2+2 in the time of 1 Upmanship

It’s the best of times to hold dialogues, it’s the worst of times to hold dialogues. The India-US 2+2 Dialogue, the fifth meeting of the foreign and defence ministers in New Delhi just ahead of Diwali, signals the firm footing on which the bilateral relationship stands. But it’s unsteady and bubbling in the world outside. The war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict are priorities engaging the US full-time with presidential elections coming ’round the mountain. Secretary of state Antony Blinken has been in and out of West Asia since the October 7 Hamas attack. Joe Biden will be meeting Xi Jinping this week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit at a time when ‘Asia-Pacific’ has been segueing into ‘Indo-Pacific‘ and ‘Taiwan’ talk is in the polycritical air.

The outcome of the 2+2 makes it clear that Indo-Pacific remains a priority. The Hamas attack on Israel has brought renewed focus on the clear and present danger of terrorism and its fallouts. Enhanced partnership in defence is another important element that builds on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June earlier this year. Trade and technology form the other pillars. Each element underscores the commitment of the two countries to work together to preserve a rules-based order.

Beijing has predictably warned about the dangers of ‘trying to contain China by luring India‘ into the US orbit. Its concerns stem from India’s growing role on the world stage. The forward-looking aspects of collaborations in a range of sectors add to Beijing’s sense of annoyance. For India, this is a moment to leverage and build its own capabilities as an equal partner, cementing its place in the world. And to do its bit to make the world a safer place for all parties.


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