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US, India reschedule foreign, defense ministers' dialogue

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The US State Department said on Thursday that Washington will host the US-India "2+2 dialogue" to be attended by the foreign and defense ministers of the two nations on July 6, after the meeting was postponed once.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will host Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman in Washington, D.C. for the inaugural dialogue.

The meeting will focus on strengthening strategic, security, and defense cooperation as the United States and India jointly confront global challenges, the statement read.

In May, Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the dialogue, to have been held in April, had been postponed.

She said earlier that the dialogue aims to enhance bilateral cooperation on regional security issues such as combating terrorism in Afghanistan, maritime security and navy collaboration.

India's Indian Express daily reported in April that Washington offered to hold a formal meeting between the two defense ministers but it was declined by New Delhi, because "it didn't want to diminish the importance of India's first '2-by-2' dialogue at the ministerial level."

The White House said in August last year that the United States and India will start a new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue to "enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region."

The new dialogue, replacing the earlier US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, will elevate the leaders' "strategic consultations."

However, the Indian Express quoted official sources as saying that during preparatory talks, Washington had pressed the Indian side to sign two foundational agreements for defense cooperation: the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement.

"New Delhi has not been convinced about signing COMCASA as a blanket agreement encompassing all communication across military platforms," it reported, quoting sources as saying that "India is willing to consider signing a COMCASA kind of agreement separately for every equipment that it imports from the US."

The Hindustan Times daily of India reported in January that instead of piecemeal purchases, India wants a "full defense package" from the United States, including 22 Guardian maritime surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and the latest Avenger UAVs on the condition that they will be weaponized and upgraded at a later stage.

India will also reportedly insist during the dialogue that the United States should not release its frozen military aid to Pakistan, the report said.

The two sides may also discuss the instability in West Asia in the hope of drawing up a strategy against the Islamic State terrorist group, the report said.

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