Issue Brief on “The Fifth Annual India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue”

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Introduction

Indian Minister for External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar and Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh hosted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin between November 9-10, 2023, for the fifth annual 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue to strengthen India-U.S. bilateral strategic relations.[1] At the conclusion of the Dialogue, the Indian Minister of External Affairs tweeted that the agenda of their meeting covered “advancing our strategic partnership, including elevating our defence ties, moving forward in space & tech, future logistics cooperation and people-to-people contacts. Also exchanged perspectives on the Indo-Pacific, South Asia, West Asia and Ukraine conflict. Reaffirmed commitment to our collaboration in the multilateral arena and engaging the Global South.”[2] The visit was a follow-up and review of the June 2023 Roadmap for U.S.-India Defense Industrial Cooperation launched during the three-day state visit to the U.S. by PM Modi between 22-23 June 2023 in order to enhance interoperability between both militaries. Despite New Delhi’s limited global approach, the fifth 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue demonstrated that the U.S. has maintained a benevolent posture towards India under a Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.

General Electric Deals and Delays

The Dialogue apprised of the agreement between General Electric (GE) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed during the Indian Prime Minister’s state visit to the U.S. in June 2023. The agreement to co-produce GE’s F414 jet engines, which will power India’s indigenously manufactured Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mark-II, received approval from the U.S. Congress in August 2023.[3] The critical issue of export control and delays in delivery were raised during the 2+2 Dialogue. Indian defence sources believe that the process of co-production, which is supposed to start in March 2024, might face delays. They believe so due to delays in the delivery of 99 F404 jet engines for LAC Tejas Mark-I, a predecessor of Tejas Mark-II, a deal worth $716 million signed in 2021.[4] Though 75 F404 engines have been delivered, the delay in the remaining 99 engines has raised concerns in Indian defence authorities. The Indian Defence Research Wing (IDRW) has highlighted that the delivery of the jet engines for Tejas Mark-I was scheduled to begin in August 2023, but it has not commenced even till November.[5] They have questioned why GE cannot meet the Indian demands when it is clearly meeting South Korea’s. IDRW believe that a delay in the delivery timeline would consequentially delay the delivery of aircraft to the Indian Air Force that is scheduled for 2029.[6] Though the governments in Washington and New Delhi are progressively advancing their defence ties, defence quarters in India seem unsatisfied with the progress achieved so far.

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