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Transcript of Press Statements at India - US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue , Washington DC on 18 December 2019

December 19, 2019

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the two ministers from India. Welcome to Washington. Thank you for your leadership in the growing U.S.-India Strategic Partnership. Secretary Esper and I are honored to host the Second 2+2, the first one here in Washington, DC. The Trump administration has prioritized closer ties with New Delhi from President Trump and Prime Minster Modi’s event in Houston in September to this 2+2 Ministerial here today and my productive visit to India in the summer of this year.

Our common values of democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law are a great foundation for our expanding partnership. They are the basis for my hope for a new age of ambition between our two democracies. Today’s dialogue built on steady progress over this past year. We secured new agreements on space exploration and defense industrial collaboration. We agreed to establish a new exchange program for legislators from our two countries. We launched new initiatives to help secure internships for innovators in each of our two countries. And we’re excited to support India’s Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Elsewhere in the bilateral relationship, Ambassador Lighthizer is working hard with his Indian counterpart on a fair and reciprocal trade deal, and we’re growing our counterterrorism cooperation as well. And over the last 24 months, U.S. crude and LNG exports to India have increased by more than $6 billion. That’s great for the United States and it’s great for India as well.

I’m especially proud of how we’re pursuing a common vision for the region with allies and partners. In September, I was happy to host the Inaugural Quad Ministerial Meeting in New York – Australia, India. The United States and India working together on many challenges. We’re growing trilateral security cooperation with Japan as well. Secretary Esper will speak to that. And earlier this year too, India joined up with its first ever Group Sail. It told the region when we did that of our unwavering commitment to freedom of navigation together.

All of these efforts reflect multilateralism that we can be proud of, democracies working together to protect our values.

Today too, we had a good, lively, and productive exchange of views on significant regional challenges. We value India’s perspective on security in the Indo-Pacific and, frankly, all around the world. The future of Afghanistan matters to each of our two nations. We’re working together toward a more secure, prosperous, peaceful future for the Afghan people, and we appreciate India’s contributions in Afghanistan and intend to continue consulting closely on that matter.

On Iran, we discussed the maximum pressure campaign and why it’s necessary for getting the outlaw regime in Tehran to behave like a normal nation.

And on China, we discussed the risks that Chinese-built communication networks, including 5G, pose to our treasured freedoms and how China’s unfair and predatory economic activity in the Indo-Pacific presents a risk to those very freedoms.

These are big subjects. We had good conversations. They’re countries that our nations now can talk about frankly and openly and continuously, because we are forging deeper, stronger bonds between our two nations.

I thank you both again for joining us. Secretary Esper, the floor is yours.

SECRETARY ESPER: Thank you. Secretary Pompeo, Minister Singh, Minister Jaishankar, I am delighted to be here with you for this consequential moment between the United States and India. Our defense relationship is strong, and since the establishment of the 2+2 Ministerial last year, it continues to improve.

Our discussions during this year’s ministerial reinforced the strategic interests shared by our two countries and helped us build upon the gains from last year. As democracies, the United States and India have an abiding interest in advancing a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

Our close bilateral ties are critical to the success of that mission, and I am pleased to report that we continue to make substantial progress in our military relationship. We are taking steps to strengthen our robust maritime partnership and expand our military-to-military cooperation to also include our respective armies, air forces, and special operators.

We launched a new annual exercise called Tiger Triumph, which will enhance tri-service coordination and allow us to exchange knowledge and expertise. Our forces successfully completed the first exercise under this initiative last month, and we look forward to the next one in 2020.

Meanwhile, our defense, trade, and technology ties continue to grow. Today, we are proud to conclude the Industrial Security Annex, which will facilitate collaboration between our defense industries by supporting the secure transfer of key information and technology. We also finalized three agreements under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, which will enhance our ability to co-produce and co-develop critical technologies.

In closing, it’s an honor to be here today to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible progress our two countries have made in this relationship. The results we achieved during this ministerial reflect our commitment to a deep and longstanding partnership. While there is still much we must do, I am confident our defense relationship will grow stronger as we work together to defend the international rules-based order and advance our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

I appreciate India’s leadership and commitment to our shared security, and I look forward to meeting future challenges together. Thank you.

