US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Union minister of external affairs S Jaishankar met on Friday in New Delhi for the fifth edition of the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
The external affairs minister said the meeting was significant and thanked the US for its continued support to India throughout India's G20 presidency.
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin also reached New Delhi on Thursday and was greeted by counterpart Rajnath Singh. They discussed measures to bolster India-US defence cooperation.
“India is a country that we have a deep partnership with. Deepening security cooperation in partnership, will be one of the many topics that will be discussed,” the US State Department's Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said ahead of the meeting.
Donald Lu, the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia, said that the meeting will try to encourage more collaboration between both nations to encourage defence equipment production.
“Our intention is to encourage more collaboration to produce world-class defence equipment to meet Indian defence needs and contribute to greater global security,” Lu told news agency AFP.
Blinken and Jaishankar will also discuss developments in West Asia in the wake of the 2023 Israel-Hamas war. India said that it stands in solidarity with Israel and has condemned Hamas but also stood by its policy on Palestine and called for a two-state solution.
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will pay his third wartime visit to West Asia this week and meet Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.
The US officials gave only a few details about the agenda of the meetings but a report by AFP citing senior American officials said the US secretary of state will discuss the principles he laid out for “future of Gaza and the need to establish an independent Palestinian state”.
“The secretary will stress the need to sustain the increased flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, secure the release of all hostages and improve protection to civilians in Gaza. (He will discuss) the principles he laid out for the future of Gaza and the need to establish an independent Palestinian state,” the official told the news agency.
The US is also pressuring Israel to work with the Palestinian Authority and rein in settlers who have launched attacks against Palestinian villagers in the West Bank since October 7.
Netanyahu is a long-time critic of Abbas and does not prefer the two-state solution.
The US and Biden have backed Israel following the Hamas-led October 7 attacks which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel's deadliest-ever attack.
But they have also expressed concern regarding the Israeli retaliation's toll on civilians, which have galvanised public opinion in much of the world. The bombing and ground campaign has left almost 15,000 people dead, mostly Palestinian civilians, according to Gaza's Hamas government.
US President Joe Biden on Monday (local time) said he and his country will keep working towards the two-state solution and believes that it can bring lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians as Israel and Hamas extended their truce by 48 hours.
“A two-state solution is the only way to guarantee the long-term security of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people. To make sure Israelis and Palestinians alike live in equal measure of freedom and dignity, we will not give up on working towards that goal,” Biden said.
Both US President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier said that following the war Gaza should be unified with the Israeli-occupied West Bank under a “revitalised” Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas' PA, also known as Fatah, controls large parts of the West Bank in close coordination with Israel but Palestinians call them “collaborators”.
A report by the New York Times said that only a small section of people in the West Bank as well as Israel feel the authority is capable of governing a post-conflict Gaza. The West Bank Palestinians view Fatah as a subcontractor to the Israeli government which controls almost every aspect of life in the West Bank.
The report also pointed out that without the security provided by the Israeli Army the Fatah may struggle to even survive in the West Bank. It also said that Palestinians consider the Fatah authoritarian, corrupt and undemocratic administration.
The New York Times report said that if elections were held imminently, it is probable, based on what experts and polls suggest, that Hamas would win again.
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What’s on the table for the India-Australia 2 + 2 talks
India's foreign minister S. Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh are set to meet with their Australian counterparts, foreign minister Penny Wong and defence minister Richard Marles, in the 2+2 ministerial dialogue today. Mint takes a look at what’s on the agenda.
What are these meetings about?
The 2 + 2 is a unique ministerial dialogue that brings senior ministers together in a bilateral setting. India maintains this format only with a few key partners like Australia, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. This will be only the second 2+2 round with India's Quad partner Australia after the first round was held in 2021.
What was the focus of the last talks?
Collaboration on combating the pandemic was a major focus of talks in 2021. Australia also announced that it would post a liaison officer at the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region, which helps improve maritime domain awareness for both countries. Australia had invited India to participate in the Talisman Sabre defence exercises. They also discussed the unfolding crises in Afghanistan and Myanmar,
What is the focus of current talks likely to be?
The growth in bilateral ties in recent years has been driven by a shared interest in ensuring stability in the Indo-Pacific region. To that end, defence exercises and talks between the two countries have increased. Defence and increased collaboration on defence technologies is expected to be a focus of talks this time around.
The two countries are also working through the Quad and a new trilateral partnership with France to address regional needs like climate change, development and telecommunications technology. Besides this, both sides are negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement, which will likely feature in the talks.
“Ministers will advance cooperation on our shared regional interests, including in defence, security, renewable energy and technology. They will also discuss deepening trade and investment ties," according to a press statement from the Australian Defence Force.
Are there likely to be any sensitive discussions during these talks?
