Earlier this week, a readout issued by the White House on a congratulatory telephone call made by U.S. President Donald Trump to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of India’s Independence Day shed light on what could be the path ahead for U.S.-India relations in the domain of defense and strategic affairs.
The note said, “The leaders resolved to enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue that will elevate their strategic consultations.”
This idea of a 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue is neither new for India or exclusive to India. The proposal for a regular dialogue between the U.S. secretaries of state and defense and the Indian external affairs minister and defense minister at the same table was pitched during the tenure of the previous Indian Congress Party-led UPA government, as well. But Defense Minister A.K. Antony had rejected the idea at the time.
The BJP-led NDA government appears to have no hang-ups about the idea.
After the steady progress in defense ties between the two countries during the Obama administration, relations have been a bit uncertain, partly because of delays in the appointment of senior officials in the U.S. state department and Pentagon and absence of clarity on administration policy on the direction of defense ties between the two countries.
The U.S. and India already have a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in place between foreign ministers and commerce ministers.The model of the 2-by-2 dialogues was amply demonstrated this week when U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted their Japanese counterparts for a ‘Security Consultative Committee‘ meeting as part of the U.S. and Japan Consultative Committee.
Mattis is also expected to visit India in the last week of September.