Foreign and defence ministers of India and the US will hold their first 2+2 strategic dialogue on security and defense ties in Delhi on September 6, the US State Department announced on Friday, July 20.
The twice-deferred meeting was earlier scheduled on July 6 in Washington. But it had to be put off purportedly because US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was to travel to North Korea for unscheduled meetings with officials of the country.
Announcing the new date and venue, the State Department said, "The inaugural US-India 2+2 Dialogue will be held in New Delhi on September 6."
It said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis will meet with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman "to discuss strengthening strategic, security, and defence cooperation as the US and India jointly address challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond."
US Ambassador in New Delhi Ken Juster said the US "look(s) forward to productive discussions between our two countries on ways to strengthen US-India strategic, security, and defense cooperation".
The 2+2 dialogue for strategic level talks was agreed between the two sides during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's June 2017 visit to the United States. The new format replaces the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between the foreign and commerce ministers of the two countries held during the Obama administration.
According to sources in the national capital, the two sides will seek to finalize of key defence agreements like the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (Comcasa) - a defence foundational pact that will enable India to obtain critical, secure and encrypted defence technologies from other countries.
The sources said Indian and the US ministers would also discuss developments and issues of mutual interest in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Russia and China are also expected to come up during the talks.
They said India would seek a waiver from the CAATSA that can hit Indian military purchases from Russia and also the import of crude oil from Iran which has already been sanctioned.
The first 2+2 meeting was to take place in April. That was also to be hosted by the US but was called off after then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was suddenly sacked by President Donald Trump.
The sudden decision to call off the meeting in July triggered speculation that the US ties with India were a lower priority for the Trump administration.
It was also said that the US may not be happy with India going ahead with its plan to buy military equipment from Russia despite American sanctions targeting Moscow under the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The US sanctions against Russian oligarchs and companies have threatened India's proposed purchase of five regiments of Russian-made S-400 Triumf advanced air defense system, a $5.5 billion military deal almost ready to be signed for a closure.
The US has said the CAATSA also prohibits American allies from dealing with sanctioned individuals and companies of Russia, and if New Delhi went ahead with its new military purchases, it would complicate "our ability to work out interoperability".
India's deep military and strategic ties with Russia date back to the beginning of the Cold War even as New Delhi led a movement of "non-aligned" countries that declared their tilt with neither Washington nor Moscow. However, India always leaned toward the then USSR.
India still buys over 60 percent of its defence equipment from Russia. At present, the Indian armed forces are 70 percent equipped with Soviet or Russian weapons.
Defence Minister Sitharaman last week said the CAATSA, essentially a US law was not binding on India and would therefore not affect India's foreign policy and strategic decisions with other countries.