The foreign minister level talks may see some discussion of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations that India had a role in the killing of pro-Khalistan extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
“There's no doubt any allegation of any country being accused of carrying out an execution of a citizen in that country, it's a serious allegation, and something that we don't do and something that nations should not do," said Mike Burgess, Australia's domestic spy chief, in a recent interview.
Penny Wong, the country's foreign minister, had said that these allegations “concerning".
Source: Live Mint
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In 2+2 Dialogue
India and Australia are expected to focus on ramping up their overall defence ties and boost strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific at the second edition of the ‘2+2′ ministerial dialogue here on November 20.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and their Australian counterparts Richard Marles and Penny Wong will hold the talks to further advance cooperation under the India-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Announcing India's hosting of the dialogue, it said on Saturday that the ministers are expected to discuss a wide range of strategic, defence and security issues.
The situation in West Asia in view of the Hamas-Israel conflict, China's increasing military muscle flexing in the Indo-Pacific and issues relating to regional security are expected to figure in the talks, people familiar with the preparation for the dialogue said.
The MEA said the discussions would cover bilateral, regional and global matters of mutual interest to further advance cooperation under the India-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.
“Both sides will also exchange views on shared priorities for strengthening minilateral and multilateral cooperation,” it said. Singh and Jaishankar will also hold separate bilateral talks with their Australian counterparts.
“The external affairs minister and foreign minister Wong will hold the 14th foreign ministerial framework dialogue on November 21 to take stock of cooperation under the comprehensive strategic partnership and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest,” the MEA said in a statement. Earlier, the defence ministry said Marles will pay a two-day visit to India from November 19-20.
It said he will also attend the Cricket World Cup final between India and Australia on Sunday. “Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles will visit India from November 19 to 20 to co-chair the second India-Australia 2+2 ministerial dialogue with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh,” it said in a statement.
It said India and Australia are pursuing a comprehensive strategic partnership and the visit of Minister Marles is expected to give further impetus to the bilateral defence cooperation. “The two countries are expected to discuss wide-ranging issues of mutual interest during the 2+2 dialogue and the bilateral defence ministers' meeting,” it said.
The inaugural ‘2+2' ministerial dialogue between India and Australia had taken place in September 2021. India has such a framework for talks with a very few countries including the US and Japan.
The bilateral defence and strategic ties between India and Australia are on an upward trajectory in the last few years. In June 2020, India and Australia elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) allows the militaries of the two countries to use each other's bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.
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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday met British National Security Adviser Tim Barrow and held a “good discussion” with him on regional and global challenges. Jaishankar is on a five-day official visit to the UK with an aim to review various aspects of bilateral ties and give “new impetus to the friendly ties”.
“Glad to meet UK NSA Tim Barrow. A good discussion on pressing regional and global challenges, Jaishankar posted on X. Earlier this week, Jaishankar met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, newly-appointed Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Home Secretary James Cleverly.
At a special Diwali Reception organised by the High Commission of India at Westminster Central Hall near the Houses of Parliament here on Monday evening, Jaishankar said that the free trade agreement (FTA) is very much the focus of the India-UK relationship and India is hopeful of finding a “landing point” in the negotiations that works for both sides.
The India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was launched in 2021 along with the India-UK Roadmap 2030 which seeks to expand ties in a range of areas.
India and the UK have been negotiating a free trade agreement since January last year with a target to significantly enhance the estimated GBP 36-billion bilateral trading partnership.
The talks have undergone 13 rounds of negotiations, with officials hopeful of clinching a deal ahead of general elections in both countries scheduled for 2024.
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Blinken Dials UK’s New Foreign Minister Cameron
US secretary of state Antony Blinken held a telephonic conversation with newly appointed British foreign minister David Cameron on Tuesday. Both discussed the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict and the war in Ukraine and also discussed relations with China.
“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron today. The Secretary congratulated Lord Cameron on his new appointments to the UK Cabinet and Peerage. Secretary Blinken and Lord Cameron underscored continuity in the US-UK special relationship and its importance to regional and global security,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a readout of the conversation.
“They discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict, including efforts to increase the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. They also discussed relations with the PRC and cooperation to help Ukraine prevail against Russia's war of aggression,” Matthew Miller further added.
The former UK prime minister made a comeback to the UK political scene after right-wing former UK home minister Suella Braverman was ousted and James Cleverly, who was serving as foreign minister, was given her portfolio.
Braverman was ousted because she tried to exert her authority over the Conservative Party, experts told UK-based news media outlets.
Cameron stepped down as UK's prime minister in 2016 after losing the Brexit referendum. He also stood down from his MP role and later got mired in a lobbying scandal that was seen as tarnishing his reputation.
