India – US 2+2 Dialogue: A Step towards Fostering INDIA-US Defense Relations

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Context: India and the USA have concluded several landmark agreements in both defence and Civilian sectors at the just concluded 2+2 Ministerial in Washington.

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: GS II-

  • India and its neighborhood- relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.

India’s 2+2 Mechanism:

  • India has put in place 2+2 dialogues, either at the level of officials or ministers, with several key partners, including Japan and the US. The maiden India-Japan 2+2 ministerial dialogue was also held in New Delhi. India and US are expected to hold their ministerial 2+2 dialogue in Washington, US.
  • 2+2 dialogue is the second-highest level of engagement between both countries after summit-level engagement between the Prime Minister and the US President.
  • It was agreed between both during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US in June 2017. It is similar to India-Japan 2+2 dialogue format between foreign and defence secretaries and ministers of the two countries.
  • 2+2 dialogue is aimed at enhancing strategic coordination between both countries and maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • It puts strategic, defence and security relationship between two countries at the forefront and centre stage.
  • It replaced earlier India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.
  • 2+2 dialogue insulates India-US strategic relationship from feuds over trade issues and deep divide on economic integration policies as trade and commercial issues that collided with strategic relationship between both countries’ discussed in Strategic and Commercial Dialogue earlier.

Agreements signed in the second India-US 2+2 MINISTERIAL DIALOGUE:

  • Industrial Security Annex (ISA):
    • The Industrial Security Annex (ISA) to the India-U.S. General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) will provide a framework for exchange and protection of classified military information between the U.S. and Indian defence industries.
  • Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI):
    • United States has announced its commitment to being the founding member of the CDRI whose headquarters will be located in India.
  • Finalisation of Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) Standard Operating Procedure (SOP):
    • This will harmonise the two side’s processes for identification, development and execution of projects under the DTTI.
  • S&T Agreement:
    • The new Science and Technology (S&T) Agreement concluded and implemented updates and replaces the 2005 Agreement and provides a framework for collaboration between the two countries in all fields of science, technology and innovation.
  • The Young Innovators Internship Programme (YIIP):
    • This Programme will create short-term internship opportunities in the U.S. for Indian students at post-secondary level or recent graduates, in key areas of scientific and economic endeavour.
  • Tiger Triumph Exercise:
    • It has been decided to hold the India-U.S. joint tri-services and amphibious exercise ‘Tiger Triumph’ on an annual basis. It was first held in November 2019 as a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise.
  • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA):
    • Both countries have agreed to continue discussions on BECA. It will enable the exchange of geospatial information between the two countries, enhancing the operational efficiency of the U.S. platforms currently being operated by India.
  • MRO facilities in India:
    • In line with GOI’s efforts to build defence industry ecosystem in India, both countries have agreed to explore collaboration for establishment of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities in India. 


External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh lead the Indian side, while Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence represented the US at the meeting.

The first 2+2 ministerial dialogue was held in New Delhi in September last year after the mechanism was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump.


How Defence Cooperation has been evolved over a period of time:

  • Two parallel tracks of dialogue began in the 1990s.
  • The strategic dialogue covering nuclear issues shifted gears following the nuclear tests of 1998 and imposition of sanctions by the U.S.
  • The over a dozen rounds of talks between both the countries during 1998-2000 marked the most intense dialogue between the two countries. It helped change perceptions leading to the gradual lifting of sanctions.
  • The next phase was the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership steered by the then National Security Advisers, Brajesh Mishra and Condoleezza Rice.
  • The momentum received a new impulse, eventually leading to the conclusion of the India-U.S. bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement in 2008.
  • The defence dialogue began in 1995 with the setting up of the Defence Policy Group at the level of the Defence Secretary and his Pentagon counterpart and three Steering Groups to develop exchanges between the Services.
  • A decade later, this was formalised and enlarged into the India-U.S. Defence Framework Agreement which was renewed for 10 years in 2015.
  • Today, the U.S. is the country with which India undertakes the largest number of military exercises which have gradually evolved in scale and complexity.
  • During the Cold War, more than three-fourths of India’s defence equipment was of Soviet origin. This gradually began to change, and in recent years, the U.S. and Israel emerged as major suppliers.

