India says twice-delayed strategic talks with US to be held in September

Talks between the US and India have been delayed twice. (Reuters pic)

NEW DELHI: India will hold a top-level strategic dialogue with the United States in the first week of September, India’s defense minister said on Friday, after the United States last month postponed the meeting for a second time this year.

So-called two-plus-two talks were agreed by US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.

The United States postponed the talks twice but later said it was a priority.

“The 2+2 dialogue with the US is to happen in the first week of September,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the television news agency ANI, a Reuters affiliate.

“The agenda will be to develop and strengthen strategic defense cooperation.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had been scheduled to hold joint talks with their Indian counterparts in Washington on July 6.

But Pompeo postponed the meeting because of “unavoidable reasons”, the Indian foreign ministry said last month.

The meeting was originally planned for April but had to be put off because Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the previous month and Pompeo went through confirmation hearings before the U.S. Congress.

Separately, the Times of India daily reported on Friday that India has invited Trump to be the chief guest at January’s Republic Day parade.

India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Trump and Modi took great pains to stress the importance of a strong US-India relationship when they met in Washington a year ago.

But trade differences between their countries have increased in recent months. In June, India raised duties on US farm products in retaliation for Trump’s tariff increases on steel and aluminum.