Potential APEC Skip: PM Modi Unlikely to Attend India-US 2+2 Meeting on November 10

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will travel to India next week for the 5th2+2 Ministerial Dialogue that the government will host on November 10.
The Dialogue is expected to see the 2 countries reaffirming their commitment to their global partnership and Indo-Pacific cooperation amid increasing geopolitical tensions, and also some serious differences between them over Canada’s efforts to implicate the Indian government in the murder of a Khalistan leader.
PM Narendra Modi, however, will not travel to San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in mid-November and instead nominate someone else for participation. During Modi’s visit to the US in June, President Joe Biden had invited India to be the guest of the host. The campaign for the assembly elections will likely keep Modi occupied around the time of the summit, where the focus will be on Biden’s meeting on the margins with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Modi will also be spared the trouble of coming face to face with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau in the middle of a standoff that saw India recently expelling 41 Canadian diplomats.
While the US has taken a seemingly pro-Canada position by saying that Trudeau’s claims about Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistan leader and Canadian national Hardeep Singh Nijjar are informed by shared Five Eyes intelligence, the 2+2 will likely serve as a reminder that differences over Canada won’t dent the momentum in bilateral ties, as reflected most recently in efforts to forge a formidable technology partnership.
Blinken, however, is likely to reiterate the US call for India’s cooperation with the Canadian probe, as he did in his meeting with his counterpart S Jaishankar in a meeting in Washington in September. The US also wants India to follow the Vienna Convention and reverse its decision to expel Canadian diplomats. Significantly, Canada’s foreign minister Melanie Joly was reported to have met Jaishankar in Washington in September. While no country has confirmed the meeting, Joly said on Tuesday that she was in touch with her Indian counterpart on the Nijjar probe issue.
India is currently also awaiting a response from the US to its invitation to Biden to attend the Republic Day parade in January and the issue is likely to come up during the 2+2 meeting. The 2 sides will look to strengthen cooperation in climate, energy, health, counterterrorism, education and people to people ties, apart from the defence sector in which the focus currently is on technology transfer and co-production.
Discussions are also expected on the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), the next big thing in bilateral ties that might act as the guiding principle for further deepening the strategic partnership, before it comes for annual review early next year by the national security advisers. The 2 sides will also review efforts to arrive at an agreement for the development of next generation small modular reactor technologies.
The 2+2 will also look to underscore the significance of Quad in efforts to ensure a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and reiterate the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. Significantly, India’s position on the Israel-Hamas conflict, another international issue the 2 sides will look to address, has been aligned more with Quad than with most other major multilateral forums, like BRICS and SCO, it has long term engagements with.
This was evident from the UNGA vote on the Gaza truce resolution that India, Australia and Japan abstained from. The US voted against the resolution. All Indian partners in BRICS, SCO and other important forums like SAARC and BIMSTEC in the neighbourhood had voted in favour of the resolution that was adopted with backing from 120 countries.


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