Jha Washington: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar arrived here on Wednesday for a series of meetings with senior US officials during which they are expected to review the progress made in bilateral ties in the first 100 days of the Biden administration and lay the groundwork for the future. During his three-day stay here, Jaishankar is scheduled to meet his American counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, along with other key members of the Biden administration.
It is the first visit by a senior Indian minister to the US after President Joe Biden assumed office on January 20. The defence secretary will be meeting on Friday with Jaishankar, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters at a news conference.
“The defence secretary is meeting with the external affairs minister, will continue discussions that the two held in New Delhi in March and will continue the robust bilateral defence and security relationship between our two countries. We are looking forward to having him here at the Pentagon and hosting him for a good set of talks," Kirby said. “It will be a continuation of the discussion, the very productive discussions that we had when we were in New Delhi a month or so ago," he said, referring to Defence Secretary Austin’s India visit in March.
Since India is a strategic defence partner, there is lots to discuss, Kirby told reporters in response to a question at his Pentagon news conference. The State Department has not yet announced the timing of Blinken’s meeting with Jaishankar at its Foggy Bottom headquarters. Blinken is currently travelling in the Middle East as asked by Biden to continue with the peace process.
“The secretary (of state) looks forward to meeting minister Jaishankar during his visit and discussing a broad range of issues, including COVID-19 relief, efforts to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation through the Quad, enhanced UN and multilateral cooperation, and a range of other shared regional security and economic priorities," a State Department spokesperson said earlier this week. Procurement of coronavirus vaccines and raw materials to boost domestic production is expected to be a major focus area of Jaishankar’s talks here. Jaishankar is likely to press for further speeding up of the supply of raw materials from the US to boost vaccine production in India, which is currently reeling under the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Ahead of arriving in Washington, Jaishanakar described India-US ties one of the major relationships in the world today. He said the challenge before New Delhi and Washington is how to translate their fundamental, societal and geopolitical convergences into actionable policies. Emphasising that he has “big agenda" for the US-India relationship going forward, Jaishankar said, “I think our relationship has come a long way. It’s today one of the major relationships in the world and my own sense is that in Washington today, there is a real appreciation of the potential of this relationship, what it can do. And it’s true of New Delhi as well." During a virtual conversation on Wednesday with former US National Security Adviser Gen. HR McMaster in Battlegrounds’ session on ‘India: Opportunities And Challenges For A Strategic Partnership’ presented by the Hoover Institution, Jaishankar said that keeping in mind issues such as impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rise of different powers, “today we all recognise that it’s not a question of one or two or three countries who will decide how the world." “The world is truly much more multipolar and if it is multipolar, then it’s all the more important for countries to learn how to work with each other more effectively. And I see a big change in the American mindset…, Jaishankar said responding to a question on the trajectory of US-India relations.
“So the United States has not only an enormous ability to reinvent itself, it also has a great ability to assess its situation and re-strategise in a way." Noting that when it comes to the big issues of the day, “maybe because we are pluralistic societies, because we are political democracies, because we are market economies, that we have fundamental convergences." He said these convergences are societal and geopolitical. “I think the challenge before us is how to translate those convergences into actionable policies, he said, adding that he certainly looks forward to working on these with the Biden administration. Jaishankar is expected to meet a group of eminent business leaders on Thursday at two different meetings organised by the US India Business Council and the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum.
Jaishankar, who was the Indian Ambassador to the US from December 2013 to January 2015, is also scheduled to have meetings with eminent American lawmakers. Congressman Brad Sherman, Co-Chair of the India Caucus, said he looks forward to meeting with Jaishankar, India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and other leaders concerned with the US-India relationship for dinner on Wednesday. “This is an opportunity to discuss how the US can further help India as it continues to battle COVID-19, global vaccine production and security issues in the Indo-Pacific," Sherman said.
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