NEW DELHI: Dealing with China and the implications of the US sanctions on Iran and Russia would be high on the agenda of the 2+2 dialogue between India and US in New Delhi on September 6-7 according to Randall G Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs at the US Department of Defense.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the first 2+2 dialogue.
In a public discussion with Ashley J Tellis, the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on Wednesday, Shriver said the shared interest in understanding China, and how to respond to that, would be the “front and centre” of the discussions.
He said while the US’ newly-articulated Indo-Pacific strategy was not aimed at any particular region, but sought a free/open area which respected the sovereignty, Chinese behaviour, including “coercive approaches towards internal politics of others,” indicates that “they have a different aspiration for the region.”
The discussions in India would revolve around India and other countries to look for and offer alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and coordinating and developing military and security areas.
He also warned that India’s proposed purchase of the S400 Triumf anti-missile system from Russia was particularly troubling and the US was keen to offer alternatives, but in case New Delhi went ahead with the deal, it would be up to US President Donald Trump to exercise the waiver option granted to him by the Congress.
While the US understood the historical nature and legacy of Russia-India ties, as well as the dependence on defence platforms, “The conversation will be about the future. The nature of the Russian regime, Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK, etc.” Russia was “not a country you really want to have a strategic partnership well into the future, we are a more reliable, better partner”.
However, “we would still have very significant concerns if India pursued any new platforms and systems from Russia,” Schriver added. As for the sanctions on Iran and their implications on India, he said it was a “relatively new development, and we’ll listen to Indian concerns, before taking any decision”.
Focus on BRI
The discussions would revolve around India and other countries to look for and offer alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and coordinating and developing military and security areas, said Randall G Schriver.