At a bilateral meeting ahead of the bigger ‘2+2 dialogue’, defence minister Rajnath Singh and his counterpart Mark T Esper discussed newer areas of cooperation at the services level and ways to leverage the current agreements between the two sides, including one for sharing of classified information.
India and the US have decided to expand defence cooperation by opening up newer areas for collaboration, including the signing of an agreement that will allow sharing of geospatial data, even as the border crisis with China in Ladakh continued. India has also driven home the point that Afghan solution should be achieved without using force.
Sources said the meeting was substantive and set the carpet for the larger 2+2 dialogue that will include the foreign ministers on Tuesday when the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation will be inked.
It is learnt that while the situation with China was discussed, it was not the dominant conversation as the two sides expressed their keenness to move ahead on key areas, including an expansion of current maritime engagements, noting that the inclusion of Australia in the Malabar series of the exercise was a positive move.
The two sides discussed the deployment of Indian liaison officers at the vital US Central Military Command (CENTCOM) and the Africa Command (AFRICOM) that overlook US military operations in a large part of the world, including the African continent and central Asia.
This would be a significant step up in cooperation as in the past the Indian side was primarily coordinating with the Pacific Command (PACOM) that is focused on the east. This left a vital gap as developments in central and south Asia, including Pakistan, are tracked by the US CENTCOM, where India has a Naval liaison officer but the scope could now be extended beyond the maritime domain.
“Our talks today were fruitful, aimed at further deepening defence cooperation in a wide range of areas. Today’s discussions will add new vigour to India-US defence relations and mutual cooperation,” Singh said after the talks.
While BECA is to be signed on Tuesday, the two sides are believed to have discussed expanding the scope of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that is being operationalised with the equipping of new equipment on US-origin platforms in service with Indian forces and the activation of systems.
Foreign minister S Jaishankar told his US counterpart Mike Pompeo that Afghan solution should be achieved without using force. They also exchanged views on the current global situation and contemporary challenges. The two had a warm and productive meeting and followed up on their Tokyo discussions and focussed on key bilateral, regional and global issues including Afghanistan, ET has learnt. Jaishankar made it clear that cross-border terrorism was unacceptable. They also discussed multilateral consultations and cooperation in the context of India’s forthcoming UNSC membership.