Ahead of the 2+2 dialogue between India and the US on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said India buying a missile defence system from Russia and oil from Iran would be part of the dialogue, but not the primary focus.
Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis are headed to India for the talks on Thursday with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. This is the inaugural 2+2 dialogue between the two countries.
"They are (missile system purchase from Russia and oil from Iran) part of the conversation. They will certainly come up, but I don't think they will be the primary focus of what it is we are trying to accomplish here. There are half-a-dozen things on the agenda that we are really intent on making progress on," Pompeo said on Tuesday to a question from reporters who are travelling with him to Pakistan and then to India.
Pompeo will be travelling first to Pakistan and from there he will come to India. Sources said that India is keen to hear US assessment of Pakistan.
"Those decisions are important, they are important to the relationship for sure, but I don't see us resolving those or have the intention to resolve those during this set of meetings of the strategic dialogue. They are really about things that are big and strategic and will go on for 20, 40, 50 years. Those are the kinds of topics that secretary Mattis and I are hoping to address not that those are not important, but they are not part of the structural relationship between the two countries," said Pompeo.
India is expected to convey to the US during the dialogue that it is going ahead with the Rs 40,000 crore deal with Russia to procure a batch of S-400 Triumf air defence missile system.
The key highlights of the dialogue is scheduled to be counter-terrorism, defence cooperation and trade. According to sources, bilateral meetings between Pompeo and Sushma Swaraj and between Mattis and Sitharaman will be held in respective ministries.
The bilateral meetings will be followed by the combined 2 +2 Dialogue.
Top sources told ANI that counter-terrorism will be discussed in detail which may include a follow-up discussion on recently held Homeland Security Dialogue and Designation Dialogue. In this regard, the sharing of information, designation of international terrorists and organisations are on the table.
The US has designated Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) as terrorist organisations on the recommendations of India. Similarly, India has also designated Al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) as terrorist organisations which affect the US, sources said.
Washington and New Delhi will also discuss cooperation with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which has recently blacklisted Pakistan on charges of terror financing. Besides, talks will also cover exchange of intelligence and information.
On defence cooperation, sources told ANI that the leaders will take a stock of progress made during discussions on defence enabling agreements like COMCASA, military to military cooperation, specific partnership co-development, maritime security and other issues related to national security. The US has given India the status of major defence partner and has also accorded STA1 status.
Gowever, earlier reports said the specific issue of S-400 missile deal with Russia will not be on the table as it pertains to a third country. Sources added that CATSA is an internal US law and the country is expected to keep in mind its strategic relations with other countries while taking decisions.
Sources further said that India will also sensitise the US on oil imports and impact of sanctions on the Indian economy. "New Delhi will put it's case on how heavily dependent India is on Iran oil imports. It's refineries are used to Iranian crude, and cost of changing to other sources and the alternatives which are available," sources said.
New Delhi, at the same time, will also use this opportunity to understand from the US about its expectations from India. Other countries like Japan, China and South Korea are also holding discussions with the US on Iran sanctions.
After 2+2 Dialogue is concluded, all the four leaders will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following which Pompeo will be flying back to Washington. Sitharaman will be hosting a dinner for Mattis.
India regards this as the highest institutional political engagement between the two countries, while terming the 2 +2 Dialogue as a major diplomatic event in the calendar. The US has similar dialogue formats with two other countries -- Australia and Japan.
Pompeo has regretted that the dialogue had to be postponed twice in the past. "I regret it was my fault the second time. I had to travel to Pyongyang. But secretary Mattis and I are both looking forward to this," he said.
The twice-delayed dialogue was earlier scheduled for July 6 in Washington, but was postponed by the US on June 27, citing "unavoidable reasons". "We have a true strategic partner who, frankly, is our only major defence partner, right, the only designated major defense partner, with whom we have a great relationship and who is very important to our success in our Indo-Pacific strategy enormous country with incredibly opportunity and capacity for wealth creation," Pompeo said.
"We hope we can find opportunities to continue to expand the relationship not only diplomatic and military-to-military but a good set of business relationships as well," he said.