SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Minister Jaishankar, Minister Singh, I am honored to be able to host you here at the State Department for the fourth 2+2 U.S.-India foreign and defense ministerial, alongside my friend and colleague the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin.
As President Biden said when he hosted Prime Minister Modi in September of 2021, the relationship between the oldest and biggest democracies in the world is destined to be stronger, closer, more meaningful. And those were sentiments that I believe both the President and Prime Minister reiterated today when they spoke via videoconference.
These 2+2 meetings have already played a key role in strengthening our bilateral relationship. This is the core whole-of-government dialogue in our strategic partnership framework. Today’s discussions will build upon the previous productive meetings that we’ve had.
This is a momentous moment in global affairs, and I think as a result this partnership is even more consequential and more vital. Today we’ll discuss pressing issues, shared global challenges, including Russia’s war against Ukraine, ending the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, upholding a free, open, democratic, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is assured. We’ll also talk about improving our counterterrorism cooperation and strengthening the bonds between our higher education institutions. So, this covers a wide range of different aspects in our relationship. And I’m also looking forward to talking about our defense and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
Finally, we’ll have an opportunity to sign the Space Situational Awareness Agreement a little bit later today. This is a demonstration of our growing technology partnership which we believe has virtually limitless potential for exploration, for discovery, for achievement, to the benefit of people in both of our countries and indeed around the world.
This year, as has been noted, marks India’s 75th year of independence, 75 years of our own relationship. We look very much forward to continuing to build a stronger future for both of our countries, both of our peoples through our defense and security cooperation, through our deeply connected economies, through our shared values and common bonds, and to do so for many, many decades to come.
With that, it’s a pleasure to turn over the microphone to my friend, Minister Jaishankar.
MINISTER JAISHANKAR: Thank you. My senior colleague, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh-ji, Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Defense Austin, it’s a great pleasure to participate in the fourth India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. This morning we have had separate meetings with our State and Defense counterparts respectively. We have of course benefitted from the guidance provided by Prime Minister Modi and President Biden through the virtual summit, at which we were all present.
The 2+2 format is intended to promote a more integrated approach to our partnership, and this has become increasingly relevant as the scope and intensity of our engagement steadily increases. We can truly assert that there’s virtually no domain on which we are not cooperating with each other. The nature of our opportunities and challenges are such that they are more effectively addressed through a cross-cutting dialogue.
As we meet for the fourth time, we can take satisfaction at the extent of progress that we have made, whether it is a $160 billion trade account, our 200,000 students, our highest recorded investment levels, or our rapidly growing energy trade. The yardsticks to measure our growing closeness tell their own story. The defense minister would be similarly highlighting the transformation in that domain.
Our collaboration has grown well beyond its bilateral scope and now has a visible impact on global issues, as well. It could be addressing the COVID challenge, taking climate action, ensuring maritime security, or promoting critical technologies. What India and the U.S. do together will make a difference.
A significant focus of our engagement pertains to the Indo-Pacific. We have seen, particularly over the last year, both an elevation and an intensification of the Quad. Our achievements in this regard have a larger resonance.
Today we will be reviewing all these matters and more. We will also be discussing contemporary developments, including, obviously, Ukraine; also, Afghanistan, the Gulf, and the Indian subcontinent. I thank Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin for receiving us today, and look forward to our talks.
SECRETARY AUSTIN: Okay. Secretary Blinken, Minister Singh, Minister Jaishankar, it is a privilege to be here with you today for the fourth U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. It’s been nearly two decades since we signed our first defense framework, and we’ve built a partnership that is now a cornerstone of security in the Indo-Pacific. Today, we are positioning the U.S. and Indian militaries to operate and coordinate closely together across all domains and increasingly across the wider Indo-Pacific, all in support of the rule of law, freedom of the seas, and regional peace and security.
Those are vital principles, and now, more than ever, democracies must stand together to defend the values that we all share. We all understand the challenges that we face in the Indo-Pacific. The People’s Republic of China is seeking to refashion the region and the international system more broadly in ways that serve its authoritarian interests. But as we operationalize our defense agreements and take our cooperation to the next level, I believe that we can sustain and strengthen a favorable balance of power in the region.
So, I’m looking forward to discussing a range of bilateral defense priorities, including deeper information sharing and industrial cooperation. All this will help to ensure that our militaries are ready to meet any challenge.
Now, a strong U.S.-Indian partnership is a critical building block in a more resilient, regional security architecture, and so today’s 2+2 is an opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen our cooperation with like-minded partners from East and Southeast Asia to Europe and beyond.
So, we’ve got an ambitious agenda today. It reflects our combined vision for our partnership and our shared conviction that we can shape the course of history for the better and preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific at peace with itself and the world.
Ministers, I know that you’ve had a long trip to Washington and thank you for making it here for this important dialogue. I am truly grateful for your vision, your commitment, and your leadership, as we work together to build one of the most consequential partnerships of our time.
Thank you, and I’ll now turn it over to Minister Singh.
MINISTER SINGH: Excellencies; Mr. Antony Blinken; Mr. Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense; my esteemed colleague, Dr. Jaishankar-ji; distinguished members of delegations: Thank you, Secretary Blinken and to Secretary Austin, for your (inaudible) in Washington, D.C. India places the highest priority upon the strategic partnership with USA. (Inaudible) and for ensuring peace and sustained economic growth in our region. Major defense partnership is one of the most important pillars of India-U.S. strategic relations.
As the largest country and the center to Indian Ocean, and as a democracy, India has critical roles to play in the Indian Ocean region and in the wider Indo-Pacific following the Act East and the Neighborhood First policy. India played preeminent role in the region, from the tsunami in 2004 and during the COVID pandemic. We have signed eight different defense-related agreements between our two countries in last few years, including a Space Situational Awareness Agreement for unclassified domain, which is being signed today.
Despite the pandemic, India-USA military engagements increased with higher capability in communication, closer information sharing, and enhanced mutual logistic support. This is a reflection of our – the growing depth and scale of our defense partnership.
In a decade, our defense suppliers from USA rose from negligible to a cumulative around of over $20 billion U.S. We look forward to U.S. companies investing in India and support the Make In India program.
We look forward to further enhancing the depth and the scope of our defense cooperation to give effect to our shared vision of a free, open, inclusive, and a rules-bound Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region.
We are working with the U.S. to double up capabilities across conventional and emerging defense domains. We have made good progress in a number of defense cooperation activities since the visit of Secretary Austin to India in March 2021. I look forward to discussing some of these and the way forward. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much, colleagues, and I think we’ll allow our colleagues from the press to exit.