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Pompeo, Mattis hold security talks with Indian counterparts

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman shake hands after signing the COMCASA agreement, at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018. Mattis met with his counterpart, along with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj for the first ever U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
September 06, 2018

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have held talks with their counterparts in India, one day after Pompeo visited regional rival Pakistan.

The two men met in New Delhi on September 6 with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swarah and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for talks on strategic and security matters.

“As the two largest democracies in the world, the United States and India are deeply bound by our shared values,” Pompeo told journalists after the talks. “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.”

The so-called 2+2 talks, called that because they include both diplomatic and military officials, were postponed twice before, most recently in July when Pompeo had to make an urgent trip to North Korea.

In 2016, Washington designated India as a “major defense partner.”

“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,” Mattis reiterated following the New Delhi talks.

Sitharaman also emphasized that the two countries were “partners in building defense capability in the broadest sense of the term.”

During the meeting, the two countries signed an agreement on secure military communications that could pave the way for Washington to sell sensitive military equipment to India.

India and the United States also agreed to establish a hotline between their top diplomats and to hold joint military exercises off India’s eastern coast next year.

In recent weeks, the United States has expressed concerns over Indian plans to purchase the advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile-defense system from Russia.

The United States has asked India to reconsider the purchase, saying it could face penalties for dealing with sanctioned Russian defense contractors.

India has said that if it finalizes the deal with Moscow, it will ask Washington for a special waiver.