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India-US to hold 2nd round of 2-plus-2 talks on 18 December, may sign key defence pact

The second round of the US-India 2+2 dialogue will take place on 18 December after an endless parley between the two nations. An agreement on industrial security will be signed during the meeting that will allow transfer of critical defence technology, ThePrint has learnt.

The ‘2+2’ is a dialogue format during which the foreign and defence ministers of the US and India will meet to discuss strategic and security interests of both nations.

Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Washington to meet their American counterparts Mike Pompeo and Mark T. Esper.


The first round of the talks took place in Delhi last year when both sides had signed the second of three defence pacts, known as the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). The COMCASA gave India access to advanced US defence systems such as armed drones that have been used with other American equipment.

According to sources, both nations will formally sign the much-awaited agreement on industrial security, also known as the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), in this round of the 2+2 talks. The union cabinet is also expected to approve the ISA soon for both sides to formally sign it.


Fresh lease of life to DTTI initiative ::

The ISA will ease transfer of high-level technology from the US to India and safeguard classified military information. The pact will also ease participation of American defence firms in ‘Make in India’ projects via the India-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) that was established in 2012.

The DTTI was expected to propel defence purchases, amounting to around $18 billion, between India and the US. But the initiative failed to yield desired results in the past seven years. With the ISA becoming operational, however, the DTTI is expected to get a fresh lease of life, said sources.

Both nations are believed to have identified some new projects at a recent meeting of the DTTI that was held in Delhi last month.

The signing of ISA is also expected to facilitate the case of American defence giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which are looking at a $15 billion fighter jet deal to supply 114 warplanes to the Indian Air Force under the Make in India programme.

Lockheed Martin’s F-21 and F/A-18 Block-III Super Hornet of Boeing are the main contenders for the deal along with SAAB’s Gripen of Sweden and the French Rafale.


‘Exception under CAATSA for S-400 missiles’ ::

India has already made it clear to the US that it will buy the S-400 air defence missile systems from Russia. The US, under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), has threatened to impose sanctions on countries that buy weaponry from Moscow.

However, sources said, India will try to carve out an exception for itself under the CAATSA legislation for the S-400 deal.

“The fact that a special waiver amendment under the sanctions provision of CAATSA was included in the John McCain National Defense Authorisation Act of 2019 specifically with India in mind means that a waiver is likely but not necessarily guaranteed,” said Sujan R. Chinoy, director general, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

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