New Delhi, Nov 10 (EFE).- The 2+2 ministerial meeting between India and the United States kicked off on Friday with defense and the situation in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s expanding influence, along with the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine being the main focus, officials said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin sat down for dialogue with their Indian counterparts, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh, respectively, underscoring bilateral ties.
“Defense remains one of the most important pillars of our bilateral relationship,” Singh said during his initial remarks that were televised, ahead of closed-door talks under the 2+2 dialogue, an annual senior-level meeting between the two countries that started in 2018.
These meetings have helped India acquire a growing number of military technologies, and Austin noted that both countries are in the process of integrating their industrial bases and sharing cutting-edge technology.
“The scope of our cooperation is vast, it stretches from the sea to space,” the defense secretary said, reflecting Washington’s interests in moving India away from Russia, which has historically been the main supplier of military equipment to the Asian country.
The Indian foreign minister revealed that in addition to defense ties, the agenda will be dominated by other issues such as collaborations on supply chains and people-to-people exchanges.
“A key focus of our discussions today will be the Indo-Pacific region. As we all know, India and the US are key members of the Quad, which is scheduled to meet at a leaders level early next year in India,” said Jaishankar.
The Quad security alliance, which also includes Australia and Japan, seeks to check China’s expansionist ambitions in the region, which Washington perceives as the most significant challenge in its foreign policy.
Blinken, on his part, underlined that this 2+2 dialogue comes after US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met twice this year, reflecting strong ties between the two countries.
He also referred to the “incredibly complex and difficult moment” that the world was going through and shared challenges “that require our attention.”
India and the US have strengthened their bilateral relations in recent years, although they maintain some fundamental differences in their foreign policy on such crucial issues as New Delhi’s long-standing support for the Palestinian cause amid Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, and its insistence on neutrality in the Ukraine war. EFE