Closing Remarks at the U.S.-India 2+2 Dialogue

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis during a press briefing after the India-US 2+2 Strategic Dialogue meeting, in New Delhi on Sept 6, 2018. (Photo: IANS/DPRO)
Remarks by:

Michael R. Pompeo, 
Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj
Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman

MINISTER SWARAJ: (Via interpreter) Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mr. Mattis, my cabinet colleague Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, ladies and gentlemen, and my friends from the media: We have just concluded our talks in the first-ever 2+2 Dialogue between India and the United States. As you know, this new dialogue format was decided by Prime Minister Modi and President Trump during their first meeting in Washington, DC, in June 2017. This decision reflects our leaders’ desire to further elevate our bilateral strategic communication on cross-cutting defense and security issues.

Friends, this is the first visit abroad by Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis together. This is also Secretary Pompeo’s first visit to India after becoming foreign minister, and this is also my first meeting with him. Naturally, we have had a lot of issues to discuss during this meeting. Prior to the 2+2 Dialogue, I had a bilateral meeting with Secretary Pompeo, and during this meeting we reviewed the direction of our bilateral relations in recent months, and we exchanged views on a number of regional issues of shared concern.

The recent decision by the United States to put India in the list of countries eligible for Strategic Trade Authorization Tier-1 license exemption reflects India’s robust and responsible export control policies. During our meeting today, we also agreed to work together to secure India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at the earliest.

Friends, an important element of our strategic partnership is our rapidly growing trade and investment ties. Faster growth in these areas and deeper people-to-people connections are a source of strength for our strategic partnership. Rapidly growing economies are giving rise to new opportunities and a basis for more intense economic engagement. This supports development of manufacturing, promotes knowledge and innovation, creates jobs, and also provides critical resources for growth.

The United States is emerging as a supplier of energy to India as well. We recognized and supported efforts made by the two sides to address trade-related issues on both sides so as to make trade balanced and mutually beneficial.

With respect to the H1-B visa, we have requested Secretary Pompeo to ensure a nondiscriminatory and predictable approach to the H1-B visa (inaudible), given its high impact on innovation, competitiveness, and people-to-people partnership. All of these are a vital source of strength for our relationship, and I said to Secretary given the friendship between Trump and Prime Minister Mr. Modi, we know that all of our people believe that nothing will ever happen detrimental to our relations between these two countries, and I requested Secretary Pompeo to ensure that we live up to the beliefs of the people of our countries.

In the context of our four ministers, we have a growing convergence of views between our countries on the Indo-Pacific. Our respective approaches towards this concept have been outlined by our leaders, by President Trump at the APEC meeting last year, and by Prime Minister Modi at the Shangri-La Dialogue this summer. We see the Indo-Pacific region as a free, open, and inclusive concept with ASEAN centrality at the core and defined by a common, rules-based order that both our countries are pursuing.

We welcome the United States interest in expanding its economic footprint in this region, as this complements our own efforts. We agreed to strengthen our bilateral cooperation as well in order to achieve the common goals related to connectivity and infrastructure, and work together with other partners in this region as well to achieve these goals.

Friends, in order to fight terrorism we have considerably advanced our cooperation. Last year, the terrorist designations dialogue was established and other mechanisms as well to promote cooperation in counterterrorism. We have agreed to deepen cooperation in international forums like the United Nations and the Financial Action Task Force.

We welcome the recent designations of Lashkar e-Tayyiba terrorists by the United States. They underscore the international community’s scrutiny over the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which has affected India and United States alike. On the 10th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, we recognize the importance of justice and retribution for the masterminds behind this terrorist attack.

We also discussed the situation in South Asia in some detail. India supports President Trump’s South Asia policy. His call for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism finds resonance with us. We want to also ensure that the call for Pakistan to stop using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

We discussed the ongoing efforts by India and the United States in promoting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan Government-controlled reconciliation process, and this brings together all ethnic groups and political formations in the country. We also had productive exchanges on other regional issues as well.

Today, overall, I am highly satisfied with our conversation today. The 2+2 meeting has helped shared efforts of both sides to promote a whole-of-government approach for our strategic priorities. India and the United States, as the largest and oldest democracies in the world, each pursuing its independent foreign policies, have many shared global objectives. As equal partners in cooperation our two countries can benefit not only the people of their own countries, but also become a factor for peace and stability in the wider world.

We have agreed to closely monitor the implementation of the decisions taken today. Secretary Pompeo and I have decided to remain in touch regularly through the new hotline which has been established between our foreign ministers and defense ministers. And we will thus be able to remain continuously in touch, by myself and our defense minister, Mrs. Sitharaman.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) States, Mr. Michael Pompeo, to give his remarks.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon. On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank Minister of External Affairs Swaraj and Minister of Defense Sitharaman for hosting Secretary Mattis and me for this first-ever U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. It is truly historic and important. Thank you.