US – India Defence Trajectory:

  • During the visit of Prime Minister to the U.S. in June 2016, the U.S. recognised India as a “Major Defence Partner”
  • Agreements Signed Recently:
    • Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (LEMOA)
    • Fuel Exchange Agreement
    • Technical Agreement (TA) on information sharing on White (merchant) Shipping
    • The Information Exchange Annexe (IEA) Aircraft Carrier Technologies
  • Defence Acquisitions:
    • Aggregate worth of defence acquisition from U.S. Defence has crossed over US$ 13 billion.
    • India and the United States have launched a Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) aimed at simplifying technology transfer policies and exploring possibilities of co-development and co-production to invest the defence relationship with strategic value.
    • The two sides are also increasingly engaged in multi-lateral exercises such as the MALABAR, RED FLAG and RIMPAC, covering the broad expanse of the Indo-Pacific.
    • The US has recently renamed its Pacific Command as the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), an acknowledgement of the seamless connectivity that binds the Pacific and Indian Oceans and India’s growing importance.
    • The first-ever 2+2 dialogue was held in 2018 the backdrop of burgeoning joint exercises such as Cope-India (Air Force), Yudh Abhyas (Army) and Vajra Prahar (Special Forces).
    • The Indian Navy and the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) are set to deepen their maritime cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean.

Engaging with Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and the Indian Army:

  • The Indian Air Force went in for C-130J Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster aircraft, along with Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.
  • The Indian Navy acquired a troop carrier ship and the P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
  • An agreement for 24 multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy is expected soon.
  • The Indian Army went in for the M-777 howitzers and artillery radars. From a total of less than $400 million of defence acquisitions during 1947-2005, the U.S. has signed defence contracts of over $15 billion since.
  • During the Obama administration, the US understood that a defence supply relationship needed to be backed by technology sharing and joint development and came up with the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTII).
  • To get around export control licensing and other bureaucratic hurdles, an India Rapid Reaction Cell in the Pentagon was set up. In 2016, India was designated as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ country.
  • Another step forward in the middle of this year was the inclusion of India in the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) category, putting it on a par with allies in terms of technology access.
  • The U.S. proposed its standard logistics support agreement text in 2003 which was finally concluded in 2016 after it was made into an India-specific text.
  • It facilitates logistics supplies during port visits and joint exercises and does not contain any obligations for joint activity or any basing arrangements.
  • The India-specific Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), is also signed.
  • With the possibility of acquiring armed Sea Guardian drones, COMCASA was necessary to ensure optimal use.

The U.S. has four “foundational” agreements :

  • The General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA),:
    • It was signed by India and the U.S. in 2002. The agreement enables the sharing of military intelligence between the two countries and requires each country to protect the others' classified information.
  • The second agreement, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA):
    • It was signed by the two countries on 29 August 2016. The LEMOA permits the military of either country to use the others' bases for re-supplying or carrying out repairs.
  • The third agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA):
    • It was signed during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue in September 2018. It is an India-specific variant of Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) that enables the two countries to share secure communication and exchange information on approved equipment during bilateral and multinational training exercises and operations.
  • The fourth agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)
    • It has not yet been signed.



Promoting Prosperity and People-to-People Ties:

  • Both countries committed to further expanding and balancing the trade and economic partnership consistent with their leaders’ 2017 joint statement, including by facilitating trade, improving market access, and addressing issues of interest to both sides.
  • Thus, both sides welcomed the ongoing exchanges between the Ministry of Commerce of India and the Office of the United States Trade Representative and hoped for mutually acceptable outcomes.
  • Both sides looked forward to full implementation of the civil nuclear energy partnership and collaboration between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company for the establishment of six nuclear power plants in India.


  • Creative thinking will be needed in the 2+2 dialogue to overcome these challenges, which should also ensure that difficult issues are settled through quiet diplomacy.
  • In order to realise the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region (2015), both countries will have to nurture the habit of talking and working together to diminish some of the prickliness in the partnership.

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