DEFENSE MINISTER SINGH: (Via interpreter) Today’s 2+2 meeting was meaningful and successful in maintaining the momentum of the India-U.S. relationship and taking it forward. Our two countries have complementary interests and I am grateful to the secretaries for welcoming us.

We held discussions on a range of bilateral and global issues, and it was heartening to note that as the world’s largest democracies we have convergence on views on most of them. The cooperation will be critical to the security and management of the global commons.

Our extensive engagement has yielded important results. We all noted with great sense of satisfaction that we have been able to achieve important milestones that we had set during the Inaugural 2+2 Dialogue last year.

Some of these include setting up the hotline between me and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, carrying out the first tri-service exercise, setting up a link between the NHQ and USINDOPACOM, posting an ELO at NAVCENT in Bahrain, enabling most of our U.S.-origin platforms with secure communication capability, and conducting a defense policy group dialogue after a prolonged gap of almost four years.

I’m happy that we have been able to sign the Industrial Security Annex before the 2+2 Dialogue. We hope that this will enable smooth transfer of classified technology and information between private entities of USA and India.

Both India and the U.S. have the vision of a free, seamless, and peaceful Indo-Pacific, and we feel that this provides an opportunity for India to work with the U.S. The announcement by our prime minister for Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative at the 14th East Asia Summit in Bangkok on 4th November 2019 is the next step to enunciation of our Indo-Pacific vision and creates an open platform where India and the U.S. can come together and work on the areas of their choice, reflecting our fundamental vision for an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

During the meeting, we shared our assessments of the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Indian Ocean region in general. We conveyed that the extreme rhetoric and belligerent statements and incitements to anti-India violence by Pakistani leaders is not conducive to peace.

Our military-to-military cooperation has expanded and our military exercises have grown in size, scale, and complexity. We expressed our interest to expand the scope of MCG by participation of senior officers from CENTCOM, AFRICOM, and Joint Staff from the U.S. side. This is important since our geographical area of interest for our security is covered by CENTCOM and AFRICOM, and MCG is led by our joint services headquarter IDS.

We also evinced our interest in greater army-to-army cooperation and identified areas to deepen our engagement in this regard. This includes increasing the force level in Exercise Yudh Abhyas, expert exchanges, et cetera.

Our maritime domain awareness cooperation has been extremely useful. We have sent an invitation to the United States to nominate a liaison officer for the international fusion center in India. We have also agreed to work together to operationalize COMCASA, which was signed during the last 2+2 meeting. We have been holding the CCCB meetings regularly for this purpose and taking necessary steps to open the COMSEC account. This will be discussed in the MCG format, including our agreement to explore cooperation in the fields of defense-space and defense-cyber and special forces.

On the defense industry side, I spelled out my priorities to take this partnership beyond the acquisition of platforms and equipment to significant transfer of defense technology and increased investment by U.S. defense companies in India under the "Make in India” program. We have also identified priority program, which can be selected and executed under the DTTI program. We have also identified a standard operating procedure for this process. We have invited U.S. companies to further invest in India under the "Make in India” program.

We have agreed to move forward in our engagement in the area of defense innovation. The 2+2 meeting today is a cornerstone in strengthening the strategic defense engagement between India and U.S. and will enable us to work alongside in a number of areas of mutual interest.

I thank Secretaries Esper and Pompeo again in furthering the India-U.S. partnership. Thank you.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER JAISHANKAR: Secretaries Pompeo and Esper, (inaudible). Ladies and gentlemen of the media, a very good afternoon to all of you.

As you can see, we have just concluded the second round of the India-U.S. 2+2 Dialogue. This particular dialogue was created by the prime minister and President Trump as the first, in India’s case, with any country, to provide a positive and forward-looking vision for our strategic partnership.

Now, in recent months we have seen five ministerial-level visits between the two sides apart from institutionalized dialogues and parliamentary exchanges, which demonstrate the intensity of the engagement. But our discussions today, I believe, will take those to a higher level.

