Indis-US 2+2 dialogue: Focus on expanding strategic ties, West Asian conflict

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Photo: Twitter/ @DrSJaishankar

New Delhi: India and the US on Friday held wide-ranging talks to expand their global strategic partnership by shoring up engagement in areas of defence production, critical minerals and high technology besides focusing on the situation arising out of the Israel-Hamas conflict and China's military muscle-flexing in the Indo-Pacific.

The India-US '2+2' foreign and defence ministerial dialogue took place amid growing geopolitical turmoil, largely triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war and the escalating conflict between Hamas and Israel in West Asia.

The American delegation at the '2+2' ministerial dialogue was led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, while External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh headed the Indian side.

In his televised opening remarks, Jaishankar said the dialogue was an opportunity to advance the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden to build a forward-looking partnership and construct a shared global agenda.

Blinken said the US and India have a robust partnership and both sides are deliberating on matters with implications for the future.

"We are bolstering the partnership in international peace, and security and specifically working to promote rules-based order and uphold principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Our defence cooperation is a key pillar of that work," he 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," Blinken said.

In his remarks, Jaishankar said both sides are exploring cooperation in domains such as critical technologies, civil outer space and critical minerals even while consolidating engagement in established areas.

He also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US in June and US President Biden's subsequent trip to India in September to attend the G20 Summit.

"The highlight of this year was the prime minister's state visit to the US in June which has truly opened a new chapter in our relationship. President Biden's visit to Delhi in September contributed immensely to the positive trajectory of our ties," he said.

Jaishankar said President Biden's contribution was key to ensuring productive outcomes at the G20 Summit.

"The dialogue today will be an opportunity to advance the vision of our respective leaders, building a forward-looking partnership while we construct a shared global agenda," he said.

"In the 2+2, we will undertake as we have done before, a comprehensive overview of cross-cutting strategic, defence, and security ties, technology and supply chain collaborations and people-to-people exchanges," he said.

Jaishankar said the ties between India and the US are making significant progress.

"Our meeting takes place even as we make rapid strides in all aspects of our bilateral agenda. Our trade is today over USD 200 billion, and FDI is rising in both directions," he said.

In his comments, Singh said the India-US bilateral relationship has seen a growing interest in strategic convergence and that defence remains one of the most important pillars of the ties.

"Despite various emerging geopolitical challenges, we need to keep our focus on important and long-term issues. Our partnership is critical for ensuring a free, open and rules-bound Indo-Pacific region," Singh said.

"We look forward to closely working with the US across the domains of defence for capability building and for abiding partnerships which can address emerging challenges," he said.

In his remarks, Austin said in the face of urgent global challenges, it is more important than ever that the world's two largest democracies exchange views, find common goals and "deliver for our people".

"We have made impressive gains in building our major defence partnership over the past year, and that will help us contribute even more together to the cause of peace and stability," he said.

"We are integrating our industrial bases, strengthening our interoperability, and sharing cutting-edge technology. The scope of our cooperation is vast. It stretches from the sea-bed to space," he said.

"The strength of our partnership is rooted in the people-to-people ties that are the heart of our long-standing friendship together. Our diplomats, entrepreneurs, and students are expanding our partnership in new domains, including clean energy, artificial intelligence, and semiconductors," he said.

Austin said the increasingly strong US-India ties "give us all hope for the future of this partnership and for our common efforts toward a more secure world".

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