US postpones 2+2 dialogue with India, Are Iran oil deals, Russia defence ties the reasons?

India and US ties appeared to have entered a phase of uncertainty on Wednesday following Washington’s decision to postpone 2+2 dialogue scheduled for July 6 after Delhi reportedly refused to toe the Trump administration’s line on cutting down on all oil supplies from the Persian Gulf country.

The talks between Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and their US counterparts were initially scheduled for April but were postponed after then US secretary of state Rex Tillerson was replaced by Mike Pompeo..

“US @SecPompeo spoke to EAM @SushmaSwaraj a short while ago to express his regret & deep disappointment at the US having to postpone the 2+2 Dialogue for unavoidable reasons. He sought EAM’s understanding, and they agreed to identify new mutually convenient dates at the earliest,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a Twitter post.

“Secretary Pompeo sought External Affairs Minister Swaraj’s understanding and they agreed to identify new mutually convenient dates to hold the dialogues at the earliest in India or the U.S.,” said the Spokesperson.

The talks were expected to boost bilateral ease of ties in the backdrop of growing disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal and the brewing tariff war between the two sides. The high-level dialogue was designed to address bilateral issues following a summit-level meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Modi in 2017. Both Defence Miniser Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj were expected to travel to the U.S. for the meeting with Secretary of Defence Mattis and Secretary of State Pompeo.

Haley too raised the issue during her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him it was important for India to cut Iranian oil imports. However, she said the US would work to allow India to use the Iranian port of Chabahar as a corridor to Afghanistan.

“Sanctions are coming (on Iran) and we’re going forward on that, and with India and the US building strong relationships we hoped that they would lessen their dependence on Iran,” Haley was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters.

“There’s a will, a political will, from both sides to figure out how to make this work,” she said. “Prime Minister Modi very much understands where we are with Iran, he didn’t question it, he didn’t criticise it, he understood it and he also understands that (India’s) relationship with the US is strong and important and needs to stay that way.”

The 2+2 dialogue was announced last August following a call between Modi and President Donald Trump. The meeting scheduled for next week was to have focused on “strengthening strategic, security and defense cooperation”.

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.

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