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US Puts off 2+2 Dialogue with India

Less than a fortnight before the first ‘2+2 dialogue’, the US conveyed to India Wednesday that it has postponed the dialogue due to “unavoidable reasons”. The dialogue was announced last August after a telephone call between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump, which focused on “strengthening strategic, security and defence cooperation”.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were slated to visit Washington for the first ‘2+2 dialogue’ on July 6 with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis. The meeting was earlier scheduled for April this year but was put off after Trump fired then secretary of state Rex Tillerson.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar Wednesday announced that US Secretary of State spoke to Swaraj today “to express his regret and deep disappointment at the US having to postpone the 2+2 dialogue for unavoidable reasons.”

According to Kumar, Pompeo sought Swaraj’s “understanding” on this postponement as “they agreed to identify new mutually convenient dates to hold the dialogue at the earliest, in India or the US”.

The rescheduling comes in the backdrop of Indian proposals to purchase the S-400 missile system from Russia, which was widely believed to be among the topics up for discussion from the American side during the 2+2 dialogue.

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The issue has generated interest in America where Congress is debating legislation against Russian defense entities, which could cover the countries purchasing equipment as well under its ambit. The Russian S-400 missile system, in fact, falls under the category of equipment targeted under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

India, however, has had a historically strong defence partnership with Russia and New Delhi would not like to snap these ties. Incidentally, India has been working on the S-400 deal with Russia even before the US started debating the subject.

The postponement also comes after Trump’s decision to dismantle sanctions relief provided to Iran under the 2015 nuclear deal. A US state department official had told reporters in Washington earlier this that the Trump administration has asked India and China to stop all imports of Iranian oil by November 4 or face sanctions.

The matter was also raised by US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley in her meeting with Modi Wednesday when she said that it was important for India to cut Iranian oil imports.