Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

What is the ‘2+2’ format of dialogue between India and the US?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 2+2 Format

Mains level : Read the attached story

The fourth ‘2+2’ dialogue between India and the United States is underway in Washington DC.

2+2 talks between India and allies

  • The 2+2 dialogue is a format of meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of India and its allies on strategic and security issues.
  • A 2+2 ministerial dialogue enables the partners to better understand and appreciate each other’s strategic concerns and sensitivities taking into account political factors on both sides.
  • This helps to build a stronger, more integrated strategic relationship in a rapidly changing global environment.
  • India has 2+2 dialogues with four key strategic partners: US, Australia, Japan, and RUSSIA.

Inception of the idea

  • The inaugural 2+2 dialogue with Australia was held in September 2021 when Jaishankar and Singh met with their counterparts Marise Payne and Peter Dutton in New Delhi.
  • India held its first 2+2 dialogue with Russia in December last year, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited India.
  • The first India-Japan talks in the 2+2 format were held on November 30, 2019 in New Delhi.

Dialogue with the US

  • The US is India’s oldest and most important 2+2 talks partner.
  • The first 2+2 dialogue between the two countries was held during the Trump Administration.
  • It hosted then-Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and then-Secretary of Defence James Mattis and the late Sushma Swaraj and then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi in September 2018.
  • The second and third editions of the 2+2 dialogues were held in Washington DC and New Delhi in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Defence and strategic agreements

  • Over the years, the strategic bilateral relationship with its partners, including the dialogues held in the 2+2 format, have produced tangible and far-reaching results for India.
  • India and the US have signed a troika of “foundational pacts” for deep military cooperation, beginning with the:
  1. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016
  2. Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) after the first 2+2 dialogue in 2018, and
  3. Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in 2020

Deterrents in ties ahead of the meet

  • There is little doubt as to how beneficial this mechanism has been.
  • On one side, the ‘two plus dialogue’ is expected to abate, if not resolve, highly problematic issues such as Chinese aggression.
  • Even though there is a tonne of expectations from this mutual dialogue between the two countries, the dialogue is also the source of some worry.
  • This time, the US is sceptical of India’s mammoth oil import from Russia.
  • Another problematic pointer is India’s voluminous weaponry sanctions from Russia.

Why a 2+2 with Russia?

  • Russia is one of those countries with which a 2+2 format talk “fits perfectly” in India’s foreign policy.
  • India and Russia have shared a strategic relationship since October 2000, which later got upgraded to ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ in December 2010.
  • To be sure, the India-Russia 2+2 does have a particularly strong signalling component when seen against the backdrop of the S400 controversy.
  • Holding the 2+2 talks with Russia is much needed. This gives out a strong message to the world that India sees everyone to be on the same level.
  • This is visible messaging that India cannot be compelled to choose partners. India pursues an independent foreign policy serving its national and non-allied interests.
  • Having a 2+2 with Russia also means that India is “not in anyone’s camp” and that bilateral ties between Moscow and New Delhi are “traditional and comprehensive”.

Way forward

  • India and the US don’t set ‘red lines’ and are pushing for “an honest dialogue”, the ongoing 2+2 dialogue is an opportunity for both India and the US.
  • The US also understands that India is one of the few countries that could leverage its relationship with Russia to bring the two warring parties to the negotiating table through a ceasefire and diplomatic resolution.
  • For Delhi, it is a season for careful and adroit diplomacy.


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