WASHINGTON: The upcoming 2+2 dialogue next week in New Delhi is an opportunity to advance the India-US relationship in a significant way, a senior Pentagon official today said.
"We have an opportunity to really advance the relationship in significant ways. We'll talk about regional issues and strategic issues, but we're also going to have a set of actual concrete outcomes," Randall G Schriver, US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told a Washington audience.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis are travelling to India next week for the 2+2 dialogue being hosted by their Indian counterparts Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman.
"It is a very good combination of strategic, high-level dialogue and concrete outcomes that will serve as enablers for advancing the relationship well beyond the meeting in Delhi on September 6-7," he said at an event organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"So, the conversation on strategic issues, regional and security issues certainly are our shared interest and understanding on China. How to respond to that will be front and centre, other aspects of promoting the free and open ended dialogue specific to how we approach Southeast Asia," he said.
Describing this as a historic meeting, the senior Pentagon official said the leaders will talk about Afghanistan or shared interest there and driving that to a political settlement. In the defence sector, the two countries, he said are working on a set of enabling agreements.
"Collectively what they'll allow us to do is have secure communications, protect a technology, protect information. Getting those enabling agreements in place will allow a security assistance, a cooperation to go forward, will allow us in exercise and training in more meaningful ways," he said.
Schriver said these concrete outcomes will set India and the US on a good course for the future.
"We are going to expand the scope of some of our exercises, increase the complexity and the elements that will participate in these exercises. That's a very good outcome," he said.
The leaders are also going to talk about augmenting the 2+2 to include mid-level officials from the two countries, so as to have a continuous dialogue at the working level, he said.
Describing the elevation of India to Strategic Trade Authorisation (STA-1) status as a very important outcome, he said this is an enabler for trade and technology cooperation, because it lifts some of the restrictions on their ability to do that.
"So there's just a number of things that will really set us on a great course as we go," he said.