Among the key issues that we discussed today was the Indo-Pacific, including ways to leverage our respective strengths to benefit not just our two countries but the entire region. Our cooperation is aimed at advancing a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific based on the recognition of ASEAN centrality.

We are each promoting connectivity and development partnership among countries in the region, and there is an opportunity, I believe, to build further synergies.

To this end, we have also agreed to promote UN peacekeeping capacity-building of our partners in the Indo-Pacific, expanding on a successful program of trilateral cooperation that both of us did with African countries.

We are delighted to welcome the United States as a founding member of the Coalition for Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure, which will enhance its effectiveness in the region’s preparedness against national disasters.

Our counterterrorism effort was also discussed at today’s meeting. And these have been boosted by a growing consensus on the nature of terror threats in the region, and the dangers of cross-border terrorism and sanctuaries.

I appreciate very much the sentiments, appreciate – expressed by Secretary Pompeo on the 11th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attack. We discussed ways to address these challenges, including by working closely together at the FATF. We also took note of exchanges between our judicial academies for appreciation of challenges and evolving practices in adjudicating counterterrorism cases, and agreed to further facilitate such exchanges in the areas of criminal jurisprudence.

We had a brief discussion on trade, and as all of you know, our bilateral trade has registered double-digit growth of late. We have noted very good progress. There are ongoing negotiations on the subject of trade, and I’m very confident that we’ll find a balanced outcome that satisfies both sides.

India and the United States have an excellent cooperation in science and technology, and we have concluded and brought into effect a new agreement that facilitates science and technology cooperation. We have also today reached agreement through an MOU on water resources between our Ministry of Jal Shakti and the U.S. Geological Survey for collaboration in quality assessment of the management of water.

People-to-people ties have been one of the defining elements of our friendship. We take great pride in the achievements of Indians and Indian Americans in the United States, and their contribution to American society, economy, and polity. Creating services including the movement of natural persons in a fair and non-discriminatory manner has contributed significantly to the deepening of ties.

I have – today I certainly look forward to working with the U.S. side to nurture and sustain these ties. We have agreed to take steps to promote better understanding and awareness among each other’s stakeholders. We’re connected at multiple levels. We have arrived at a common intent to facilitate regular exchanges between our parliamentarians and also to provide short-term internship opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs through dedicated programs.

We exchange views on various global and regional issues of mutual interest, including our partnership in multilateral fora. I’m very grateful to Secretary Pompeo for reiterating the U.S. Government support of the Chabahar project, which will immensely benefit Afghanistan.

The content and quality of our discussions today will commensurate with and reflective of the broad expanse of our ties. We reviewed ongoing cooperation in all areas of the interface of foreign policy and defense and outlined new priorities. Our officials will be guided by the strategic direction of today’s talks and will take concrete action in the months ahead in that direction. I thank you for your attention, I thank the two secretaries for their hospitality and warm welcome.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay. We’ll begin questions. Christina Ruffini, CBS.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I’d like to start with you. I understand that you’ve been in meetings today, but I’d like to get your reaction to the proceedings on the Hill and ask you how you – how it feels to represent to the world only the third president in history to be brought up on articles of impeachment. If this goes forward to the Senate, do you plan to participate in those proceedings, and has the President asked you directly to do so?

And my second question, gentlemen, is, of course, on India. India has the largest Muslim population in the world, but right now Indian Muslims are protesting a new law they say is discriminatory. Mr. Ministers, why make religion a factor in deciding who gets fast-tracked for citizenship? And why exclude Muslims from that legislation?

And Mr. Secretary, your State Department has been a very vocal advocate of religious rights around the world. Do you think it appropriate for a democracy to use faith as a determining criteria for citizenship? Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ve said a great deal about the impeachment proceedings, so I think the – you and the world know exactly what I think about them. And as for my participation, my participation will continue to be precisely that which the law requires. And I’m happy to do document productions, I’m happy to testify if that’s appropriate and required by law. The State Department’s done the same thing all the way through. We will continue to do so.

