US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on a range of bilateral and regional issues with a focus on taking the relationship to the “next level".
The wide-ranging talks covered the situation in Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific engagements, Covid-19 response mechanism and ways to strengthen regional security. At a joint media briefing, Blinken said “there are few relationships in the world that are more vital than the one between the US and India.”
Blinken said that as the world’s leading democracies, “we take seriously our responsibilities" towards freedom, equality and opportunity to all of “our people". He said actions by India and the US shape the 21st century and beyond, and that is why strengthening partnership with India is one of the top foreign policy priorities of the US.
Sources told News18 that the issue of Covid-19 remained top priority during the discussion as both countries have been hit hard by the pandemic. India acknowledged the support it got from the US during the second wave of the pandemic. “We won’t forget the aid India provided to US in the first decade. Proud that we could reciprocate when India wanted help,” Blinken said.
A $25 million dollar vaccination effort, vaccine supply chain logistics and ways to fight vaccine hesitancy, to make vaccines affordable and accessible to the masses were also discussed.
In a tweet later in the afternoon, Blinken said that India is one of US’s most valued partners and the welcomed India’s emergence as a leading global power.
Thanks to @DrSJaishankar for a collaborative discussion today on many areas of cooperation, including efforts to support peace and stability in Afghanistan. India is one of our most valued partners, and the U.S. welcomes India's emergence as a leading global power.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 28, 2021
Both sides discussed strategic issues of importance in security, defence, economic and technology-related sectors, adding special attention was given on long term measures to take the relationship to the next level. “The bilateral partnership between India and US has advanced where we can collaborate on bigger issues. We are meeting for fourth time this year,” said Jaishankar as he addressed the media along with Blinken.
Blinken arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday evening on a two-day visit with an extensive agenda featuring the rapidly evolving security situation in Afghanistan, boosting Indo-Pacific engagement and ways to enhance COVID-19 response efforts among others. It is Blinken’s first visit to India after assuming charge as the US Secretary of State and the third by a high-ranking Biden administration official after it came to power in January.
India also raised the issue of travel to the US as the country has made things easy for students, the source said.
The fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific engagement also figured in the nearly one-hour talks. Sources said peace negotiations were taken seriously by all parties and they agreed that gains to the Afghan civil society over the last two decades should be preserved. Afghanistan shouldn’t be a home to terrorism, the leaders noted.
“There is much more convergence on Afghanistan than divergence. We agreed that peace negotiations should be taken seriously. The diversity of Afghanistan must be taken into account to find a lasting solution,” Jaishankar said.
Blinken agreed and said the future government in Afghanistan needs to be inclusive as military force cannot resolve any conflict. “There is no military solution to the conflict. The future government has to be inclusive and fully representative,” he said.
Views were also exchanged on contemporary and futuristic issues related to regional and global security.
Blinken began his engagements in India in the morning with a meeting with a number of civil society leaders. Following the meeting, Blinken said on Twitter that the US and India share a commitment to democratic values and it is part of the bedrock of the relationship and reflective of India’s pluralistic society.
“I was pleased to meet civil society leaders today. The US and India share a commitment to democratic values; this is part of the bedrock of our relationship and reflective of India’s pluralistic society and history of harmony. Civil society helps advance these values," he said.
Before meeting Jaishankar, Blinken held talks with Ajit Doval on a range of bilateral and regional issues. After the meeting, Doval said India is looking forward to the annual US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year as both countries believe in strengthening democratic values and stand for freedom.