India and US on Tuesday welcomed the growing understanding on the Indo-Pacific among like-minded countries and emphasized that the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of any nation in accordance with international law.
A Joint Statement on the third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue said the two countries reiterated their commitment to maintaining a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region built on a rules-based international order.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper took part in the third 2+2 dialogue between the two countries.
The ministers welcomed the recent convening of second Australia-India-Japan-United states Quadrilateral Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo on October 6 and expressed their support for further strengthening Quad cooperation through expanded activities, including initiating a dialogue among the development orgzations of partner countries.
The statement said that building on a strong record of peacekeeping cooperation, the Ministers decided to expand joint capacity-building efforts with partner countries in the Indo-Pacific and to participate in multilateral peacekeeping training exercises.
"The Ministers reiterated their commitment to maintaining a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific built on a rules-based international order, underpinned by ASEAN centrality, rule of law, sustainable and transparent infrastructure investment, freedom of navigation and overflight, mutual respect for sovereignty, and peaceful resolution of disputes. Highlighting the importance of securing the economic and security interests of all stakeholders having a legitimate interest in the region, the Ministers welcomed the growing understanding on the Indo-Pacific among like-minded countries," the statement said.
"They reaffirmed that closer India-US cooperation will support shared interests in promoting security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. They also emphasized that the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of any nation in accordance with international law," it added.
The ministers expressed their support for sustainable, transparent, quality infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region.
"They appreciated the exchange of views on regional issues of mutual interest, as well as ongoing cooperation related to maritime security, humtarian assistance and disaster relief, regional connectivity, health security and counter-terrorism. The Ministers also welcomed the fact that these consultations would now be held annually," the statement said.
India and US signed five key agreements during the 2+2 India-US ministerial-level dialogue including Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) which will allow India real time access to precision data and topographical images from United States military satellites.
The joint statement applauded the significant step of the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and welcomed enhanced maritime information sharing and maritime domain awareness between their navies and affirmed their commitment to build upon existing defence information-sharing at the joint-service and service-to-service levels and explore potential new areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.
During the dialogue, the ministers of the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to deepening bilateral defence consultation and collaboration and to exploring opportunities to expand cooperative capacity-building efforts with partners across the region.
They also affirmed their commitment to pursue increased cooperation between the Indian military and US Central Command and Africa Command, including broader participation in exercises and conferences, so as to promote shared security interests.
"The US appreciated India's leadership in establishing an Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR). The Ministers welcomed the positioning of a Liaison Officer from the US Navy at the IFC-IOR (Information Fusion Centre - INDIAN OCEAN REGION) and the positioning of an Indian Liaison Officer at NAVCENT (United States Naval Forces Central Command) Bahrain and reiterated their intent to assign additional Liaison Officers.
The ministers expressed satisfaction at the ongoing progress in the implementation of Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), including the expansion of secure communications capabilities to include secure video teleconference capabilities between their respective Navies, Armies and Air Forces as well as between respective Foreign and Defence Ministries.
"The Ministers welcomed the convening of the Military Cooperation Group (MCG) later this year to review bilateral military-to-military engagement including joint exercises, training and expert exchanges. They looked forward to interaction between the Special Forces of India and the United States," the statement read.
They also welcomed the inclusion of the Royal Australian Navy in the US-India-Japan MALABAR Naval Exercise scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in November 2020.
Highlighting the importance of deepening maritime cooperation and the growing sophistication of US-India naval cooperation, the ministers welcomed the PASSEX carried out by the Navies of both countries.
They also looked forward to the convening of the next edition of the tri-services Amphibious Tiger Triumph HADR Exercise and Army Exercises Yudh Abhyas and Vajra Prahar in 2021. The US welcomed India's co-hosting of the Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference (IPACC), Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) and Senior Enlisted Leader Forum (SELF) in 2023, the statement noted.
Acknowledging India's contributions to the global supply chain of major defence platforms and commitment to defence innovation, the ministers reiterated the importance of Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), and stated their intention to fast track projects under DTTI and decided to work together to realize the development of their respective defence industries.
Recognizing the importance of cooperation in defence innovation, the Ministers welcomed the inaugural meeting between the Indian Defence Innovation Orgzation (DIO-iDEX) and US Defense Innovation United (DIU) in July 2020. They also looked forward to the inaugural Industrial Security Annex (ISA) Summit later this year which would further strengthen defence industrial cooperation between both countries.
Underscoring the importance of ties between respective legislatures, the ministers welcomed the launch of an India-US Parliamentary Exchange.
"Applauding the entrepreneurial spirit of Indians and Indian-Americans that has mutually benefitted both nations, the Ministers recognised the important role of people-to-people linkages in strengthening the overall bilateral relationship and economic ties. Both sides look forward to the next iteration of the India-U.S. Consular Dialogue to further increase cooperation and discuss issues of mutual concern, including visas, and familial issues related to marriage, adoption and child custody," the statement said.
( With inputs from ANI )
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