This is my first trip to India as Secretary of State, and it is an honor to travel here for such an important and successful event. Later today, Secretary Mattis and I will meet with Prime Minister Modi. We look forward to discussing how best to advance the U.S.-India relationship, one that is in a new era of growth under his leadership and that of President Trump.

Today’s 2+2 meeting is symbolic of our increasingly close partnership. We had many productive and forward-thinking conversations on our bilateral relationship, our shared future, and how we can cooperate in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.

As the two largest democracies in the world, the United States and India are deeply bound by our shared values. We have a responsibility to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific that reflects those values: the rule of law; national sovereignty; good governance; the protection of fundamental freedoms, rights, and liberties; free, fair, and reciprocal trade relationships; and peaceful resolutions of territorial and maritime disputes.

We know our peoples’ ability to exercise their economic and personal freedoms depends on a strong and stable security environment. To that end, today our two countries enter into an ambitious plan to elevate our security cooperation across a number of areas. The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement is a major step forward in our defense collaboration and coordination. It will allow us to better protect the freedom and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.

We also agreed on the scope and scale of military cooperation with India as our major defense partner – a unique status that the United States has granted to India. I’ll let Secretary Mattis speak on this in more detail.

Today we also discussed a number of pressing regional and global issues, including Afghanistan and North Korea, and how our two countries can work together more closely to address each of those. We also committed to deepen our already strong counterterrorism cooperation.

On economic matters, President Trump recognizes the long-term strategic importance of India’s economy playing a productive role in the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing region. He is intent on ensuring the United States, India, and all countries can responsibly reap the benefits of an Indo-Pacific that is open, free with fair trade and investment.

As just one example of President Trump’s commitment, Secretary of Commerce recently announced Strategic Trade Authorization Tier-1 status for India just a few weeks ago. This will further facilitate high-technology exports from the United States to India. The United States will continue to practice partnership economics with India and all the other countries in the region. We seek to unlock the unparalleled potential of our private sectors to meet the region’s developmental, energy and infrastructure needs, and to create an environment in which businesses and countries can thrive when they play by the rules.

Today also marks another milestone for our relationship. Thanks to intense advocacy from the United States, 10 years ago today the Nuclear Suppliers Group voted to allow India to engage in trades of civilian nuclear materials and technologies. That vote and the subsequent Section 123 civil nuclear agreement opened a path for our strategic relationship to grow, bolster defense and commercial cooperation and expanded our people-to-people ties. We now look forward to what we can achieve over the next 10 years. In particular, we look forward to finalizing the Westinghouse civil nuclear project that will provide clean and reliable power to millions of Indians.

I want to close by again thanking our Indian hosts for your generosity that you have shown to me and my colleagues. The United States will continue to work with India to foster greater security and prosperity for our nations, the Indo-Pacific region and indeed the world.

And with that, I invite the Minister of Defense to make remarks.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. It is my now pleasure to request (in Hindi) Nirmala Sitharaman to deliver her remarks to the media.

MINISTER SITHARAMAN: Secretary of State – Defense of the United States, Mr. James Mattis, United States Secretary of State Mr. Michael Pompeo, my respected senior colleague (in Hindi) Sushma Swaraj, friends from the media, and ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

We have just concluded a most productive, positive, and purposeful meeting. I wish to thank Secretaries Mattis and Pompeo for their vision and commitment. We deeply value their support for stronger ties between India and the United States. Our discussions today were marked by the deep friendship that characterizes relations between the greatest democracies of the world. The commitment of India and the United States to defend our shared democratic values and expand on our common interests is clear and unwavering. In today’s meeting, we reaffirmed our intention to cooperate in every possible way to ensure peace and stability as well as to realize the aspirations of our peoples for continued economic growth, prosperity, and development. We will also work together to combat the persisting threat of terrorism and other shared security challenges. In our discussions, we explored the instrumentalities necessary to deliver on those shared objectives.

Ladies and gentlemen, defense cooperation has emerged as the most significant dimension of our strategic partnership and as a key driver of our bilateral – overall bilateral relationship. The momentum in our defense partnership has imbued a tremendous positive energy that has elevated India-U.S. relations to unprecedented heights. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi had succinctly stated at his address to the U.S. Congress a year ago, India’s relations with the U.S. has overcome the hesitations of history. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of defense.

Today, India’s defense forces carry out extensive training and joint exercises with the United States. Our joint exercises have acquired greater complexity and newer dimensions both bilaterally and in wider formats. To enhance our synergies in this area, we have decided to carry out for the first time a tri-services joint exercise with the United States off the eastern coast of India in 2019. We are also putting in place an enabling framework for closer cooperation between our defense forces.

The signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, LEMOA, in 2016 and the Helicopter Operations from Ships other Than Aircraft Carriers, the HOSTAC, earlier this year were important steps in this direction.

The signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, COMCASA, today will enable India to access advanced technologies from the U.S. and enhance India’s defense preparedness. Maritime security has been a focus area of our participation and cooperation. To deepen our ties in this area, we will expand our interactions on maritime domain awareness. The United States has renamed its Pacific Command, responsible for relations with India, as Indo-Pacific Command. Reflecting a wider global participation and partnership, we will also enhance our interactions with the United States military’s Central Command.

Friends, one of the focus areas of the discussions was on expanding the scope and content of the U.S.’s designation of India as its major defense partner. We welcome the recent decision to elevate India to STA Tier-1 status for access to advanced technologies, especially in the defense field. I’m confident that this and other measures to follow will enable our defense industry cooperation to make speedy progress for mutual benefit. We highlighted the major reforms being implemented by the government to promote defense manufacturing in India under the Make in India initiative, including setting up of defense manufacturing corridors.

We welcome the U.S.’s positive response to India’s request to nominate a point of contact in the U.S. Department of Defense to help address procedural complexities and facilitate Indian companies to join the manufacturing supply chains of the U.S. defense companies. We also identified cooperation in defense innovation as a major area of emphasis for the future. As our defense needs become increasingly driven by technology, this is both necessary and timely. I am particularly thankful to have Secretary Mattis, who has spent several years in Silicon Valley, as our interlocutor in taking this aspect of our ties forward. The memorandum of intent between our defense innovation agencies, which has been signed virtually last night, is a first step in this direction.

Ladies and gentlemen, the conclusion of the first-ever Ministerial 2+2 between India and the United States is a concrete manifestation of the vision of our leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump, to take the India-U.S. relationship to a new level. Our leaders recognize that it is no longer viable to address foreign and defense issues in a compartmentalized manner. In today’s meeting, we were able to discuss a range of issues relating to our ties in a strategic framework and identify steps to take forward our relationship. Our discussions have paved the way for a new era in India-U.S. defense and strategic engagement. Given our shared interests, we are confident that we can work together to promote peace, economic prosperity and security in our region and beyond. I once again thank Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis for their engagement in promoting the India-U.S. partnership. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, ma’am. And finally, may I call upon the Secretary of Defense of the United States, Mr. James Mattis, to deliver his statement to the media.

SECRETARY MATTIS: Well, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and Minister Swaraj and Minister Sitharaman, just thank you for the warm hospitality and the professional discussions that we have had here today. It’s a pleasure to be back in New Delhi among friends and representing the United States alongside Secretary of State Pompeo. And Minister Sitharaman, I would just say that I wholeheartedly concur with how you characterized the defense relationship in your statement just now. Today’s fruitful discussion illustrated the value of continued collaboration between these two coequal democracies. It’s a strong relationship between the world’s two largest democracies and it did not begin with those of us sitting here before you. We inherited it, and now we ensure it is even stronger when we pass it to our successors on a higher trajectory than we received it.

Since India gained its independence in 1947, our nations have shared a fundamental respect and love of freedom. Just three years after India’s independence, Prime Minister Nehru visited the United States – in his words, and I quote – “On a voyage of discovery of the mind and heart of America.” Today, Secretary Pompeo and I bring the same spirit that Prime Minister Nehru carried to Washington almost 70 years ago, promoting the cooperation which both our countries earnestly desire. Today’s successful and highly productive meeting, the first ever 2+2 between our nations at the ministerial level, has further bolstered our strong defense relationship, as you just heard. We reiterated our highest respect for each other’s sovereignty and committed to work together for a safe, secure, prosperous and free Indo-Pacific, one that is underpinned by the rule of law.

We appreciate India’s role as a stabilizing force on the region’s geographic front lines. Your nation understands better than many peace and prosperity are only attainable when all respect the principles of territorial integrity, freedom of navigation, freedom from coercion. All of these are fundamental to the rules-based order. Only then, to borrow Prime Minister Modi’s words, can nations small and large prosper free and fearless in their choices. We will continue working together to enhance and expand India’s role as a primary major defense partner, to elevate our relationship to a level commensurate with our closest allies and partners. Today we took, as you know, a significant step towards that goal by signing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement. The landmark agreement deepens our military-to-military cooperation and our ability to share the most advanced defense technology, making us both stronger.

In addition, we agreed to increase and expand our engagement in the maritime domain with a new tri-service exercise. And Secretary Pompeo and I also gained insights on a range of issues from the DPRK sanction enforcement to counterterrorism cooperation, recognizing that both our nations have endured the effects of senseless terrorist attacks like those 10 years ago in Mumbai, which killed innocents from more than a dozen nations. We remember those lives lost as we approach the 10th anniversary of attacks this November. Today, the steps we took will pave the way ahead for an even closer military relationship. Our meeting signified the bright future ahead for our two nations, indicating the growing trust we share as strategic partners. We look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Modi this afternoon, and welcome the opportunity to thank him for his strong leadership and to discuss the way ahead, and thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. This concludes the press statement ceremony and thank you all for joining.