India, US begin talks to boost partnership amid ‘global challenges’

 Top cabinet officials of India and the United States held talks on Friday, stressing the need to further strengthen their friendship to be able to deal with urgent global, geopolitical challenges.

The so-called annual “2+2 Dialogue” between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and their Indian counterparts Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, aims to boost defence cooperation and align the policy objectives of the two countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Although Washington is preoccupied with the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, Friday’s talks are expected to focus more on taking forward the India-U.S. defence and strategic relationship and regional issues in South Asia and the larger Indian Ocean region, officials and analysts have said.

“Defence remains one of the most important pillars of our bilateral relationship,” Singh said in opening remarks at the meeting. “In spite of various emerging geopolitical challenges, we need to keep our focus on important and long-term issues.”

The two countries which were once on opposite sides of the Cold War are now working on landmark deals including for the U.S. to supply and manufacture engines for Indian fighter jets, the supply of MQ-9 predator drones and cooperation in semiconductor manufacturing.

Austin said it was more important than ever that the world’s two largest democracies exchange views, find common goals, and deliver for our people, “in the face of urgent global challenges”.

“We’re integrating our industrial bases, strengthening our inter-operability, and sharing cutting-edge technology,” Austin said.

The four officials are expected to pick up the threads from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successful visit to Washington in June and President Joe Biden’s trip to New Delhi for the G20 summit in September.

“Together we have been taking very concrete steps to deliver on the vision that our two leaders put forward,” Blinken said.

“We are promoting a free and open, prosperous, secure and resilient Indo-Pacific, including by strengthening our partnership through the QUAD with Japan and Australia,” he said, referring to the four-country grouping seen as an effort to counter China’s rise.

Jaishankar said the dialogue would help build “a forward-looking partnership while we construct a shared global agenda”.

The two countries are also expected to discuss their mutual concerns over China, days before Biden’s expected meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping next week on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.

India-U.S. relations have steadily grown stronger on several fronts in the last two decades but New Delhi has also carefully preserved long-standing relations with Russia, much to the frustration of the West as the war in Ukraine drags.


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