The former leader, whose foreign policy record as prime minister is viewed as chequered at best, said he “gladly accepted” his new role as Britain faced “a daunting set of international challenges”.
“While I have been out of front-line politics for the last seven years, I hope that my experience — as Conservative leader for 11 years and prime minister for six — will assist me in helping the prime minister to meet these vital challenges,” Cameron added, citing the Israel-Hamas war and Russia's conflict in Ukraine.
(with inputs from Reuters and AFP)
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EAM Jaishankar Arrives in London on 5-day UK Visit Updated 2 hours ago
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has arrived in London at the start of a five-day visit to the UK with an aim to review various aspects of bilateral ties and give “new impetus to the friendly ties”.
“Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali. Hope that this Festival of Lights brings peace, prosperity and health for all,” the EAM posted on X on Sunday.
While in the UK, the EAM is expected to attend an event at Lord's Cricket Ground and address a Diwali Reception organised by the High Commission of India in London on Monday.
Later next week, he is also expected at a repatriation ceremony for two ancient temple sculptures from Uttar Pradesh and join a discussion on the theme of ‘How a billion people see the world'. During his talks with his UK counterpart, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, in London, it is expected that preparations for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's possible visit to India in the next few months will be on the agenda.
“External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will be on an official visit to the United Kingdom from November 11-15,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had earlier said.
“India and the UK have a growing bilateral partnership. During his visit, the external affairs minister will be holding discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and will meet several other dignitaries,” it said in a statement.
The MEA also referred to the “warm and thriving” relationship between the two sides.
The India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was launched in 2021 along with the India-UK Roadmap 2030 that seeks to expand ties in a range of areas.
“The roadmap is a commitment to a partnership that delivers for both the countries. The External Affairs Minister's visit will give a new impetus to the friendly ties between the two countries,” the MEA said.
India and the UK have been negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) since January last year with a target to significantly enhance the estimated GBP 36-billion bilateral trading partnership.
The talks have undergone 13 rounds of negotiations, with officials hopeful of clinching a deal ahead of general elections in both countries scheduled for 2024.
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Rajnath Singh Hands over World War-Era US Army Uniform
Union minister of defence Rajnath Singh symbolically handed over some items recovered in Assam to his American counterpart Lloyd Austin.
There are remains of approximately 400 US air force personnel who went missing in India during World War II. During World War II, the US helped the Chinese Army and provided them supplies by flying over the Himalayas. Several US army aircraft crashed and were never found in the rugged mountainous terrain of northeast India.
The items handed over included parts of parachute, uniform and airplane of the US forces from the World War II-era as part of the US Defence Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (DPAA POW/MIA) Accounting Agency Mission.
Lloyd Austin and US secretary of state Antony Blinken held the 2+2 India-US ministerial dialogues with Union external affairs minister S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Friday.
The US defence secretary thanked the government for assisting in the efforts to locate the lost soldiers in a post on social media site X. “We have a sacred duty to ensure that all US troops are accounted for—no matter how long it takes. I am grateful to our Indian partners who have assisted the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in personnel recovery and accounting since 1978. Thanks for supporting this vital mission & returning another hero home,” Austin said.
According to a 2021 press release, the Gandhinagar-based National Forensic Sciences University (NFSU) has tied up with US's Department of Defense (DOD) to recover and identify the remains of these missing air force personnel.
The DPAA is part of the Department of Defense of the US and was formed in 2015. Its primary task is to trace the remains of US army personnel who went MIA or were taken as prisoners of war during World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War and the Iraq Offensive.
The agency is in constant touch with the families of the missing personnel and is currently working to trace more than 81,800 missing personnel.
Earlier under this programme, investigations to find the remains of US airmen were carried out in Tripura in 2013 and Assam and Nagaland in 2014. In 2016, a DPAA team along with a Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) team found some evidence of remains of US Army personnel.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in 2021 between the NFSU and the DPAA under which students of NFSU travelled to northeastern states with DPAA on several occasions to find the remains of the lost soldiers.
The DPAA said remains of six personnel of the US military have been identified in India. It says 306 US military/airmen have died in the country.
(with inputs from Indian Express)
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Blinken Says Washington Working to Ensure More Aid to Gaza during Turkey Visit Published 47 minutes ago
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that Washington was working “very aggressively” to dramatically expand the amount of aid reaching trapped civilians in Gaza.
The top US diplomat held 2.5 hours of one-on-one talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan focused on soothing the anger at both Israel and the West of one of Washington's most strategic but difficult allies.
NATO member Turkey has been an increasingly vocal critic of the way Israel has been pursuing its month-long offensive against Hamas militants who staged an October 7 attack into Israel — the deadliest in the country's history.
Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters who marched on an air base housing US forces in southeastern Turkey hours before Blinken's arrival Sunday.
