NEW DELHI: The India-US 2+2 dialogue between foreign and defence ministers of the two countries, scheduled for Tuesday, will be the last big diplomatic engagement between the two sides before the US goes in for elections on November 3. That it is being held at all has elicited surprise in diplomatic quarters, not to speak of the fact that it will be an in-person engagement, barely a week before elections.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper are scheduled to arrive here on Monday, while the formal talks will happen on Tuesday. The two US cabinet ministers will also meet national security advisor Ajit Doval and call on PM Narendra Modi.
There is little fear that a potential Joe Biden administration would have a very different approach to India. There will certainly be some differences, but experts in Washington and New Delhi say the fundamentals of the India-US relationship and its inherent logic and converging interests will ensure both countries march together.
The meeting is expected to seal the third and last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), which will cement the defence relationship between the two countries. In fact, the 2+2 assumes greater importance in the current context: India and China are locked in a deadly stand-off in eastern Ladakh, the US and China have sharpened their rivalry, the world is in the grip of a pandemic, and aggressive nationalism is running high in China as in many other parts of the world. To top it all, the US could be looking at a change in presidency.
The India-US meeting also gives both sides an opportunity to talk about the current position between India and China on the LAC — India has said it would like to go alone in tackling China, but some amount of cooperation and assistance would be discussed. The other aspect of the discussions will centre on defence sales, co-development etc. India is buying more weapons and systems from the US, which is expected to go up after the BECA is inked.