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Here’s Why the US Postponed 2+2 Dialogue. It has Nothing to do With India

Mike Pompeo had called external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to say that the 2+2 dialogue had to be postponed due to “unavoidable reasons”, but refused to divulge them.

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Updated:June 29, 2018, 5:11 PM IST
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Here’s Why the US Postponed 2+2 Dialogue. It has Nothing to do With India
File photo of Union Minister Sushma Swaraj. (Reuters)
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A high-level dialogue planned between the foreign and defense ministers of United States and India for July 6 was postponed because US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to travel to North Korea to discuss the country's denuclearization plans, a report in the Financial Times has claimed.

Citing four sources close to the development, the London-based newspaper said that Pompeo will fly to Pyongyang next week, his first trip to North Korea since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held an unprecedented June 12 summit in Singapore.

The US had on Wednesday abruptly postponed the 2+2 dialogue with India. Mike Pompeo had called external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to say that it was due to “unavoidable reasons”, but refused to divulge them.

The next day, he again called up Swaraj to assure that India remains a “priority” for the Donald Trump administration and the meeting will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman were earlier scheduled to travel to Washington to take part in the meeting with Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis on July 6.

US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who is a part of Trump’s inner circle, had assured that the reason for the postponement was not the bilateral ties between the nations, but something else.

“It will come to light why this has been rescheduled. But the relationship between India and US has never been stronger in our eyes and I hope in the eyes of India, it is the same way,” she had said.

This is the second time that the US has postponed the inaugural two-day dialogue, which was announced last summer when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a successful meeting with President Trump at the White House.

Coming amid the rocky patch over trade tariffs, India’s Iran oil imports and arms deal with Russia, it had given rise to fears that it was a fallout of the tensions.

But Financial Times said this second cancellation was because has to jet off to Pyongyang to discuss the latter's denuclearisation plans.

However, a US State Department official did not confirm the Financial Times report and told Reuters there were no travels plans to announce.

Pompeo, who has been charged with leading negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to give up a nuclear program that has been the source of international tension for decades, traveled twice to North Korea to set up the Singapore summit. He said last week he likely would go back "before too terribly long" to try to flesh out commitments made at the Trump-Kim meeting.

On Wednesday, Pompeo told lawmakers he was confident Pyongyang understood the scope of the US desire for North Korea's complete denuclearization as the two countries negotiate after the summit.

The decision to postpone the maiden 2+2 dialogue between the two countries has come as a disappointment for India watchers in the American think-tank community. "The postponement is disappointing," Jeff Smith from Heritage Foundation, a think-tank close to the ruling Republican establishment.

"Frankly I'm worried that the growing cascade of disputes surrounding trade and investment will slowly sap momentum from this very important relationship," Joshua T White, a former Obama administration official, said.

Michael Kugelman from the Wilson Center alleged that with Trump at the help of affairs, no US' relationship was foolproof. "Safe to say that US-India relations have taken their biggest tumble in quite some time," he tweeted. "In the Trump era, no US relationship is foolproof," he said.

"This is really big. 2+2 could have been used to reset a relationship experiencing growing tensions on the econ side," Kugelman said in another tweet. The new dialogue format was agreed upon between the two sides during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June 2017.

After June last year, the two countries have tried to schedule the dialogue many times with several dates having been considered.

Earlier this year also, the '2+2 dialogue' had been postponed due to uncertainty over the confirmation of Pompeo as new Secretary of State. Pompeo was later confirmed as the US Secretary of State in April.
| Edited by: Parth Sharma
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