India 2 plus 2 dialogue to take place on Thursday

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left shakes hand with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left shakes hand with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj

Pompeo and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met separately Thursday before joining top defense officials for talks. The exercise will involve sea, land, and air forces. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says, "I am delighted to be making my first trip to India as Secretary of State, sixteen weeks into my time".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are on an official visit to India with a top agenda priority of pressuring New Delhi to stop buying Iran's oil.

"That vote and the subsequent section 123 civil nuclear agreement opened a path for our strategic relations to grow, bolster defence and commercial cooperation and expanded our people-to-people ties", Pompeo said.

However, the significant event on Thursday was the signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, which is one the four foundational agreements that the United States signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries.

Known as COMCASA, this deal will allow the two countries to exchange sensitive military information quickly and securely.

She also noted that there was a growing convergence of views, including on the Indo-Pacific, during the discussion among the four ministers.

India's defense minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, also said that, with the increased military cooperation between the two countries, bilateral ties have risen to "a new level".

A Pentagon official last month threatened to impose sanctions on India if it goes ahead with its $6 billion purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

None of the officials who spoke after the talks made any reference to where things stand on that issue.

U.S. President Donald Trump this year ordered the reimposition of economic curbs on Iran after withdrawing his country from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.

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If the S-400 deal is finalised, India has signalled it will ask Washington for a special waiver from sanctions, though a United States official last week said there is no guarantee it would do so.

The presence of US troops in Afghanistan has heightened USA sensitivity to the rivalry between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

India already has bought US Apache attack helicopters and other gear, and is negotiating to buy armed drones.

Analysts say the deal could result in the U.S. transfer high-tech equipment such as the Sea Guardian armed surveillance drones to India.

The talks were first meant to be held in April and then in June but both were postponed, triggering speculation of a rift.

Pompeo denied he had anything to do with the letter.

India is the world's third-biggest oil importer and Iran's second after China.

Experts believe the signing of the agreement could also reduce the chances of the United States imposing sanctions on India for looking to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. On Thursday, Pompeo said the USA would work with India on its planned purchase of the S-400.

The US and India, he said, already have the foundation in their commitment to "a safe, secure prosperous and free Indo-Pacific region where sovereignty of all nations is respected, worldwide norms are upheld, disputes are resolved peacefully and nations freely transit global waters and airspace". Prime Minister Narendra Modi's political and foreign-policy interests in deepening United States ties are clear.

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