US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper will arrive here on Monday for the third edition of the two-plus-two ministerial dialogue which is taking place just a week ahead of the American presidential election and in the midst of India’s festering border row with China.
The two-plus-two dialogue will be held on Tuesday. The Indian side at the talks will be represented by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
A host of crucial bilateral, regional and global issues including China’s efforts to expand influence in the Indo-Pacific region as well as its aggressive behaviour in eastern Ladakh is likely to figure in the talks.
In the last few months, the US has been ramping up attack on China over a range of contentious issues including the border row with India, its military assertiveness in the South China Sea and the way Beijing handled the anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
Last week, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the talks will entail a comprehensive discussion on cross-cutting bilateral issues as well as deliberations on regional and global developments.
Pompeo and Esper will have bilateral meetings with their Indian counterparts as well. They are also scheduled to make a joint call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Officials said US Secretary of Defence Esper will be given a tri-services guard of honour at the lawns of South Block in the Raisina Hills on Monday afternoon.
It is expected that the two sides may finalise the long-pending BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement to further boost bilateral defence ties. The BECA will provide for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.
The Indo-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years.
In June 2016, the US had designated India a “Major Defence Partner” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.
The two countries inked the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies as well as provides for deeper cooperation.
The two countries signed another pact called COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for sale of high end technology from the US to India.
The first edition of the two-plus-two dialogue was held in Delhi in September 2018 after the mechanism was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump.
The second edition of the dialogue took place in Washington in December last year. The new framework of the ministerial dialogue was initiated in order to provide a forward-looking vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries.