Mattis writes to Nirmala Sitharaman to clear the air on 2+2

Source:-Mattis writes to Nirmala Sitharaman to clear the air on 2+2

US secretary of defense James Mattis has written to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman assuring her that Washington’s decision to call off the 2+2 dialogue at the last minute was not aimed at signalling a lower priority to the Indo-US relationship.

Instead, Mattis confirmed his plans to travel to India in early September, which is now likely to be the occasion when the Indo-US 2+2 dialogue will be held.

ET has reliably gathered that soon after Mattis’s letter, the US formally moved a proposal to hold the 2+2 dialogue in India in early September. The necessary coordination between the State Department and Pentagon on this count has already begun, added sources.

Further, Mattis conveyed to Sitharaman in his letter that the “trajectory of the strategic partnership” remained unaffected, and that the sudden cancellation of the dialogue was not linked to India.

This was also conveyed by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo when he spoke to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. He told her that President Donald Trump had asked him to travel to North Korea.

This rescheduling has, however, not had any impact on the schedule of other bilateral meetings. The second round of trade negotiations are on track with the commerce ministryled Indian delegation slated to travel to the US this month. These negotiations have been facilitated after commerce minister Suresh Prabhu’s visit to the US. He reached an understanding to resolve outstanding issues through official-level dialogue.

Despite a gloomy forecast to these talks, sources said both sides are confident to reach a resolution on trade matters at the earliest because of the strong political direction on both ends to not let this turn into a sticking point.

This month will also see a meeting of the Defence Trade and Technical Initiative. Both sides have already held meetings on signing foundational defence agreement, particularly the COMCASA (Communication Compatibility and Security Agreement). India has flagged off some concerns in the text, which are likely to be addressed in the next round of meetings.

Both sides also collaborated closely to ensure Pakistan is graylisted by the Financial Action Task Force for taking insufficient action in freezing funds of terror organisations like the Jammatud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Falah-I-Insaaniyat.

For all the speculation over a deteriorating Indo-US relationship, top government sources pointed out that there has been no significant setback on any key strategic issue. Differences over trade have always existed with the US and officials are of the view that they will ultimately be aligned with the positive dynamic in the partnership.

On Russia, government sources sought to make a distinction between the views of the Trump Administration, which has no problems with India’s defence ties with Russia, and that of the US Congress which is keen on sanctioning Moscow.

In this context, New Delhi is confident that a middle ground will be found and through that will emerge a solution to allow India make its purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.

Mattis’s testimony to the Congress asking for a clean waiver for India from the sanctions being planned against Russian entities, officials said, show where White House stood on the issue.

Encouraged by Mattis’s letter to Sitharaman, India is hoping to close many negotiations ahead of September so that a clutch of positive announcements could be made in Delhi.





Source:- ET

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