Nirmala sitharaman to meet james mattis in singapore on october 19; likely to discuss china

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The primary issue to come up at the Singapore meeting will be the Indo-Pacific and closer cooperation with the ASEAN nations, or in other words, how to deal with an increasingly aggressive China

Weeks after their meeting at high-level 2 plus 2 dialogue between the United States and India in New Delhi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Defence Secretary James Mattis will be meeting once again on October 19, on the sidelines of an international summit in Singapore.

It is perhaps a sign of the current relationship between the two countries that another high-level meeting is being planned weeks after the big event: the inaugural 2 plus 2 dialogue involving two senior Indian ministers, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis. And it wasn't an insubstantial meeting either: the COMCASA agreement, to ensure potentially closer operational cooperation between the two countries, was signed.

In between, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin was here and the S-400 air-defence system deal was signed; though the deal for the four frigates for the navy is still pending.

The primary issue to come up at the Singapore meeting will be the Indo-Pacific and closer cooperation with the ASEAN nations, or in other words, how to deal with an increasingly aggressive China. India already has a close defence relationship with several ASEAN countries, particularly Vietnam, and the USA has decided to move a large chunk of its defence assets to the area to support its allies like Japan, South Korea and the Philippines-- an ASEAN country.

Mattis is also likely to bring up the issue of US fighter sales to India. India is in the market for 110 fighters for its air force and the Americans are keen to be involved, particularly as Rafale is a bit of a political hot potato. But the deal will be post elections and in any case, there are doubts whether the bidding system will be used. For, since independence, all fighters for the air force have been bought on the basis of government-to-government agreements.

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