New Delhi/ Washington. India and the US have committed to deepening their cooperation in new defence domains like space and cyberspace “continue charting an ambitious course” in their ties and despite divergence in their approach on Ukraine, found unanimity on humanitarian assistance to the war-torn nation.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin “committed to deepening cooperation in new defence domains, such as space and cyberspace, as the US and Indian militaries jointly meet the challenges of this century”, a Pentagon readout said after the opening day of the fourth 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue here March 11 (US time).
“They also agreed to launch an inaugural Defence Artificial Intelligence Dialogue, while expanding joint cyber training and exercises,” while also examining the extension of their multi-national cooperation beyond the Indo-Pacific to Europe.
They “discussed ways to coordinate more closely with like-minded nations — including Australia, Japan, and European partners — to ensure that our shared principles of the rule of law, freedom of the seas, and respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states prevail today and far into the future”, the readout said.
The Ministerial Dialogue reaffirmed that the two countries “will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, rooted in common democratic values, as two pillars of a free and open Indo-Pacific”, the readout added.
“In support of India’s leading role as a net security provider, the leaders discussed new opportunities to coordinate more closely together to ensure that the United States and India’s shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region continues to thrive,” the readout said.
“As the Indian military emerges as a more jointly integrated force, the 2+2 Ministerial advanced initiatives that will allow the US and Indian militaries to work more seamlessly together across all domains of potential conflict, from the seas to cyberspace,” the readout said.
“The United States and India finalised major bilateral initiatives on information-sharing, liaison exchanges, and joint service engagements to support high-end, combined operations”, it said.
Agreeing to “continue charting an ambitious course in the US-India partnership,” they “forged new and deeper cooperation across the breadth of the US-India partnership, including defence, science and technology, trade, climate, public health, and people-to-people ties,” the readout added.
On the contentious issue of Ukraine, the readout said the two countries “agreed to maintain close consultations on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, including on humanitarian assistance efforts, and echoed support for an independent investigation into the brutal violence deployed against civilians in Bucha”.
The Ministerial Dialogue was preceded by a virtual Summit between the leaders of the two countries, during which
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had urged the Presidents of Russia and Ukraine to end their conflict, while reiterating India’s neutral stance on the war, while President Joe Biden said Washington and New Delhi would continue their “close consultation on how to manage the destabilising effects of this Russian war”.
“I have spoken to the leaders of both Ukraine and Russia many times and urged them to directly talk,” Modi said, adding: “We hope that the ongoing talks between Russia and Ukraine will pave the way for peace.”
On his part, Biden said: “I want to welcome India’s humanitarian support for the people Ukraine, who are suffering a horrific assault, including a tragic shelling on a train station last week that killed dozens … attempting to flee the violence”.
Describing the US as India’s “natural ally”, Rajnath Singh said the Ministerial Dialogue was “very meaningful”, and would help in “strengthening the strategic defence engagement” between the two countries.
“Had a very meaningful and in-depth discussion at the 2+2 ministerial meeting in Washington DC. During the meeting, we shared our assessments of the situation in our neighbourhood and (the) Indian Ocean Region. India-US Defence Cooperation is being further expanded and strengthened,” he said in a tweet.
“The meeting is important in strengthening the strategic defence engagement between India and will enable us to work alongside in areas of mutual interest. Our increased cooperation will be critical to maintain peace & security, and to ensure free access to global commons,” he wrote in another tweet.
Meanwhile, Jaishankar retorted sharply to a question at a media briefing after the Ministerial Dialogue, asking a reporter to look at Europe when she said India risked sanctions for currency arrangements for energy purchases.
“If you are looking at energy purchases from Russia, I would suggest that your attention should be focused on Europe,” Jaishankar said, adding: “Probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon. So you might want to think about that.”