The visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper to New Delhi to hold third round of security dialogue, widely known as 2+2 dialogue, with Minister for External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar and Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh is one of the most momentous developments in Indo-US Strategic Partnership.
This dialogue which took place just days before the US Presidential elections and in the midst of the two countries battling with a deadly viral pandemic; speaks volumes of the significance of the issues that were discussed. The Major agreement signed was the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). Both sides also discussed steps to be taken to address the deteriorating security landscape in the Indo-Pacific region.
India and the United States are the two most pandemic afflicted countries in the world and have been taking all measures possible to deal with stressed out health security systems and severe downturn in their economic activities. China has been systematically seeking to expand its power and influence by grabbing land and maritime territories of several of its neighbouring countries.
The strategic environment of India has never been as volatile as it is today. The United States has also been facing enormous challenges from China to its economic and security interests in the Indo-Pacific region. The present scenario represents a critical moment in the evolving strategic partnership between the two countries.
Many had doubted whether the BECA would be signed during the latest 2+2 meeting. However, cynics have been silenced. The BECA will now facilitate sharing of high end military technology, geospatial maps and satellite data between the two countries.
As the Indo-US strategic partnership has evolved since the early years of the 21st Century, successive administrations in the United States and successive governments in India have slowly but steadily nurtured it. Despite occasional political and economic differences, the defence and strategic cooperation have progressed in an upward trajectory. Signing of the BECA actually completes agreements on foundational cooperative arrangements boosting defence and security ties to a level enjoyed by alliance partners. Others are LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) and COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement).
To add to these three foundational agreements, the signing of GSOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement), ISA (Industrial Security Annex Agreement), and mutual posting of liaison officers in major military facilities, one can make a sense of how close the defence ties between the two countries are growing.
India conducts more military exercises with the American militaries than any other country. One of the most relevant and substantive military exercises has been Malabar series of naval exercises. It has been elevated to multilateral level exercise in the Indian Ocean and involves four democracies of the Indo-Pacific.
Known as Quad, a four nation informal forum also brings India and the United States, Australia and Japan together to address all security and developmental issues in the Indo-Pacific region. Its importance has grown considerably in recent times in view of the Chinese attempts to disrupt peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region. It needs emphasis that ministerial level meetings in Tokyo among the Quad members predated the 2+2 Indo-US strategic dialogue in New Delhi.
Defence and technology trade compounds all those developments and make India and the US, the two most significant poles of stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Through the 2+2 dialogues at the highest levels of government, the two countries exchange views on all relevant security and diplomatic in the Indo-Pacific and the world.
The third dialogue which concluded in New Delhi provides solid evidence that change in political leadership would not affect the strong bonds of defence and security cooperation growing incrementally between India and the United States.
Summing up the meeting, External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar said, political consultations and cooperation between India and US have grown in defence exchanges and trade. Economic interactions and commerce are up, the partnership in science, technology and innovation is stronger and our energy security clearly enhanced. The unique people-to-people contacts that defines this relationship remains vibrant, whether in the flow of talent, in education or in tourism.
Script: Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Pro VC & Rector, JNU