It’s important to note the four of us today worked really hard on important things for the United States of America. We were intently focused on that. And so the world should know that despite all the noise, the chaos, the media asking questions that are completely unrelated to the reason that we’re here today, that the leaders of our two nations are working diligently to protect the American people, to develop a relationship that’s important strategically for the coming decades between the United States and India. And we will – we won’t let the noise and the silliness here in Washington, D.C. distract us from that.

And then I’ll answer – and then I’ll answer your second question, then I’ll turn it over to my counterparts to address the issue. Yep, we care deeply and always will about protecting minorities, protecting religious rights everywhere. We honor Indian democracy as they have a robust debate inside of India on the issue that you raised, and the United States will be consistent in the way that we respond to these issues, not only in India but all across the world. And with that I’ll turn it over to my counterparts to respond.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER JAISHANKAR: You know the question that you asked relating to India, if you had followed the debate on that particular legislation carefully, you would see that it is a measure which is designed to address the needs of persecuted religious minorities from certain countries. If you look at where – what those countries are, and therefore what the minorities are, perhaps you’d get – you’d understand why certain religions were identified in terms of categorizing those who had come across.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Shaun Tandon, AFP.

QUESTION: Thank you. Could I follow up on Afghanistan, perhaps to the defense secretaries first? There have been multiple reports the U.S. imminently will consider a drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. Is that the case? Do you expect something soon? And Secretary Pompeo, you’ve expressed concern about the violence in Afghanistan. Is that consistent with the talks right now with the Taliban? What do you hope to achieve with the Taliban? Can you keep talking to them despite the violence? And could I ask the Indian Minister Jaishankar and Minister Singh, the Taliban when they’re in power hosted very virulently anti-Indian militants. Are you concerned about talks with the Taliban? Are you concerned about the future of Afghanistan if and when there is a drawdown of U.S. forces? Thanks.

SECRETARY ESPER: So I’ll go first. I have no announcements to make with regard to Afghanistan. I will say that we had a great set of meetings today in terms of advancing the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership, and that’s been the focus of our efforts today. And if and when a decision is made, we’ll be sure to inform the media at the appropriate time and place.

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’d add only with respect to the conversations that Ambassador Khalilzad is having in the region, we shared with our Indian counterparts, as we have consistently throughout our efforts to develop intra-Afghan negotiations and peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, we’ve shared with our Indian counterparts the path that we’re headed down. We’re very transparent. We understand the concerns, too, that India has, rightful concerns that they have about a terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and we assured them that we would take that into account. We are hopeful that all of the relevant political participants in Afghanistan, the Afghan Government, non-Afghan Government leaders inside of Afghanistan, the Taliban, we’re hopeful they will all conclude that the right answer is a significant reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire and a set of negotiations amongst and between the Afghan peoples and their leaders such that the United States can reduce its footprint while continuing to ensure that the threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan to the homeland here in the United States has a greatly reduced risk. And that’s what Secretary Esper and I have been deeply focused on together along with our two teams for the past months.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER JAISHANKAR: Thank you. Where we are concerned – of course we are concerned about the future of Afghanistan, which is why we’ve had a large development assistance program there. We believe that the reconciliation process in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. We have every confidence that the gains which have been achieved by the international community over the last two decades will be protected and preserved in that process.

MR GOPALAKRISHNAN: Mr. Lalit Jha from PTI.

QUESTION: Thank you. If I can ask this question in Hindi for the defense minister.

(Via interpreter) Mr. Minister, in the last decade the U.S. has emerged as a major source of defense acquisitions for India. After the meeting, the 2+2 meeting today, how do you see this going forward, including in terms of outcomes?

(In English) What is the future of India-U.S. defense trade? And Mr. Defense Secretary, there are voices in the Congress about expanding NATO plus five in the NDAA to include India into that. What is your thoughts on that?

