New Delhi: Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday addressed the 2+2 high-level dialogue between India and the US ahead of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) agreement and noted that these challenging times will strengthen the partnership between the two countries.Also Read - Rajnath Singh Writes to Bengal, Tamil Nadu CMs Over Exclusion of Tableaux From Republic Day Parade

The third edition of the 2+2 meeting was held between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper. Also Read - Bihar CM Nitish Kumar Tests Positive For COVID-19, Isolated Himself At Home

“We are happy that we’ve completed the BECA, which will open new avenues in information sharing. We are eager to discuss further issues with the US,” Rajnath Singh said during the ministerial dialogue. Also Read - Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Tests Positive For COVID-19, in Home Quarantine

“Our economies have suffered losses. We’re trying to revive industries and service sectors. Our partnership becomes more important in view of the current challenges we’re facing. We both believe in rule-based order & democracy,” he noted.

Meanwhile, EAM Jaishankar agreed and asserted that “together we (India and US) can make a real difference when it comes to regional & global challenges.”

This year’s dialogue was aimed at further ramping up the overall defence and security ties and boost strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific at a time when China is attempting to expand its economic and military clout in the region.

The in-person bilateral talks are also taking place at a crucial juncture for India when it is locked in a 6-month-long tense standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, along with the Trump administration’s growing friction with Beijing over issues including trade tariff and the Chinese military’s offensive manoeuvres in the South China Sea.

“We’ve strengthened our defence and security partnership especially over past year during which we advanced our regional security & information sharing. Our cooperation meets the challenges of the day & principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said.

The Indo-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years.

In a reflection of growing bilateral defence ties, the two sides will seal a long-negotiated pact called BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) during the talks that will provide for sharing of high-end military technology, geo-spatial maps and classified satellite data.

The agreement will give India access to classified geospatial data as well as critical information having significant military applications.

Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday on a two-day visit for the talks which are taking place just a week before the presidential election in the US.

Officials said Indo-US relations have bipartisan support in the US and the scheduling of the dialogue a few days ahead of the November 3 presidential polls will have no impact on the outcome of the talks.

Ahead of the 2+2 dialogue both Singh and Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

With PTI inputs