Doval talks future direction with US after 2+2 success
NSA meets counterpart along with Pompeo, Mattis as both sides seek to build on strategic gains from ‘historic’ 2+2
National security advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval held talks about the future of bilateral ties with the US in a string of meetings with top American officials on Friday, including with his counterpart John Bolton, as India pressed its case for the purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile systems.
India conveyed to the US that the integrity of American military platforms in service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and future acquisitions will not be compromised if New Delhi goes ahead with the purchase, backing its case with technical arguments.
The NSA travelled to Washington to convey Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of the future direction of Indo-US ties. On the eve of the 2+2 dialogue, Modi shared his vision with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and NSA Doval.
Sitharaman is expected to travel to Washington, after President Putin’s October visit to India, for a bilateral engagement with secretary Mattis. The dates of Sitharaman’s visit are being worked out and she is expected to travel to Washington not before November.
At Doval’s meetings with the three US principals, the two countries “reviewed” the progress in ties and also looked at “regional and global developments” in North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, West Asia and the Indo-Pacific. India and US are seeking conversion on their views on stability of Kabul regime with President Ashraf Ghani arriving in Delhi on September 19.
It has been decided that the principals from India and the US will bilaterally engage with their counterparts apart from the 2+2 dialogue. Prior to NSA Doval’s visit, a high-level Indian Air Force technical team led by an air marshal was in the Pentagon last month to convince US officials of measures India will take to ensure that electronic signatures of US aerial platforms are not shared even if it acquires the S-400 system from Russia.
The meeting with Bolton was Doval’s first engagement and was described as a “good first meeting” by an official who didn’t want to be named. Bolton took office in April, and the two officials hadn’t had a chance to meet before their talks on Friday. Doval also met secretary of state Michael Pompeo and secretary of defense James Mattis, for the second time in as many weeks. He had meet them in Delhi after their 2+2 ministerial with their Indian counterparts Swaraj and Sitharaman on September 6.
“The discussions were general and broad-based,” said the official cited above, “following up on the 2+2 and looking at the future direction of the strategic relationship.”
Doval’s key task is to convince the Trump administration that the proposed S-400 deal does merit a US presidential waiver from the provisions of Countering America’s Adversaries Through the Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and that India will reduce its crude oil purchases from Iran before the November 4 sanctions kick in.
A day after announcing measures to boost short-term capital inflows to rein in the rupee’s decline and curb a widening current account deficit, the government said on Saturday that it would stick to its fiscal deficit and capital spending targets in a signal of its continued commitment to financial prudence in a pre-election year.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, after a review meeting of all departments under his ministry chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the fiscal deficit would be contained at the targeted 3.3% of gross domestic product.
Rising oil prices, which have caused petrol and diesel prices at the pump to rise to records, and the declining rupee, which has depreciated around 13% against the dollar since January 1, making it Asia’s worst-performing currency, are putting finances under strain.
THE TWO SIDES ALSO LOOKED AT REGIONAL & GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS IN NORTH KOREA, CHINA, AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, WEST ASIA AND THE INDOPACIFIC
■ Ajit Doval