US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to enhance peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new two-by-two ministerial dialogue, which would elevate their strategic consultations, according to the White House.
"This is a very welcome development. Having a joint State-Defence conversation with India makes much more sense than having a State-Commerce dialogue because the convergence between the two countries is much greater on strategic issues in comparison to commercial issues," Ashley Tellis, a top American expert on the Indo-US relationship, told news agency PTI.
The new format would include External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and their American counterparts Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis.
"I am optimistic that we can make great progress, building on what has been achieved under (George) Bush and (Barack) Obama," said Mr Tellis, who is the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a top American think-tank.
The State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told foreign journalists yesterday that no dates have been set yet for the dialogue.
The modalities of this new format were discussed by Ms Swaraj and Mr Tillerson during a phone call on Tuesday.
"A new format bringing defence and foreign ministries together will up the strategic coordination between New Delhi and Washington," observed Alyssa Ayres, from the Council on Foreign Relations.
"This will be helpful to coordinate more closely on Afghanistan, the Indian Ocean, developments in the Asia Pacific, and hopefully also on the Middle East (West Asia for India)," Ms Ayres told news agency PTI.
The establishment of a two-by-two ministerial dialogue is very good news, said Richard M Rossow, senior adviser and Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a top American think-tank.
"It recognises the incredible progress we are making in our security partnership. Both nations face regular coordination challenges between our respective defence and foreign affairs teams; having them sit together is an important way to ensure coordination," Mr Rossow told news agency PTI.
However, this is also a painful recognition that the two governments' deep divide on economic integration policies will remain a laggard in the relationship, comparatively, he said.
Vivek Lall, chief executive, US and International Strategic Development, General Atomics, said the dialogue signified the critical strategic importance of the US-India relationship to global order.
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