BY ARUL LOUIS
New York, Oct 23 (IANS) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mike Esper will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week to discuss advancing the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership that he and President Donald Trump committed to, according to the senior diplomat for the region.
“United States and India are stronger, more secure, and more prosperous when we work together,” the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Dean Thompson told reporters on Thursday.
Pompeo and Esper are scheduled to visit New Delhi for the India-US 2+2 dialogue with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Mike Esper on Tuesday, exactly a week before the US presidential election.
“The 2+2 discussions will focus on global cooperation, on pandemic response, and challenges in the Indo-Pacific: economic space and energy collaboration, people-to-people ties, and defence and security cooperation,” Thompson said.
“In all of his meetings, the Secretary will look for opportunities to expand the US-India partnership in support of our mutual interests during these challenging times,” he added.
Asked about the timing of 2+2 meeting exactly a week before the presidential election, he said: “The fact that we could go now, that we could have this discussion, is driven by the situation in the region and what — where we’re headed.”
“One of the topics of discussion, a very important topic of discussion, will be Covid-19 response, and so obviously now is a good time to do that,” he said.
On China, Thompson said: “I think the situation on the Line of Actual Control will be — will probably be discussed at some point, and we’re watching the situation closely. I think both sides have expressed a desire to de-escalate violence.”
Asked if the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and a maritime information sharing agreement or any other pacts would be signed during the visit by Pompeo and Esper, he said, “I’m not going to, I think, commit to anything right this minute, but we do expect to have several items highlighted as we go through the trip.”
He added: “We’re in the process of finalizing a lot of the discussions right now, and so I know that BECA and other agreements are in the works.”
The Indian cabinet on Wednesday reportedly approved the BECA, which had been proposed by the Defence Ministry.
It will enable sharing geospatial intelligence and information on maps and satellite images for defence.
It will have applications in times of disaster to organise relief as well as in strategic security.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)