The fourth round of the “2+2 dialogue” between India and the US took place between 10 and 15 April. The format of the 2+2 dialogue involves concurrent meetings between the Indian External Affairs and Defence Ministers with the US Secretary of State and Defence Secretary. The idea is to have closer coordination of the foreign and military policies of the two states. At present, India has 2+2 dialogues only with the US, Russia, Japan and Australia.
The context of this 2+2 meeting was different from earlier ones. US imperialism is on an all out drive to weaken and isolate Russia internationally, using its intervention in Ukraine as an excuse. So far, the Indian state has not aligned its policy on the Ukraine situation with that of the US and its allies.
During the Cold War period, the ruling Indian big bourgeoisie sought to expand its power by balancing its ties with the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, gaining what it could from both. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of the bipolar division of the world, the Indian state has drawn closer to the US. At the same time, it still maintains close ties with Russia. For instance, about 60% of India’s military equipment is sourced from Russia.
In the aftermath of the Ukraine situation, India has so far not voted against Russia in international fora like the UN Security Council. It has also stepped up its purchases of Russian oil and tried to evolve rupee-rouble payments to bypass the US-led sanctions on dealings with Russia.
Given this situation, it was to be expected that the latest 2+2 meeting with the US would be dominated by US imperialism’s efforts to pressure India to change its stance and fall in line with its objectives, in return for military equipment and other concessions.
What happened during the 2+2 meeting?
In a surprise move, US President Joe Biden held an unscheduled virtual summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the eve of the meeting between India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with their counterparts Anthony Blinken and Lloyd Austin.
The summit was clearly an effort to put pressure on India at the highest levels to fall in line with US imperialism’s strategic aims.
Although exactly what transpired in the summit meeting is not known, the Indian state has not changed its stand on Russia-Ukraine as of now.
Hence it is no surprise that a couple of major developments that were expected to come out of the 2+2 meeting did not come to pass. This included an agreement for the purchase of 30 Predator Armed Drones from the US for India’s three armed services. Also, it was expected that the US might waive the provisions of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). This would have prevented the US from penalising India for its purchases of S 400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia in 2018. No such waiver was announced.
However, some other types of military collaboration were discussed at the meetings. This included a memorandum of understanding on a Space Situational Awareness Agreement, plans for expanded joint military exercises, and a Cyberspace dialogue. In an unprecedented move, the two sides discussed India giving the use of Indian shipyards for mid-voyage repair of American naval ships.
Significantly, the two sides discussed co-production, co-development and cooperative testing of advanced systems. One of the key disadvantages for India of purchasing military equipment from the US has been the provisions of the End Use Monitoring Agreement signed in 2009. This prevents India from retrofitting or adapting military equipment purchased from the US. It also prevents buying spare parts or servicing such equipment by any other country or party apart from the original manufacturers. Military equipment purchased from Russia has not been restricted by such provisions.
In the present scenario, the US is very keen to undermine Russia’s military industry. Losing the Indian market would be a major blow to Russia. That is why, in this meeting, the carrot of co-production of military equipment, with its promise of transfer of technology, was held out by the US negotiators to try and wean India away from its Russian suppliers.
Various commentators have claimed that in this 2+2 meeting, the US and India have ‘agreed to disagree’ on the issue of Russia and Ukraine. This is a wrong assessment. US imperialism is relentless in its pursuit of its strategic aims, of which the weakening and isolation of Russia is a key element. As a big country and a supposed ‘strategic partner’ of the US, the reluctance of the Indian state to align its policy toward Russia with that of the US and its allies is a thorn in the flesh of US imperialism. It will not just sit back and agree to differ, but will come after India with all the weapons in its arsenal, political, military and economic. The Indian ruling class’ self-serving policy of drawing closer to the US over the last couple of decades, far from ensuring India’s security, has only undermined it. To be able to maintain any semblance of an independent foreign policy that is in India’s national interest, the severance of strategic ties with US imperialism is a must.