The White House meeting, which could become one of the highlights of the trip, is still in the works and officials on both sides were non-committal about it, but, significantly, did not deny it.

A possible White House meeting with President Donald Trump, a key defence agreement, big-time arms deals and some blunt conversations about trade and Kashmir await defence minister Rajnath Singh and foreign minister S Jaishankar, when they meet their American counterparts for the second 2+2 ministerial next week.

The White House meeting, which could become one of the highlights of the trip, is still in the works and officials on both sides were non-committal about it, but, significantly, did not deny it.

“Working on it,” said one of them, in the clearest response yet.

They still have a few days to nail it.

But it has been argued that a meeting with Trump would be a deserving reciprocal gesture from the US to Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Mike Pompeo and then US defence secretary James Mattis when they visited New Delhi for the inaugural meeting of 2+2 in September 2018.

A White House meeting, if it comes through, will be a notable first for Indian ministers, in a rare break from protocol. Previous encounters between American presidents and Indian ministers were “drop-ins” with the president paying them an unscheduled or unannounced but pre-arranged visit.

Former president George W Bush had casually dropped in on a White House meeting in 2003, for instance, between the then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and visiting Union minister for home LK Advani. The president had stayed for 30 of the 38 minutes Rice and Advani met, according to a report.

No White House meeting for Indian ministers and officials, such the national security adviser, to meet counterparts that work out of the White House complex other than the prime minister.

As of now, the highlight of the upcoming 2+2 is the signing of a foundational agreement, the Industrial Security Annex. It will allow US defence manufacturers to partner with Indian private-sector companies and share their sensitive and proprietary technologies with them.

“We hope to make progress on another enabling agreement that will support our goal of greater defence industrial cooperation and interoperability, and will discuss key defence deals we hope to finalise in the coming months,” a senior state department official told reporters on Thursday, previewing the upcoming 2+2.

The last of the enabling agreements, also called foundational, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, which will let India use US-produced Geo-Spatial maps, is expected to be finalised and signed by next spring, according to available indication.

It would wrap up the quarter — Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was signed in 2016, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in 2018, ISA next week. Together they will enhance the ability of the Indian and US militaries to work together.

Discussions are also expected on India’s arms purchase list. Such as maritime helicopters called “Romeos” — MH 60R Seahawks, describes by manufacturer Lockheed Martin as “the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter” that can operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers.

India also wants 10 more of Boeing’s P-8 anti-submarine, anti-surface, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

And there is the long-standing offer of F-21s, a version of F-16s that has been rejigged for the Indian Air Force and for India to manufacture and export. Lockheed Martin, its manufacturer, has tied up with TATA, to bid for a 110-aircraft order that India is shopping for to replace its ageing MiG-21s.

The two sides also plan to further their cooperation on space and broaden people to people ties, which has been called the “secret weapon” propelling relations between the two countries.

It will be in an acknowledgement of the four million members of the Indian diaspora, America’s most prosperous and well-educated community, and the 200,000 Indian students in US colleges, who contribute an estimated $7 billion to the American economy.