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Aravind Devanathan asked: Why has India restricted the two-plus-two dialogue with Japan only?

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  • Shamshad Ahmad Khan replies: A close look at the functioning and outcomes of the existing two-plus-two dialogue mechanism comprising ministries of defence and foreign affairs suggest that this mechanism sets the agenda for a summit level interaction between the leaders of the two states. The two-plus-two dialogue mechanism is between countries which have institutionalised annual dialogue or at least a regular dialogue between the political heads of the two states. The US has institutionalised a regular bilateral dialogue with Japan and Australia whereby a summit level meeting between the US president and the Japanese prime minister and the US president and the Australian prime minister is a regular feature. Both Japan and Australia also have similar summit level interaction between them on a regular basis. The two-plus-two dialogue comprising ministries of defence and foreign affairs discusses issues of bilateral cooperation threadbare and identifies new areas of cooperation, which are generally finalised later at the summit level interactions between the political leadership of the two states.

    India and Japan too have an institutionalised annual summit level dialogue between the prime ministers of the two countries. It has been taking place annually since 2007, alternatively in New Delhi and Tokyo. The two-plus-two dialogue comprising India’s defence and foreign secretaries and their Japanese counterparts takes place annually before the interaction of the two prime ministers. The dialogue sets the agenda of their talks and issues of bilateral agreements to be signed between the two countries. Since India currently has an annual summit level interaction with Japan only, the two-plus-two dialogue too remains limited to Japan. If India formalises such summit level dialogues with other countries on an annual or a regular basis, perhaps, a similar mechanism would be required.