New Delhi: After holding their 2+2 dialogue at the foreign and defence ministerial level in Washington on Wednesday (early Thursday morning IST), India and the United States “called on Pakistan to take immediate, sustained and irreversible action” against terrorism from its soil, besides “welcoming the signing of the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) which will facilitate the exchange of classified military information between Indian and the US defence industries”.
While “reiterating their commitment to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region”, the two countries also “committed to a common vision for the India-US Major Defence Partnership (MDP) to expand all aspects of their security and defence cooperation”.
India and the US also “applauded the establishment of the new tri-service, amphibious exercise — Tiger Triumph — as a tangible demonstration of the growing scope and complexity of military cooperation and decided to hold it annually. The two countries resolved to “enhance cooperation between the Indian Navy and the US Navy fleets under the US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Comm-and, and intend to expand similar cooperation between their respective armies and air forces”. It was also decided to set up a “link between India’s Naval Headquarters (NHQ) and USINDOPACOM (US Indo-Pacific Command)”.
The two sides “noted that the deepening strategic partnership between India and the United States is rooted in shared values of freedom, justice, human rights and commitment to the rule of law”, something that is being seen as significant in the wake of the raging controversy in India over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
US secretary of state Michael R. Pompeo and secretary of defence Mark T. Esper represented the US side, while external affairs minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh represented India. The meeting “undertook a comprehensive review of cross-cutting foreign policy and defence and security issues” in the bilateral relationship.
“The ministers welcomed the signing of the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) which will facilitate the exchange of classified military information between Indian and the US defence industries. Both sides also expressed intent to meet in 2020 to discuss ISA implementation,” an Indo-US joint statement said.
As part of increasing defence cooperation, the two countries recognised the “rapid progress to implement the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)”, inked between them last year, and “also decided to continue the discussion on the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in 2020 to enable greater geospatial information-sharing”. The COMCASA is the second major agreement to have been signed between the two nations, the first being the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed in 2016. The third major agreement that now remains to be signed is the BECA.
On people-to-people exchanges, the two countries said they “looked forward to the upcoming India-US Consular Dialogue to further increase cooperation and discuss issues of mutual concern, including visas and familial issues related to marriage, adoption and child custody”.
“Before the 2+2 meeting, both defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had a bilateral meeting with their respective (US) counterparts. Both the ministers also called on President Donald Trump,” the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said in New Delhi. The two countries “intend to maintain regular communication on emerging developments through the newly-established secure communication lines between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries,” a joint statement issued by the two nations on Thursday evening said.
Mr Singh also visited the US Naval Air Station at Norfolk in Virginia.
“Condemning terrorism in all its forms, the ministers called for concerted action against all terrorist networks, including Al Qaeda, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Haqqani Network, Hizbul Mujahideen, TTP and D-Company. The ministers called on Pakistan to take immediate, sustained and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorism against other countries in any manner, and to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of cross-border terrorist attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot.”
In a statement seen as significant in the wake of the increasing Chinese military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, the joint statement said, “The ministers reiterated their commitment to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. Appreciating the convergence in their respective Indo-Pacific visions, they reiterated their support for Asean centrality, rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, and sustainable and transparent infrastructure investment. They reaffirmed that closer India-US cooperation is instrumental to promoting security and prosperity in the broader Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
On defence cooperation, the joint statement said, “The ministers committed to a common vision for the India-US Major Defence Partnership. They welcomed the growing and increasingly sophisticated cooperation between their two navies. The two sides also applauded the establishment of the new tri-service, amphibious exercise — Tiger Triumph. The ministers decided to hold Tiger Triumph annually, in formats to be decided mutually. The ministers committed to enhanced cooperation between the Indian and US Navy Fleets.”
It added, “The ministers noted rapid progress to implement the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which has already enabled valuable cooperation. They called for the quick installation of secure communication capabilities between the Armed Forces, including the armies and air forces. Both sides noted that continued COMCASA implementation would further enable growing military cooperation. They also decided to continue the discussion on the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in 2020 to enable greater geospatial information-sharing.”