US-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue has greater symbolic meaning than actual impact

China Military Online
Yao Jianing

By Fang Xiaozhi

BEIJING, Sep. 7 (ChinaMil) -- The inaugural US-India 2+2 dialogue of defense and foreign affairs ministers was held on September 6 in New Delhi, capital of India. The two sides discussed their cooperation under the Indo-Pacific strategic framework and exchanged opinions on weapons procurement, technology transfer, trade, immigration, and so forth.

In recent years, the US and India have accelerated military cooperation, deepened defense relations, and conducted exchanges and coordination such as procurement and joint development of arms, technology transfer, joint exercise and training, and counter-terrorism operations.

Above all, the scale of the US-India joint military exercises has been constantly expanding and involved such countries as Japan, Australia, and the Philippines, continuously amplifying the scope of exchanges.

Both the US and India have their own interests on strengthening their defense cooperation and exchanges.

For the US, Trump has emphasized the value of the "Indo-Pacific" region in safeguarding US national security interests since he took office. He has also extended the deployment of the Asia-Pacific strategy to the entire "Indo-Pacific" region, and the military security structure has preliminarily formed in this region.

The US military presence in the Indian Ocean has been relatively weak in comparison with the US strategic deployment in other regions. Therefore, the US particularly values India as it hopes India to become its "agent" in the Indian Ocean region and serve as its ‘chess piece’ through cooperation to pick the strategic move. .

For India, on the one hand, it hopes to strengthen military cooperation with the US to reduce its dependence on Russia-made weapons, diversify its sources of weapons and equipment, and close gaps in weapons demand such as importing advanced drones and other equipment to increase its competitive advantage over Pakistan.

On the other hand, it also hopes to enhance its international status and influence and gain support from the US in international affairs such as becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

In addition, India hopes to develop a close tie with the US and use it as a bargaining chip to gain a dominant position in the relationships with Russia, China, Japan, and other countries.

In terms of the content of the US- India 2+2 ministerial dialogue, the two sides focused on military cooperation, especially on the procurement and joint development of weapons and equipment. However, the two showed relatively large differences in terms of practice.

For example, the US asked India to make a choice between itself and Russia, especially stop purchasing advanced weapons and equipment including the S-400 air defense missile system from Russia. It is impossible and India is unwilling to do so.

Furthermore, the US asserted that the two countries should sign a communications compatibility and security agreement (COMCASA) first and military communications security measures can be transferred only when equipment such as attack drones are sold. It reflects the US' wariness and distrust with India.

India also has deeply-rooted long-standing distrust of the US. India, who has always regarded the Indian Ocean as its own backyard, does not allow other great powers to get involved in this area. It deepens defense cooperation with the US mainly for the purpose of maintaining a balance among regions, so as to maximize its profits. Therefore, India has been conservative and cautious in dealing with military cooperation with the US.

To sum up, although both the US and India are willing to expand military cooperation, they must face the inevitable differences and contradictions, inconsistent strategic priorities, and even potential conflicts on many issues. These would be the possible key reasons for the US- India 2+2 ministerial dialogue being postponed for number of times.

From a long-term perspective, the first US-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue provides a symbolic meaning, but it’s unlikely to have any significant impact on the regional security layout and strategic balance.


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