reported. The recommendation was apparently to “not focus on the details and get to the point.” It should be noted that Canadian Prime Minister Justin  Trudeau has also been sending almost continuous signals about his reluctance to confront India.

Concerning the aforementioned “case,” we reiterate that it is outlined in the paper adopted at the conclusion of the regular India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, as well as during the participants’ concluding press conference. What was primarily discussed is indicated in the introduction of this paper.

Regarding Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June visit to the USA and President Joe Biden’s September visit to India, both parties “reaffirmed the importance of a comprehensive global strategic partnership between the US and India in ensuring international peace and security.” The situation in the Indo-Pacific region has been the center of attention, echoing a well-established diplomatic narrative from the United States about the need to “defend freedom, openness, and inclusiveness.” Among the set of tools to be used for this particular application, the first and foremost mentioned is the Quad.

In order to guarantee peace and prosperity for all, the two sides also reiterated their commitment to advancing a long-lasting, rules-based international order that respects international law, including the UN Charter, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Concern is raised in this regard over the existence of two local conflicts—those in the Middle East and Ukraine. According to the author, there has been an apparent move of the Indian perspective to the American one with regard to both.

Remarkably, the above-described I2U2 configurations and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), which Joe Biden announced in New Delhi in September, are listed as still being relevant. As if nothing else occurred in the Middle East since then. Or does Washington know of a swift and comparatively “safe” way to put an end to the strife that has emerged there?

The final paper of the event in question included a comprehensive representation of all the developments that had occurred in the two countries’ relations during the previous few years. Concurrently, there is a special focus on cooperation in the broader domain of security and defense, namely in the area of military-technical cooperation. Both parties stated that they were planning to reconvene under the same terms, but within the context of an additional forum event by early 2024.

Hopeful speeches were made by Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken during the concluding press conference. Their Indian interlocutors’ statements, on the other hand, were more constrained. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Foreign Minister of India, focused particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It should be mentioned in this regard that various segments of the Indian population and mainstream parties have radically diverse opinions about the conflict. In particular, the current Prime Minister of India is reminded that his fellow party predecessor (of the now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party) of the 1990s, former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee, supported Palestinian positions.

The reaction of the PRC, as the most interested party, to the outcome of the latest US-India meeting was likewise somewhat subdued. Specifically, “China does not regard India as an enemy,” as it views India as “an important neighbor with whom it can build equal relations.” Positive signals are also noted in the lines of communication linking Beijing to Washington.

However, New Delhi feels that the timing of the US-India event and the beginning of the historic Sea Guardian joint exercise between the Chinese and Pakistani warships at Karachi, i.e. close to the Indo-Pakistani border, is not entirely coincidental.

Overall, the author’s opinion is that the annual India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi provided an example of the generally negative state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific region. And let us emphasize it again: if the United States suddenly decides it can no longer shoulder the increasingly crippling load of “being responsible for everything” in our world, then situations are not likely to get any better.

Because the majority of the main issues in this region are “local” in nature.


Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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