Washington | The 2+2 ministerial dialogue between India and the US will serve as a platform for reaffirming the unwavering commitment of the two countries to their global partnership and their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, according to an expert.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will be travelling to New Delhi this week for the fifth 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the state department said earlier this month.
Blinken and Austin will also meet other senior Indian officials to discuss both bilateral and global concerns and developments in the Indo-Pacific, it said.
Coming in the backdrop of a complex and ever-evolving global landscape, the dialogue will carry the promise of deepening a robust partnership between the two nations, particularly in the defence area, said Farwa Aamer, Director of South Asia Initiatives, Asia Society Policy Institute.
"The upcoming fifth US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, set to bring together top officials from both nations in India this week, carries the promise of deepening a robust partnership that has seen remarkable progress, particularly in the realm of defence cooperation," she said.
The dialogue will serve as a platform for reaffirming the unwavering commitment of the United States and India to their global partnership and their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, said Aamer.
The Indo-Pacific is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.
The US, India and several other world powers have been discussing the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. China also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.
Aamer said the dialogue comes at a critical juncture, with the spectre of the crisis in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict casting their shadows.
While these conflicts may not be directly linked to the US-India relationship, they create a backdrop that influences the strategic dynamics and global perspective of both nations, she said, adding the discussions will likely touch upon these crises, as they test the reformed international order that the US and India have been advocating for.
"On the Israel-Hamas conflict, India is much more aligned with the Quad nations, which is indicative of India's deepening engagement with like-minded partners on pressing international challenges," she said.
"Additionally, the US may reiterate its call for India's cooperation with the Canadian probe (into the killing of a Sikh extremist in Canada), stressing the importance of adhering to international conventions. This diplomatic tangle may pose a challenge, but it also serves as a reminder that differences over specific issues won't derail the overall momentum in bilateral ties," she said.
"Beyond these challenges, the dialogue aims to expand the scope of cooperation into a diverse array of domains. This is not solely about defence, but encompasses climate, energy, health, counterterrorism, education, and people-to-people ties," Aamer said.
"The focus in the defence sector, at present, is on technology transfer and co-production, underlining the importance of innovation in fostering military capabilities. The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) is expected to be on the agenda, as is the promotion of innovation through the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X)," she said.
The imperative to scale up climate action ahead of COP28 may also form an important part of the dialogue, she said, noting that India's call for developed nations to become carbon-negative by 2050 underscores the shared responsibility in addressing the urgent challenge of climate change.
"Also, insights gained from the earlier 2+2 dialogue with India can inform the US delegation's subsequent engagements in Korea and Indonesia. Shared priorities and agreements reached with India can be leveraged to strengthen bilateral relations with these key regional partners," Aamer said.
"What may be interesting to watch out for is any discussion pertaining to the upcoming APEC summit and next year's general elections in both India and the United States. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, though invited by President (Joe) Biden as a guest at the summit, will most likely not be in attendance himself given his domestic commitments and assembly election campaigns coinciding with the timing of the summit," she said.
"However, President Biden's expected meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the APEC summit will hold significance for the US-India relations as well. This meeting could shape the US approach to China, and India's perspective on these developments is essential, considering the evolving dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, strained India-China relations, and the broader international landscape," she said.