2+2 Talks: Sitharaman, Swaraj welcome COMCASA, increased defence cooperation with US
Meanwhile, Swaraj invoked the Modi-Trump “friendship” as she pressed the US to reconsider changes made to the H1B visa regime, which she said formed an integral component of US-India ties
The signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) between India and the US during the first ever 2+2 talks on Thursday in New Delhi has been hailed as major achievement for New Delhi by Union Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Both the government ministers addressed the media after holding talks with their American counterparts, Secretaries of State and Defence, Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis, respectively. The visiting US officials also took turns to brief reporters.
COMCASA would facilitate India’s access to advanced US defense systems and enable deeper cooperation on existing American security platforms, according to the two governments.
Sitharaman remarked at the press conference that COMCASA would give India access to advanced US technologies.
“The signing of the COMCASA will deepen our military-to-military cooperation,” concurred US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the press briefing.
Sitharaman further welcomed the inclusion of India by the US in the Strategic Trade Authorization (STA) list, which would make New Delhi eligible to license-free exports, re-exports, and transfers. Only NATO allies have been afforded a similar status by the US.
The Indian minister also informed mediapersons that Indian Navy would soon begin contacts with the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), which would give further credence to Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy that seeks an increased role for India in Afghanistan.
Both Sitharaman and Mattis also announced their readiness to begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defense industry cooperation and collaboration.
India and the US also “reaffirmed” their commitment to an open Indo-Pacific region based on a rules-based international order, a message aimed at China which has often been accused of being increasingly assertive in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
“Today’s meeting has paved the way for a new era of cooperation between the two countries,” said Sitharaman, as she concluded her remarks.
“I have mentioned this to Secretary Pompeo that on the basis of the friendship which exists between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, Indians believe that America will not work against their interest. I have mentioned him to maintain the trust of Indians,” said the External Affairs Minister during her remarks, which were delivered in Hindi.Swaraj’s remarks come in the backdrop of media reports about President Trump’s habit of mimicking the Indian PM during interactions with White House staffers. The mocking by Trump is said to have touched a raw nerve of the Indian leader
Earlier at the press briefing, Sushma Swaraj invoked the “friendship” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump as she pressed the US to reconsider changes made to the H1B visa regime, which she said former an integral component of US-India bilateral cooperation.
“Specifically, I conveyed our expectation for a non-discriminatory and predictable approach to the H1B visa regime, given its high impact on innovation, competitiveness and people-to-people partnership, all of which are a vital source of strength for our relationship,” said Swaraj, as she briefed the media after her meeting with Pompeo and Mattis.
“I have mentioned this to Secretary Pompeo that on the basis of the friendship which exists between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, Indians believe that America will not work against their interest. I have mentioned him to maintain the trust of Indians,” said the External Affairs Minister during her remarks, which were delivered in Hindi.
Swaraj’s remarks come in the backdrop of media reports about President Trump’s habit of mimicking the Indian PM during interactions with White House staffers. The mocking by Trump is said to have touched a raw nerve of the Indian leader.
The impending sanctions on Iran, which come into effect in November, and the Trump administration’s threat of imposing sanctions on India if it goes ahead with Rs 40,000 crore deal to buy Triumf S-400 missile systems from Russia are other contentious points between the two countries.
Secretary Pompeo, who addressed mediapersons after Swaraj, said that he conveyed to his Indian counterparts the importance of US sanctions by the Trump administration, indicating that Washington was unlikely to give any specific waivers to India on Iran and Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
A US State Department official told reporters on Thursday that detailed conversations taking just the technical issues related to “going to zero” (on completely winding up on Iranian crude imports by Nov deadline) were taking place between US and India.
“In the past we’ve seen India take steps during the previous round of JCPOA sanctions where they did – their private oil companies did work towards that goal,” said the US State Department Official.
India has expressed grave reservations over the proposed sanctions on both Russia and Iran, both countries with whom India has traditionally enjoyed strong defense and economic relations.
Pompeo and Mattis later called on Prime Minister Modi, before embarking on a plane back home in the evening.
Published: 06 Sep 2018, 8:14 PM