India and the US have agreed to deepen their bilateral cooperation in areas of defence, counterterrorism and trade, and to work with like-minded countries for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
The decisions were taken as the second India-US 2+2 dialogue concluded here. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper hosted their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for the dialogue at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.
The first 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi in September last year after the mechanism was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump.
In the second such dialogue, India and the US agreed to further expand their defence ties.
Singh told reporters here that strong defence ties were an integral component of the strategic bilateral partnership.
“In the last few years, we have made a conscious decision to diversify and indigenise our arms acquisitions. This increased defence trade with the US is one important aspect of this,” he said.
“We are also working to encourage greater collaboration between defence manufacturing sectors in India in the US. The conclusion of the industrial security annexe with the US will provide the necessary framework for pursuing the co-development and co-production linkages in the defence manufacturing centre,” Singh said.
Cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan featured during the 2+2 ministerial talks.
Singh said India shared its assessments of the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Indian Ocean region in general.
“We conveyed that the extreme rhetoric and belligerent statements and incitement to anti-Indian violence by Pakistani leaders is not conducive to peace,” he said.
Secretary Pompeo, during a joint news conference in the presence of the other three leaders, spoke about cross-border terrorism from Pakistan.
“We understand the concerns that India has, rightful concerns that they have about terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and we assured them that we would take that into account,” he said.
“We are determined to protect the American people on the threat of terrorism, and we’re determined to work with our great democratic friends like the Indians to protect the people of India as well. And we’ll continue to work on it,” Pompeo said.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said counterterrorism efforts have been boosted by a growing consensus on the nature of terror threats in the region and the dangers of cross-border terrorism and sanctuaries.
“We discussed ways to address these challenges, including by working closely together at the FATF. We also took note of exchanges between our judicial academies for the appreciation of challenges and evolving practices and adjudicating counter-terrorism cases and agreed to further facilitate such exchanges in areas of criminal jurisprudence,” Jaishankar said.
“This is an area where the two countries actually have a very strong history of cooperating. I can only say this in terms of public record, that I am very satisfied with the discussions we’ve had today,” Jaishankar said.
Pitching strongly for H-1B visa holders, Jaishankar reiterated the significant contribution made by the movement of persons in a fair and non-discriminatory manner to the deepening of bilateral ties between India and the US.
“Trade and services, including the movement of persons in a fair and non-discriminate discriminatory manner, has contributed significantly to the deepening of ties,” Jaishankar said.
He also praised Pompeo for reiterating the US governments support to the Chhabahar project, which he said will immensely benefit Afghanistan.
During the dialogue, India and America reaffirmed their commitment to work together in support of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region and the two sides agreed to deepen their cooperation to address regional and global threats and to combat terrorism, according to the US State Department.
“The two sides reaffirmed the growing strategic partnership between the United States and India, which is grounded in democratic values, shared strategic objectives, strong people-to-people ties, and a common commitment to the prosperity of their citizens,” the US State Department said in a statement.
“During the meeting, Secretary Pompeo and his counterparts reaffirmed their commitment to work together in support of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” it said.
India and the US also agreed to deepen cooperation to address regional and global threats, combat terrorism, coordinate on disaster relief, train peacekeepers, promote transparent and sustainable infrastructure, and advance maritime security, the statement said.
Both delegations welcomed new initiatives to further strengthen people-to-people ties, including new exchange programs for parliamentarians and young innovators, increased judicial cooperation, the expansion of university research partnerships, and a new bilateral science and technology agreement, it said.
On widespread protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the US said India is a vibrant democracy and has institutions to address concerns of religious freedom and human rights, refusing to treat the country at par with other nations on such issues which constitute the core of its values and diplomacy.