June 14, 2011 3:27:46 am
India has turned down an offer by the US to have a strategic dialogue involving the Defence Minister and the External Affairs Minister with their counterparts from Washington after objections were raised by the Defence Ministry. The two plus two format,which envisaged talks on strategic affairs and defence,has been objected to firmly by Defence Minister A K Antony,putting an end to efforts to have a joint strategic dialogue.
The Defence Ministry has made it clear that while it is open to direct meetings with the US officials within the framework of the defence cooperation agreement,the format of joint talks that are not headed by the Prime Minister but involve multiple ministries is not feasible. This view has been supported by the Ministry of External Affairs.
It may be recalled that the strategic dialogue between the US and India scheduled in April was called off at the last minute after Antony conveyed his inability to attend,citing state elections in Kerala. While a high powered team from the US,including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano,was to come in April,the strategic dialogue was called off after Antony conveyed his unavailability.
While upcoming Kerala elections were the given reason,sources said the Defence Ministry was upset over its inclusion in the talks that it deemed was unnecessary. It is learnt that the Defence Ministry was informed about the presence of Gates in the delegation only after the visit had been finalised.
After another effort was made in May to have a joint two plus two dialogue that would involve the US Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence with the Indian counterparts,the Defence Ministry made it clear that it will not take part in any joint dialogue,putting an end to any efforts to that end. It may be noted that since the cancellation of the strategic dialogue in April,Napolitano has visited India on a standalone visit where she met top officials,including Antony,and Clinton is scheduled for a visit in mid-July.
While India has a strong defence relationship with the US India is Washingtons biggest training partner and has several cutting edge weapons systems on order,the Defence Ministry recently rejected both American fighters who were in contention for the $ 10 billion combat aircraft deal.
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