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What is 2+2 Dialogue and why it is crucial for both India and US amid Middle East and Russia-Ukraine war?

The 2+2 Dialogue, which has strategic importance for both the US and India, kickstarted on Friday at a time when the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East (Israel-Hamas war) and Europe (Russia-Ukraine war) were at their zenith.

Written By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: November 10, 2023 14:09 IST
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin (From left to right), Defenc
Image Source : X/@SJAISHANKAR US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin (From left to right), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and EAM S Jaishankar.

India is currently holding a crucial meeting of "two plus two" which is also dubbed as "2+2" with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar, US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin and Rajnath Singh, along with other top officials from both sides in the national capital.

Notably, the meeting, which has strategic importance for both nations, kickstarted on Friday at a time when the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East (Israel-Hamas war) and Europe (Russia-Ukraine war) were at the zenith. Therefore, the ongoing meeting will be the most challenging for Indian ministers as they have to balance both Russia and Israel as both are considered the India-aligned nations. 

Therefore, let's have a look at the significance of today's meeting.  

What is a 2+2 dialogue?

A ‘two plus two dialogue’ is a term used to refer to a bilateral meeting between two nations. The meeting is mainly attended by the defence ministers and foreign ministers of both nations and hence it is named "2 plus 2"-- a term coined to denote straightforward conversation between two appointed ministers from each country. The main agenda of the dialogue is to discuss international, and regional, issues besides discovering measures to counter the actions of China, especially in the South China Sea.

History

Notably, the 2+2 dialogue came into existence in 2017 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then US President Donald Trump agreed to create and replace the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue which started under the Obama administration. The first meeting was supposed to be held in July 2018 in Washington, however, it was deferred by then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman citing "unavoidable situations".

Later, it was held between the then Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, Sitharaman, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in New Delhi in September 2018.

Since then, India and the US have held four meetings of 2 plus 2. But, it should be important to note that the meetings are not limited to the US only. India also conducts meetings with other allies such as Russia, Australia and Japan annually. Notably, all these nations are also members of QUAD nations-- a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the United States-- except Russia.

Motive

The main motive of the 2+2 dialogue is to enable the partners to better understand and appreciate each other’s strategic concerns and sensitivities taking into account political facets on both sides, in order to build a more robust, more integrated strategic connection in a rapidly changing global setting. Besides, it also deals with countering China's footprints in the Indo-Pacific region and the South China Sea.

Agenda of this year's US-India 2+2 Dialogue  

Welcoming his counterparts, Jaishankar on Friday, said that today's meeting will be focused on the vision enshrined by leaders of two nations--PM Modi and President Joe Biden-- during the latter's last visit to Washington this year.

"The PM's state visit to the United States in June; has opened a new chapter in our relationship. President Biden's visit to Delhi in September contributed immensely to the positive trajectory of our ties. His support was key to ensuring productive outcomes at the G20 summit. The dialogue today will be an opportunity to advance the vision of our respective leaders. Building a forward-looking partnership while we construct a shared global agenda," Jaishankar said. 

He said that a comprehensive overview of defence and security ties, technology, and people-to-people exchanges will be discussed. "In the 2+2, we will undertake a comprehensive overview of cross-cutting strategic, defence, and security ties, technology and supply chain collaborations and people-to-people exchanges... Our trade is today in excess of $200 Billion... 2,70,000 Indian students study in the United States, and we have a diaspora of 4.4 million. A key focus of our discussions today will be the Indo-Pacific region...," he added. 

US assures to expand economic opportunity 

Meanwhile, echoing Jaishhankar's remarks, Blinken said that the two countries are deepening their people-to-people ties. "...We're harnessing together the power of innovation to make our economies more resilient and to make our communities more secure while expanding inclusive economic opportunity. That's evident in the cooperation on semiconductors and advanced biotechnology, on our unprecedented investments in deploying clean energy at scale in our countries as well as across the region, and our joint research and exploration projects in space" Secretary Blinken said.

 "Finally, we're deepening the remarkable ties between our people, which is really at the heart of everything. Exploring new educational exchanges, even building steps to facilitate travel between our countries, reducing VISA wait times...When Indians and Americans study together, work together, and collaborate together, the possibilities for progress are infinite" Secretary Blinken added. 

What could overshadow the crucial meeting?

Although India would push to hover the meeting around development projects, especially those which hold strategic importance for both nations, it is expected that the ongoing Middle East crisis and Russia-Ukraine war could hamper New Delhi's aspirations. The issue remains at high risk despite India condemning the killings of innocent civilians in both Ukraine and Gaza. Besides, PM Modi also urged both conflict-engaged nations to hold direct conversations in order to end the conflict.

Notably, both Israel and Russia are best-aligned nations for India amid the fact both cater defence requirements of New Delhi. Besides, Russia remains a major oil supplier to India despite the US continuously pressuring New Delhi to minimise trade relations with Moscow after it launched an unprecedented war against its neighbouring Ukraine. Therefore, both Jaishankar and Defence Minister Singh have to make a challenging counterbalance between the two nations with the United States.

India-Canada tensions 

Besides, the recent diplomatic tensions between India and Canada be likely taken up during the meeting with the US pressuring India to support the investigation of Ottawa.

It is worth mentioning Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an Indian-origin Canadian citizen, was shot by unidentified men outside a gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18. Nearly three months after the killing of the designated Khalistani terrorist, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau abruptly appeared in the Canadian Parliament and alleged India's involvement in the killing of the Sikh separatist leader.

This triggered a massive uproar in India as well as Canada, especially in the diplomatic arena. At first, India halted visas for Canadians and later snatched the diplomatic immunity of at least 41 diplomats in New Delhi. This prompted Ottawa to call back their envoys from India.

Also Read: 'A variety of issues can be discussed': India on 2+2 dialogue with US

 

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