by Pradip R Sagar

A high-powered delegation from Washington comprising officials from the department of state and department of defence will be arriving in New Delhi in January to enhance the strategic and defence cooperation between the two nations.

The visit will be a follow-up to the first-ever India-US ministerial level 2+2 dialogue held in New Delhi on September 6 between Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman with their respective US counterparts, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James N. Mattis.

“A senior official level delegation is coming to India on January 11 to lay the ground work for implementation of decisions taken during the September 2+2 dialogue,” said a senior official in South Block.

The US delegation will be arriving in India after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's visit to the United States early this month, where she asserted that New Delhi sees the US as an important partner.

The new 2+2 dialogue format was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington D.C. in June, 2017, in his first ever meeting with US President Donald Trump. The new dialogue format was seen as a vehicle to elevate the strategic relationship between the two countries.

During the 2+2 dialogue, wide-ranging deliberations were made by both sides on various issues and the two countries vowed to work closely for the peace and prosperity of the region.

Several important decisions were taken during the meet, including the inking of "Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement", known as COMCASA. The agreement will facilitate access to the advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilise its existing US-origin platforms. The signing of COMCASA was considered as the biggest takeaway of the 2+2 dialogue. The two sides also decided to set up secure communication lines between the minister of external affairs of India and the US secretary of state, and between the minister of defence of India and the US secretary of defence to help maintain regular high-level communication on emerging developments.

“Efforts are now on to set up a hotline between the offices of defence and external affairs ministry of two countries,” an official said.

Recognising the growing military-to-military ties, a decision was also taken to organise tri-services war games where armies, navies and air forces of both countries will take part. While the two sides agreed on personnel exchanges between the two militaries and defence organisation, bilateral engagements in support of maritime security and maritime domain awareness were also reviewed. Both countries had also committed to start exchanges between the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy.