The upcoming 2+2 dialogue between India and the United States would serve as an important opportunity to enhance the relations between the two countries, said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells, adding that deliberations on operationalising India as a major defence partner would be held in the meeting.
"With India, we are looking forward to the inaugural 2+2 dialogue where Pompeo and Mattis would be travelling to Delhi,” Wells said while addressing a press briefing in Washington.
“This is an important opportunity to enhance and discuss our engagement in a range of diplomatic and security priorities and is an indication of the deepening strategic partnership that we enjoy with India. In the 2+2 dialogue, we will discuss how do we operationalise India as a status as a major defence partner," she added.
Wells underlined that India plays a central role in the US national security, adding that it is enshrined in US President Donald Trump's national security strategy.
"Our partnership is rooted in values and we share democratic values and commitment to rule-based order. We have gone from zero dollars in defence cooperation in 2008 to 18 million dollars today," she added.
The American diplomat underlined that Washington is willing to work with New Delhi in several projects outside India.
Military exercises were conducted with New Delhi by Washington, than with any other country in the world, Wells said,
"How do we take this partnership to a new level, and so it's not going to be based on defence acquisitions but framing how we see these challenges and how we are able to respond to these challenges, she added"
The first India-US 2+2 dialogue is scheduled to take place in New Delhi on September 6.
The high-level meet is set to take place between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with their American counterparts US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis.
A broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues of shared interest are expected to be covered in the meet, with a view to strengthen security ties between the two countries.
Crediting the rise in the bilateral trade to critical purchases by Indian firms in commercial aviation, energy and defence sectors, Wells said the bilateral trade between the two nations at present is USD 126 billion dollars, which is USD 10 billion more from last year.
Wells elucidated that Washington oversees the opening of trade with New Delhi as a key strategic objective for the Trump administration.
Wells further acknowledged impediments in the bilateral ties and said, “tariffs and non-tariffs barriers and intellectual property rights have been the subjects of long-term concerns.”
“We are continuing intensive dialogue with the Indian government on how to address these irritants and unlock the trade that is of great interest to the US firms when they look at the Indian market and its potential," she added.
The American diplomat termed India as an ‘'all-weather partner' and said “one of the great new elements of our relationship is working in third countries.”
“We worked together in Africa at assistance level in health issue, peacekeeping training; and on programs like bringing Afghan people to India for training that can be done at lower costs and with greater effectiveness," she added.