Hundreds more rallied outside the Turkish foreign ministry during his visit.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself was travelling across Turkey's remote northeast on Monday in an apparent snub of Washington's top diplomat.
Blinken told reporters after the meeting that Washington was aware of “the deep concern” in Turkey “for the terrible toll” in Gaza.
“We are working, as I said, very aggressively on getting more humanitarian assistance into Gaza and we have very concrete ways of doing that,” Blinken said before boarding a plane for Japan.
“I think we will see in the days ahead that the assistance can expand in significant ways,” he added without providing details.
A Turkish diplomatic source said Fidan pressed Blinken for “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza”.
“Fidan also pointed out to his US counterpart Blinken that bombing civilian targets and destroying infrastructure in Gaza is unacceptable,” the Turkish source said.
Blinken's talks with Fidan would have been packed with problems even before Israel launched a relentless bombing and expanding ground campaign aimed at eradicating Hamas.
The Hamas-run health ministry said nearly 10,000 people — mostly civilians — had been killed in more than four weeks of war in Gaza.
The operation started after the militants killed more than 1,400 people — also mostly civilians — and took over 240 hostages.
The war threatens to have broad repercussions on Washington's relations with Turkey.
Ankara has a muscular foreign policy and stakes in conflicts across the Middle East that occasionally fail to align with those of Washington or other NATO allies.
Washington is currently anxious to see Turkey's parliament finally ratify Sweden's stalled drive to join the US-led NATO defence organisation.
The United States has also been tightening sanctions against Turkish individuals and companies that are deemed to be helping Russia evade sanctions and import goods for use in its war on Ukraine.
And Ankara is upset that the US Congress is holding up the approval of a deal backed by President Joe Biden to modernise Turkey's air force with dozens of US F-16 fighter jets.
Turkey also has longstanding reservations about US support for Kurdish forces in Syria who spearheaded the fight against Islamic State group jihadists but are viewed by Ankara as an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Ankara has stepped up air strikes against armed Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq in reprisal for an October attack on the Turkish capital claimed by the PKK in which two assailants died.
Blinken called his talks in Ankara “very good, lengthy and productive”.
But he provided few details about the outstanding dispute and highlighted Turkey's “commitment” to accept Sweden into NATO.
Blinken faced a chorus of Arab calls to support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during a whirlwind tour of the Middle East that saw him visit both Iraq and the West Bank on Sunday.
Israel says it could accept a humanitarian pause to allow in additional shipments of aid once Hamas frees the hostages.
Blinken said on Monday only that “pause could help” secure more aid deliveries to Gaza.
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Trying to Save His Job
The Congress on Wednesday took a swipe at defence minister Rajnath Singh, saying he is “trying to save his job” after he accused the opposition party of indulging in politics over the situation in Manipur. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not visit the violence-hit state and why the chief minister is still holding his post despite failing to restore peace.
“We all know the defence minister's compulsions to say things he doesn't mean so that he can save his job. The two most relevant questions are: Why didn't the PM go to Manipur and why hasn't he gone till now? Why is the CM of Manipur still holding the post despite repeated failures to restore peace,” Ramesh said in a post on X.
Singh made a fervent appeal to the warring Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur to sit together and have a heart-to-heart conversation to end the trust deficit between the two sides. Addressing a poll rally in Tipa, the southernmost part of Mizoram bordering Myanmar, Singh also accused the Congress of trying to exploit the situation in Manipur for political gain.
“When the situation in Manipur was deteriorating, Congress tried its best to do politics over it,” he alleged.
“There is a need to keep the entire country, including Mizoram and Northeast, away from the negative politics of Congress,” Singh added.
Manipur had been witnessing large-scale violence in the last few months because of hostilities between the Meitei and Kuki communities. More than 180 people have lost their lives since ethnic violence broke out in the state on May 3.
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PM Modi All Set to Return for Third Term with Clear Majority in 2024
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday exuded confidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to return for a third term with a clear majority in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
“The faith of the people of the entire country is with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it is not just me but several political observers have also accepted this fact that he is coming back with a clear majority in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” Singh, on a two-day visit to his parliamentary constituency Lucknow, told reporters.
He was reacting to a question on the challenge posed by the opposition bloc INDIA in the coming elections.
Paying his respects to Maharishi Valmiki on the occasion of Valmiki Jayanti here, Singh said, “The entire world knows, and I believe, that the Ram of Maharishi Valmiki was not just a king but a lok nayak…yug purush and an incarnation.”
“All Bharatvasis, be it in any part of the world, view Ram as Maryada Purushottam as has been carved by Maharishi Valmiki in the Ramayana,” he said.
He also extended greetings to the people on the occasion of Valmiki Jayanti.
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