DEFENSE MINISTER SINGH: (Via interpreter) First of all, I’ll speak about the relationship between India and the U.S. We have a global Strategic Partnership. We are working together to further expand and deepen this important partnership. And this integral – an integral component of our Strategic Partnership is strong defense. The 2+2 mechanism today has brought about a greater synergy in our diplomatic and security policies. In the last few years, we have made a conscious decision to have greater high-level and deeper relationships. The tri-service exercises of November 2019 that is the exercise Tiger Triumph is one such example. In the last few years, we have signed a COMCASA, LEMOA, and such agreements. For this reason, our forces have logistic exchanges and communications, and this has increased greatly. In the last few years, we have made a conscious decision to diversify and indigenize our arms acquisitions. This increased defense trade with the U.S. is one important aspect of this. We are also working to encourage greater collaboration between defense manufacturing sectors in India and the U.S. The conclusion of the Industrial Security Annex with the U.S. will provide the necessary framework for pursuing co-development and co-production linkages in the defense manufacturing sector.

These developments will add value to other key initiatives of the government, like "Make in India” and the two defense manufacturing corridors in India, which have been launched, one in Tamil Nadu and the other in Uttar Pradesh. Thank you.

EXTERIOR AFFAIRS MINISTER JAISHANKAR: On trade – not defense trade, but trade – I don’t know if there’s anything I need to add on defense trade. The defense minister has answered that, so I think Defense Secretary —

MR GOPALAKRISHNAN: Ms. Reena Bhardwaj, ANI.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY ESPER: Sure. First of all, I can’t add anything more than what Minister Singh said with regard to defense trade. I mean, for the United States, it’s now $18 billion annually. It’s been a substantial increase in 15 to 20 years, and I think it shows the depth and the breadth of our relationship, which continues to grow not just in defense trade but in all defense areas. This is important. It’s not just about equipment, hardware, software. What it does is it gets to the improved interoperability between our two countries, our two militaries; a better understanding, a way to work and fight better together if called upon to do so. So I think it’s much broader than that and that’s how we look at it, and key to our discussions today was how do we deep – further deepen and broaden that.

With regard to your question with Congress, that’s something that I’ll have to discuss with Secretary Pompeo, who has the lead on those types of issues, but I think we should look at every opportunity to advance our relationship, our defense trade. And whether it requires a policy change or regulatory change or a change to law, I think those are all the things that we should explore, and Minister Singh and I had a discussion along a couple of these lines earlier today in our bilateral meeting.

MR GOPALAKRISHNAN: Ms. Reena Bhardwaj, ANI.

QUESTION: Dr. Shankar, new powers are rising in the Indo-Pacific. Not all the Indian neighbors support the ideals of rule of law and transparency. How do you see the U.S.-India security partnership strengthening from this dialogue here today?

Also, taking a cue from Shaun’s question, there is a change in Washington’s strategy to stabilize Afghanistan. Were there any discussions on regional stability and particularly taking our terror from Pakistan that targets India and Afghanistan?

EXTERIOR AFFAIRS MINISTER JAISHANKAR: Well, as I stated in my opening remarks, rule of law was one of the many characteristics that we brought to the table in approaching Indo-Pacific. It is something – an approach that we share with the United States, and certainly what we do, how we look at activities in that region, this – there are many other factors as well, but that is certainly one factor in our outlook.

In terms of terrorism in our region, again, a lot of it is obvious. It doesn’t need reiteration. So we did exchange notes in – of the challenges in our region and what have been the newer developments on that front, and this is an area where the two countries actually have a very strong history of cooperating. And I can only say this in terms of public record, that I’m very satisfied with the discussions we have had today.

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll just add we have been unambiguous in our partnership with the Indian Government about terror, terror from wherever it emanates, whether it’s from inside of Pakistan or from anyplace else. We are determined to protect the American people from the threat of terrorism and we’re determined to work with our great democratic friends like the Indians to protect the people of India as well, and we’ll continue to work on it.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done. It is very sophisticated. We have strong intelligence relationships, we have strong diplomatic relationships, and we do really good work taking down the risk of terrorism that threatens each of our two peoples. And I’m deeply appreciative of the work that the Indian Government under Prime Minister Modi has done to ensure that we continue to improve that, and as our adversaries evolve and their strategies and tactics evolve, that we match them moment for moment to keep our people safe, collectively.

Okay, thank you. Thank you all.

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