Amid rising tensions with China, India-US 2+2 meet to be held in Delhi on October 27

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The third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue will be held in New Delhi on October 27, 2020. India will be hosting the meet.

"US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark T Esper will be visiting India on 26-27 October 2020 to participate in the Dialogue. From the Indian side, Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar will lead the delegations from the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs, respectively," said a press release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

According to the US State Department, Secretary Pompeo will be on a four-nation tour - India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia between October 25 and 30.

The thrust of the visit of the two top US officials will be to strengthen strategic partnerships.

In addition, sources told India Today that amid growing tensions at the India-China border, India is likely to sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial cooperation with the United States.

This will be the third foundational agreement to be signed between India and the US after the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

"We are hoping to sign the BECA during the meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper and their Indian counterparts including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The agreement will ensure that the armed forces of the two countries start talking to each other on enhancing geospatial cooperation," top government sources told India Today.

The focus of the two counties would certainly be China and how to contain growing Chinese aggression in the region. The purpose is to advance US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership and "expand cooperation to promote stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world," said a press release by the US State Department.

During a press interaction on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "I'm especially looking forward to doing that with Secretary Esper in our two plus two ministerial dialogue with our Indian friends. It's been postponed because of the virus and glad we're going to be able to execute that in person here in just a few days. I'm sure that my meetings would also include discussions on how free nations can work together against the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party."

In order to underscore the commitment for a "free and open Indo-Pacific region", Pompeo will engage "a strong, sovereign Sri Lanka".

In Malé, Secretary Pompeo will advance partnership on issues ranging from regional maritime security to the fight against terrorism.

In Jakarta, he will reiterate the two countries' vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in his interaction at the Atlantic Council on Tuesday, mentioned how India has been standing up to Chinese belligerence when he said, "India will be the most consequential partner for us, in the Indo-Pacific for sure in this century. It's the world's largest democracy, a very capable country, very talented people and they face off every day Chinese aggression in the Himalayas, specifically along that Line of Actual Control."

"It's not an issue about China's rise. It's how they rise... So you see a lot more closer collaboration come out and this will be reflected in our meetings next week in New Delhi as well when we travel there," he added.

Responding to questions about agreements to be signed, Esper said, "We will give information on that when it is appropriate."

The first two 2+2 Ministerial dialogue was held in New Delhi in September 2018 followed by another in Washington DC in 2019. "The agenda for the third Dialogue will cover all bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest," said MEA.

(With inputs from Manjeet Negi)

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