Does 2+2=0? Another postponement of dialogue raises questions about Indo-US ties in Trump-Modi era

For the moment 2+2 equals zero, at least when it comes to Indo-US ties. The 2+2 dialogue, a reference to a summit that would involve the foreign and defence ministers of India and their US counterparts, was postponed on Wednesday for the third time. Washington said it had to push the meetings back due to “unavoidable reasons” and that it would work with India to figure out a new date for the dialogue.
The inaugural meeting was originally slated for July 6, in Washington, DC. Now aides from both sides will have to carve out another spot on their calendars for the the ministers to meet. The ostensible reason is that a summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin is also expected in early July for which the Americans will presumably need all hands on deck. But the timing of the postponement also suggests a serious drift in ties between Washington and New Delhi.
India has just announced retaliatory tarrifs after the US unilaterally imposed its own.
Unnamed State Department officials in the US told reporters they expect allies to cut trade with Iran down to “zero”.
India seems set to buy the S-400 air defence system from Russia, which would attract US sanctions.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who is visiting India, told reporters she spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about getting India to cut down its oil imports from Iran.
This is the third time that the 2+2 dialogue has been postponed in the last six months. When the dialogue was announced, after Modi’s visit to the US in June 2017, it was meant to be a sign of growing ties with India. The belief was the New Delhi and Washington were both agreed on the idea that India would act as a counterweight to China in the Indo-Pacific region. Modi seemed more willing than previous Indian leaders to embrace this role, especially because it came around the same time when Indo-China relations were particularly tense because of the Doklam standoff.