by Brig Arun Bajpai

The way Pakistani new Prime Minster Imran Khan is again ranting about Kashmir and his Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa threatening India of dire consequences, is in itself an indicator that the recently held Indian maiden 2+2 talks with USA has rubbed salt into their already wounded ego. America has been at their throats ever since Trump came to power, shedding the niceties of earlier regimes, Trump has been blunt and relentless in admonishing Pakistan over its overt and covert means of fomenting and nurturing Jihadists factories. This is a quantum jump in US –Indian relations with an eye by US on its revived Asia strategy, in which it sees India as counterfoil to China.

While Pakistan thought it can remain cool and even rebuff American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and American Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford who visited Pakistan for a few hours on 4 Sep, en-route to India, demanding from Pakistan read Pakistani Army Do More against their sponsored Jihadists, in India, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, breaking all protocols went herself to receive her US counterpart Mike Pompeo at the airport and Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, met her American counterpart Defence Secretary James Mattis, who flew directly from the US. This was very much in keeping with the Indian tradition of welcoming a guest, more so when they are visiting us for the first time.

In the talks, which was held on Thursday 05 Sep, land mark US-India Agreement the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was finally signed. India has been hedging to sign this agreement, which enables installing of all top secret encrypted equipment of US origin on US origin Indian platforms, enabling Indian forces to talk to US forces. India was not signing this earlier due to fear that then US may know location of various Naval Ships of Indian Navy. Indian Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman hailed signing of COMCASA deal as elevating US-India bilateral relations to unprecedented heights while US side also depicted it as a break through. What is also very significant is the joint press conference after these Indo-US talks, where both sides demanded Pakistan to act on Pakistan sponsored Jihadists by name.

Truth is that US has revamped Its Indo –Pacific strategy in the face of Chinese growing strength. This strategy covers the massive geography spreading from US West Coast to India. US is convinced that India can act as regional counter weight to Chinese expansion.US defence Secretary Mattis has said in plain terms that We see the strengthening of Indian democracy, its military, its economy as an stabilising element in the world. What we must understand is that deepening of US-India relationship is centred around promoting a regional agenda of ensuring freedom of seas and skies, promoting market economies, supporting good governance and ensuring sovereign nations from coercion. Towards this end US had declared India as a major Defence Partner in 2016 and now signing of COMCASA will promote greater cooperation in defence field and counter-terrorism. 

Some well known Indian defence and strategic analysts have voiced their concerns over these 2+2 talks that while US has got what it wanted, what did India get? They are referring to two sore points of Indo-US relations, of US imposing sanctions on Russia and Iran and by default these sanctions also affecting those countries who are dealing with Iran and Russia in terms of secondary sanctions. 70% of Indian Armed Forces equipment is Russian for which India constantly needs spares. Besides, India is buying from Russia S-400 missile defence system for six billion dollars. In addition a secret deal is signed between India and Russia of transfer of second Akula-2 class nuclear submarine to India on lease for two billion dollars. First Akula-2 class Russian nuclear submarine India is already operating as Chakra. there is also unconfirmed news in Air that instead of six diesel-electric submarines which India is planning to build for its navy, Russia may help India build six nuclear powered submarines at much lower cost. As for Iran, this country is third largest supplier of energy to India. Lot of Indian refineries have been built to suit refining of Iran crude oil only. Also India is building for Iran Chabahar Port in Iran which allows India to reach Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. Truth is that whatever public posture US may adopt, in these 2+2 talks it has heard and understood Indian point of view on these two issues and both countries will find a way out because it suits US also. All said and done this maiden 2+2 talks between US and India which will now be held yearly are a win win situation for both countries and must be pursued with vigour.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same