India does not want its 2+2 talks with US to irk China

India does not want its 2+2 talks with US to irk China

Narenda Modi and Xi Jinping. PTI photo.

India is keen on making sure that its first "2+2 dialogue" with the US in New Delhi on Thursday does not end up sending out a hostile message to China.

Though the US wants India to play a key role in containing China in Indo-Pacific, New Delhi is likely to tread cautiously, as it does not want to put in peril its detente with the Communist country.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will host American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James N Mattis for the inaugural India-US "2+2 dialogue" in New Delhi on Thursday.

The US officials over the past few days indicated that "advancing the shared vision" of India and America for Indo-Pacific was on the agenda of the "2+2 dialogue", which would have at its "front and centre" the issue of hegemonic aspirations of China.

Pompeo and Mattis are likely to convey to Sushma and Nirmala that India and the US share "an interest in promoting security and prosperity" in the Indo-Pacific in order to ensure "freedom of the seas and skies, promote market economics, support good governance and insulate sovereign nations from external coercion".

The US Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence are likely to nudge New Delhi to commit to play a "central role" in President Donald Trump's strategy for countering China in the Indo-Pacific region.

India, however, is likely to remain non-committal and avoid echoing the US to make it sure it does not raise hackles in China.

Sources in New Delhi said that Sushma and Nirmala would seek to know from Pompeo and Mattis the broad contours of Trump administration's strategy on Indo-Pacific.

They would also convey to them New Delhi's vision for the region, as articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his keynote address at Shangri La dialogue in Singapore on June 1.

External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister would underline that India's approach on Indo-Pacific was not the same as that of the US, although the two had "certain similarities", sources, aware about New Delhi's engagement with Washington, added.

India had joined Japan, Australia and the US to relaunch a quadrilateral dialogue on Indo-Pacific in November 2017. The move had apparently been aimed at bringing the four democratic nations together and creating a bulwark against China in the Indo-Pacific region. 

New Delhi, however, went for a course correction early this year, as it started reaching out to Beijing to mend the complex India-China relations, which had hit a new low over the 72-day-long military face-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in June-August 2017.

Modi, himself, made it clear in Singapore that India never viewed the Indo-Pacific region as "a strategy or as a club of limited members".

He said that India stood for a free, open, inclusive region, which would embrace all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity.

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