MEA says 2+2 meet timing not linked to US elections

The external affairs ministry on Thursday played down questions about India hosting the strategic 2+2 dialogue with the US ahead of the country’s presidential election on November 3, saying that the timing of the talks was largely in line with those of the two previous meetings.

Experts have questioned the rationale behind holding the key talks between the foreign and defence ministers of the two sides at a time when the US election could lead to a change of government. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defense secretary Mark Esper will be on a two-day visit to India for the dialogue with their counterparts S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh on October 27.

Asked about this issue at the weekly news briefing, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: “As regards the timing of the meeting, you would know that diplomatic calendars have their logic. You will notice that the earlier two meetings have also been held towards the end of the year.”

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The maiden 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi in September 2018 and the second one in Washington in December 2019.

The third dialogue will see India and the US consolidating their diplomatic and security ties, including institutionalised intelligence-sharing and efforts to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) is also on the cards to facilitate sharing of classified satellite and sensor data.

“The third 2+2 ministerial dialogue will entail a comprehensive discussion on cross-cutting bilateral issues of mutual interest. In addition, both sides will exchange views on salient regional and global issues,” Srivastava said, declining to go into details.

The discussions during these dialogues have enabled both sides to take forward their relationship and strengthen the institutional framework for cooperation across all sectors, he said.

Pompeo and Esper will also have bilateral meetings with their counterparts, and meet National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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