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SOURCE: THE PRINT

India and the US will finally hold the third round of 2+2 ministerial dialogue on 26-27 October, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said Thursday. The 2+2 ministerial dialogue, which will take place between foreign and defence ministers of both the sides, was finalised during the bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that was held in Tokyo earlier this week, said Goyal.

“We are at a cusp of a very enduring relationship — a relationship that will grow from strength to strength in the years to come,” Goyal said during his interaction with American businesses.

The minister also said the bilateral trade between US and India grew from $126 billion in 2017 to $145 billion in 2019, adding that the set target of $500 billion via a two-way trade in the next five years is “eminently doable”.

However, according to sources, the talks for having a ‘mini’ trade deal between India and US have gone into the backburner over “deep differences” between both sides on the issue of removal of tariffs on goods, and restoration of Generalised System of Preferences.

“We are moving from red tape to red carpet. We are moving out of the shackles of the past into a more open and liberal foreign investment destination,” Goyal said.

“We have embarked on a new journey, which will take India to levels never seen before. We are looking at logistics reform to bring down the cost of logistics. We are doing several tax reforms. We have insolvency laws in place. India’s corporate tax is amongst the lowest in the world. My own ministry is working at ‘plug and play’ and cluster development.

“We are looking at a genuine single-window system, which makes it easy for companies and businesses to work in India. We are focusing on improved infrastructure. We promise faster registration, easier availability of infrastructure,” he added.

BECA likely to be signed during 2+2
The 2+2 talks this time is likely to result in the signing of the much-awaited Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which will enable India to avail of US expertise on geospatial intelligence, and sharpen the accuracy of weapons and automated hardware systems used for military purposes.

This round of the 2+2 talks will be led by Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh from the Indian side, while the US will be represented by Secretary Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

The 2+2 talks will assume greater importance as this will be taking place at a time when India entered the fifth month of a bitter border stand-off with China at the Line of Actual in Ladakh.

India and the US this week took part in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with Australia and Japan in which the US lambasted China.

During the last 2+2 meeting, which was held in December 2019 in Washington DC, both sides had signed the Industrial Security Annex, which is a part of the India-US General Security of Military Information Agreement that eased transfer of high-level technology from the US to India and safeguarding of classified military information.