Sunday, August 14th, 2022 07:08:59

Significance of India-US 2+2 dialogue, 2020

By Ravi Mishra
Updated: November 2, 2020 1:47 pm

Amid India-China border dispute in Ladakh, third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was held in New Delhi on October 27, 2020. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar and their counterparts US Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper and Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participated in this ministerial dialogue. This year ministerial dialogue was not like earlier. In previous dialogues, India would at least avoid directly talking about China, but this time due to Chinese escalation in Ladakh, China was a subject of discussion for both nations.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to peace, stability, and prosperity of all countries in the region.  We also agreed that upholding the rules-based international order, respecting the rule of law, and freedom of navigation in the international seas, and upholding the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of all states are essential,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh following the ministerial meeting.

Laying emphasis on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement, External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar said,  “The Indo-Pacific region was a particular focus of our talks. We reiterated the importance of peace, stability and prosperity for all countries in this region. As Raksha Mantri stated, this is possible only by upholding the rules based international order, ensuring the freedom of navigation in the international seas, promoting open connectivity and respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. A multi-polar world must have a multi-polar Asia as its basis.”

“Based on our shared values and common interests, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, particularly in light of increasing aggression and destabilizing activities by China. Defense information sharing both at the service and joint service level is another area in which we are making significant progress.  It is important to note that we achieved a significant milestone today with the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, the last of the foundational defense agreements between our countries, which enables greater geospatial information sharing between our armed forces.  We also reached agreement to expand secure communications capabilities between our militaries and among defense leadership.,” said US Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper.

US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, who has been most vocal ,against China said, “United States and India are taking steps to strengthen our cooperation against all manner of threats and not just those posed by the Chinese Communist Party.  In the past year, we’ve expanded our cooperation on cyber issues, our navies have held joint exercises in the Indian Ocean. the United States, values India as a multilateral partner, whether it’s through the Quad, through new cooperation on Mekong regional issues, making Afghan peace negotiations successful, or working together during India’s upcoming term on the United Nations Security Council.  We continue to support India’s permanent membership of that body.”

In this dialogue, several agreements and MoUs were signed between the two sides. Among them,  the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)  was the most significant. Here it is worth mentioning that  before BECA, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) were already signed between both countries.

In 2016, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was signed between India and the US. The agreement facilitates the military of both countries to use each other’s bases for refuelling and replenishment purposes.

In 2018, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was signed between India and the US. The agreement facilitates India to use the US’ encrypted communications equipment and systems. Indian and the US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war.

In 2019, the Industrial Security Annex (ISA)–the extension of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which was signed in 2002–was signed between both countries. The agreement allows U.S. defence companies to partner with the Indian private sector.

Elaborating on the importance of Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), Lt Gen KJ Singh said , “BECA is third and the most significant milestone in defense cooperation agreements with the US. It will be pertinent to mention that India has such defence cooperation agreements with many countries including China, however, scope and contours differ. Starting with LEMOA, essentially limited to logistics facilitation, it was the first seemingly hesitant step. As’the alphabet ‘A” implies it was association, also extended to many countries including China. COMCASA was a customized agreement covering interoperability and security protocols in communication domains. It is to the credit of USA that they modified their standard format to take care of our sensitivities.”

“BECA takes this relationship many notches forward and opens possibilities in exchange for Geospatial technologies and data thereby opening possibilities of import of weapon systems like armed drones, which leverage Geospatial navigation.  It can be leveraged to enhance accuracy of long range missiles. India has done due diligence and has been rather cautious yet aggressive behaviour of China has hastened the decision. It may initially enhance dependence but Atmanirbhar, does not imply isolationism.  We can collaborate in domains of joint production.  Overall, BECA opens many possibilities and its value lies in how we take it forward. There is enough in agreements to safeguard our strategic autonomy. Above all, it conveys a strong message to China,” Lt Gen KJ Singh further added.

Having said this, it is apt to menation that there are many messages behind this dialogue as it clearly shows India is taking bigger responsibility in the region to fight expansionist ideology.

Speaking over this issue,  Surendra Kumar, who served as India’s Ambassador to Libya, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Eritrea & High Commissioner of India to Kenya, Swaziland and Malta, and who is also the founding President of Indo- American Friendship Association (IAFA),  says, “Some analysts see more than one message coming out the recently concluded 3rd 2+ 2 Dialogue between India & the US in New Delhi. The US president Donlad Trump is facing criticism in his country  for not handling COVID-19 properly. US economy is also facing an economic crisis.  The ongoing trade war between the US and China is not only harming Chinese economy, but also harming the US economy. Trump and Pompeo, both have been accusing China for its aggression and expansionism. The US wants the  ASEAN, Southeast Asian countries, India, Japan, and Australia to come together to confront China.  Recently concluded QUAD Foreign Ministerial  meet in Tokyo and invitation to  Australia to participate in the forthcoming Malabar (naval exercise) is an important part of that strategy.”

“By all indications, India-US relations have improved  immensely despite inability  to conclude the  US-India free trade deal and differences on issues like tariffs, Intellectual property rights, Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), H-1B and L-1 visas and different stand  on Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. After signing Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA)  with the US, India can access  highly sensitive American geospatial information, including nautical and aeronautical charts which will be huge assets while confronting enemies.  Now,India has signed all the basic communication agreements. Whie the  UPA  government was hesitant to sign these agreements,  India has overcome all the hesitation of the past under the present Govt and doesn’t feel shy of coming closer to the US militarily,” Ambassador Kumar added.

Pointing towards the current India-China border stand-off, Ambassador Surendra Kumar says,  “Clearly the US can’t be expected to send its forces to India, or would fight on her side. But Pompeo’s clear statement that the US will stand with India for the defence of her sovereignty must be noted in Beijing and might discourage China from precipitating a fresh crisis on the LAC. India is not an US ally like NATO, but it is now very close to the US when it comes to military cooperation and sharing information. As a strategic partner India is valuable to the US and she retains her strategic autonomy. We are witnessing, perhaps, the best phase of India-US relations.”

 

By Ravi Mishra

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