India, US to ink space MoU during 2+2 meet

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But the 2+2 will focus on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, where the two countries are strategically more aligned…reports Asian Lite News

A pact to share information on space activities is to be signed by the US and India during the 2+2 meeting of their diplomatic and defence leaders in Washington on Monday, according to the State Department.

The Space Situational Awareness Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aims to protect the satellites of the two countries.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin for the Fourth 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue that will finally take place after being postponed in December 2021.

It will kick off ceremoniously on Monday at 9 a.m. (6.30 p.m. IST) with an honour cordon to welcome Rajnath Singh to the Pentagon for a meeting with Austin.

At the same time over at the State Department, Blinken will meet Jaishankar, according to the schedule for the 2+2 circulated by the US.

The 2+2 meeting takes place under the cloud of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the divergent approach to it by India and the US.

But before the meeting, President Joe Biden will hold a virtual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at which the Russian invasion of Ukraine will figure, according to the White House.

At a briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “President Biden will continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilizing impact on global food supply and commodity markets.”

India has tried to stay neutral on the Russian invasion given its dependence on Moscow for vital defence supplies and abstained on eight Ukraine-related votes at the UN.

The US, which is leading the global response to the invasion prefers India to take a stronger stand against Russia.

But the 2+2 will focus on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, where the two countries are strategically more aligned.

The formal 2+2 meeting of the ministers and the secretaries will be held at the State Department with the opening press statements that will be live-streamed on www.state.gov at 2 p.m. on Monday (11.30 p.m. IST).

It will be followed by the signing of the Space Situational Awareness MoU.

The four are scheduled to hold a news conference at 4.45 p.m. (2.15 a.m. Tuesday IST), which is also to be live-streamed.

Concluding the 2+2 meeting, Blinken will hold a working dinner for the other 2+2 leaders at 6 p.m. (3.30 a.m. Tuesday IST). The 2+2 meetings held since 2018 alternate between the two capitals and its fourth edition, which was to have been held in December, was postponed because of the visit of Russian President Vladimir to New Delhi that month.

This year’s event will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between India and the US, the State Department said.

Biden to hold virtual summit with Modi

US President Joe Biden will discuss with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Russian invasion of Ukraine when they hold a virtual summit just before the diplomatic and defence leaders of the two countries meet for their 2+2 meeting, the White House announced on Sunday.

While the relations between the two largest democracies have been growing at an unprecedented pace, they have been at odds over the Russian invasion of Ukraine with India trying to stay neutral to the consternation of the US.

The US has been trying to persuade India to join it in taking a harder line against Russia.

Biden’s Spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “President Biden will continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilizing impact on global food supply and commodity markets.”

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are to hold the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss a range of issues, bilateral and global, on Monday.

Amid the differences between the two countries on Ukraine, the mention of “mitigating” the invasion’s impact on global food supply could open the way for cooperation between India and the US to help countries facing a crisis from the rising prices and shortages of wheat.

India has a huge stockpile of wheat — estimated at 100 million tonnes, far beyond its immediate safety net requirements — that could be deployed to help countries facing a food crisis.

Psaki said that further deepening ties “between our governments, economies, and our people”, will be on the summit agenda.

She indicated that the Indo-Pacific will feature prominently in their conversation.

They will discuss “upholding a free, open, rules-based international order to bolster security, democracy, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”, she said.

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