Indian Army vice-chief to visit US ahead of 2+2 dialogue

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Days ahead of the planned 2+2 dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of India and the US, the Indian Army’s vice-chief is set to visit the Hawaii-based Indo-Pacific Command to boost military cooperation between the two sides.

Lt Gen SK Saini, the vice-chief of the army staff, will visit the US during October 17-20, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity. The 2+2 dialogue is expected to be held in New Delhi during October 26-27, with secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper set to visit India for the talks.

“The vice-chief of the Indian Army will visit the US Army Pacific Command (USARPRAC), the army component of the Indo-Pacific Command, and extensively exchange ideas with the American military leadership,” said one of the people cited above.

“The vice-chief will also witness training and equipment capabilities of the US Army. The aim of the visit is to enhance military cooperation between the two armies,” the person said.

Saini will also visit the Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, where different aspects of military cooperation and “furthering military-to-military engagement, including procurements from the US, training in niche domains, joint exercises and capability-building” will be discussed, the person said.

The visit is expected to enhance the operational and strategic collaboration between the two armies. The people described this collaboration as robust, pointing out that India is going ahead with participation in two joint exercises with the US despite restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These exercises are Yudh Abhyas, set for February 2021, and Vajra Prahar, set for March next year.

Cooperation for ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific that is in line with a rules-based order is expected to be a focus area for both the vice-chief’s visit and the 2+2 ministerial dialogue, the people said.

The Indo-Pacific Command is the US military’s largest unified commands which covers an area of over 260 million sq km. Its name was changed from the Pacific Command to Indo-Pacific Command in 2018 to reflect the greater emphasis on South Asia, and especially India, in protecting American strategic interests.

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