New York, April 11 (IANS) A pact to share information on space activities is to be signed by the US and India during the 2+2 meeting of their diplomatic and defence leaders in Washington on Monday, according to the State Department.
The Space Situational Awareness Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aims to protect the satellites of the two countries.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin for the Fourth 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue that will finally take place after being postponed in December 2021.
It will kick off ceremoniously on Monday at 9 a.m. (6.30 p.m. IST) with an honour cordon to welcome Rajnath Singh to the Pentagon for a meeting with Austin.
At the same time over at the State Department, Blinken will meet Jaishankar, according to the schedule for the 2+2 circulated by the US.
The 2+2 meeting takes place under the cloud of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the divergent approach to it by India and the US.
But before the meeting, President Joe Biden will hold a virtual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at which the Russian invasion of Ukraine will figure, according to the White House.
At a briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “President Biden will continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilizing impact on global food supply and commodity markets.”
India has tried to stay neutral on the Russian invasion given its dependence on Moscow for vital defence supplies and abstained on eight Ukraine-related votes at the UN.
The US, which is leading the global response to the invasion prefers India to take a stronger stand against Russia.
But the 2+2 will focus on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, where the two countries are strategically more aligned.
The formal 2+2 meeting of the ministers and the secretaries will be held at the State Department with the opening press statements that will be live-streamed on www.state.gov at 2 p.m. on Monday (11.30 p.m. IST).
It will be followed by the signing of the Space Situational Awareness MOU.
The four are scheduled to hold a news conference at 4.45 p.m. (2.15 a.m. Tuesday IST), which is also to be live-streamed.
Concluding the 2+2 meeting, Blinken will hold a working dinner for the other 2+2 leaders at 6 p.m. (3.30 a.m. Tuesday IST).
The 2+2 meetings held since 2018 alternate between the two capitals and its fourth edition, which was to have been held in December, was postponed because of the visit of Russian President Vladimir to New Delhi that month.
This year’s event will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between India and the US, the State Department said.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed @arulouis)