The coming week begins with the arrival of US Secretaries of State and Defense, Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper, in New Delhi. Now, these 2+2 talks have been an ongoing process for some time. Whatever the struggles and niggles on trade, India-US strategic ties have grown phenomenally. So, what’s so special about next week?
It is the timing. This will be just a week before the US Presidential elections, and probably even the results. How do two of the most important members of the US Administration fly all the way to India, in times of the pandemic, for what could be just another episode in an ongoing 2+2 process?
More importantly, why is India engaging them with aplomb when neither side knows who will win a week later? If at all, odds from all opinion polls now suggest that Donald Trump is more likely to lose than win. In usual times, the conservative Indian “system” would have preferred to wait.
But then, these are not usual times, and not merely because the Chinese are refusing to budge from their six-month dharna in Ladakh. That is a big concern for India, but not the topmost foreign and strategic policy priority for Washington.
What changes the picture, however, is the fact that China is now the most significant strategic concern in Washington, as in most of the world’s capitals, especially the democracies. That is all of Europe (including the United Kingdom), Japan, Australia and New Zealand.