Experts React: What To Expect from the U.S.-India 2+2 Summit
The fifth ministerial meetings of the U.S.-India 2+2 summit will be held in New Delhi on November 10. Established in 2018, the summit brings together senior leadership from the defense and foreign affairs ministries of the two countries. To date, the summits have provided the countries the space to discuss key areas of cooperation such as civil nuclear partnership, defense systems compatibility, climate change mitigation, and space cooperation. CSIS experts provide their analyses on the upcoming summit.
India Is at the High Table, and the United States Knows It
Adjunct Fellow, Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will head to New Delhi for the 2+2 summit on November 10. The summit will provide the two countries an opportunity to discuss bilateral cooperation, as well as the international foreign policy space.
With multiple significant events happening on the global scale—from Ukraine to Palestine—perhaps the most significant facet of the summit is that it is happening at all.
Naturally, the Middle East and Ukraine are currently drawing significantly more attention these days than the growing defense and diplomatic ties between Delhi and Washington. Each of these crises—much less two at the same time—has in the past caused one side (almost always the United States) to postpone travel and routine consultations and focus on the crisis du jour.
The difference this time is that Washington policymakers appear to mean it when they call their relationship with India one of the most consequential of the current century.
Washington is demonstrating this by seeing India as part of the solution rather than as a sideshow in world politics. The Biden administration is bothered by the fact that Delhi does not see the war in Ukraine though the same prism as Washington. But the Israel-Hamas conflict finds India and the United States closer and is a good harbinger for the future.
India has long wanted to be at the high table of global diplomacy. It may not be in the UN Security Council, but it is well on its way to being an essential voice in global politics. As the most populous country in the world, a leader of the Global South, and with a fast-growing modern economy, India has a place at the table.
Thus, it can be expected that this summit will be less of a teeing up of “deliverables” for the United States to bestow on India in the runup to another presidential visit early next year, and more of a serious global discussion among ministers who have gotten to know each other very well through frequent communication over the past three years.
They will assess bilateral issues, of course. However, a substantial part of the discussion will be how to deal with global crises such as the Middle East and Ukraine. Additionally, addressing climate change and responding to a rising and often combative China will be on the topline agenda too. India may not have the answers, but the perspective it brings to the table and its diplomatic, economic, and political reach around the world are crucial to dealing with global problems.
A U.S.-India 2+2 Meeting that Adds Up
Adjunct Fellow, Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies
The fifth U.S.-India 2+2 summit, scheduled for November 10, comes as both countries conclude what has been a banner year for bilateral relations. High-level engagements across defense, technology, the economy, energy, and health culminated in two leader-level engagements: a state visit for Prime Minister Modi in Washington, and a meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Biden on the sideline of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi. There is also another potential visit on the horizon, with U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti confirming that President Biden was invited to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebration in January 2024.
The agenda for the 2+2 will include taking forward two key announcements that were made during the leader-level engagements earlier this year. These include the agreement between General Electric and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to co-produce General Electric's F414 jet engine, which will power India's indigenously produced HAL Tejas Mark-II fighter jets, as well India’s decision to purchase 31 MQ-9B Reaper uncrewed aerial drones. Indian officials will seek to obtain assurances that both agreements, along with associated agreements for technology transfer, can navigate U.S. legal and regulatory export control measures, including the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
Both sets of officials will also seek to advance cooperation on two additional defense platforms: an extended range version of the M777 ultra lightweight Howitzer and Stryker combat vehicles. Prospects for cooperation for an extended range variant M777 Howitzer come after reports that, in 2022, India deployed the non-extended range versions along the Line of Actual Control. Ajit Doval, India’s national security adviser, also raised the possibility of joint U.S.-India co-production of the Howitzers and Stryker combat vehicles with his counterpart, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, earlier this year.
Beyond advancing bilateral defense cooperation, the cabinet officials will also discuss regional and global issues, including the wars between Russia and Ukraine as well as Hamas and Israel. When it comes to the latter, both countries have significant equities in the region, and seek to ensure that long-term progress on the “India-Middle East-Europe Corridor,” which President Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced alongside leaders from the Middle East and Europe, continues. Finally, the two sides are likely to discuss continued tensions between India and Canada in the aftermath of Canada’s allegation that Indian intelligence officials were involved in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist who India had designated a terrorist. While U.S. officials will likely continue to rhetorically call for India to cooperate with the Canadian investigation into the murder, the occurrence of the 2+2 and the substantive agenda that accompanies the meeting underscores the desire by both sides to ensure continued progress in the U.S.-India relationship.