On 27 July, US secretary of state Antony Blinken began his two-day India visit. Blinken is reportedly the third high-ranking official of the Biden administration to travel to India after defence secretary Lloyd Austin in March and special envoy for climate change John Kerry in April.
External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday held wide-ranging talks covering the situation in Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific engagements, COVID-19 response mechanism and ways to strengthen regional security.
Blinken also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Modi. Sending signals to China, Blinken also met with representative of Tibet spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama- Tensin Gyatso, also known as Tibetan govt in exile.
Blinken said that the reports of Taliban committing atrocities in Afghanistan was deeply troubling.
"The Taliban says that it seeks international recognition, that it wants international support for Afghanistan, presumably, it wants its leaders to travel freely in the world and sanctions lifted, etc. Taking over the country by force and abusing the rights of the people is not the path to achieve those objectives. There is only one path and that is at the negotiation table to resolve the conflict peacefully," he said.
"Even as we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan, we remain engaged in Afghanistan. We have not only a strong embassy there but also have important programmes that support the country economically through development and security assistance."
"We are very much engaged in the diplomacy of working to bring parties together at the table for the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan," he added.
"The Taliban is making advances in district centres, there are reports of them committing atrocities in Afghanistan. It's deeply troubling. It certainly doesn't speak well about their intention for the country. We remain engaged in Afghanistan."
He also informed that he and EAM Jaishankar discussed regional security issues including Afghanistan. "India and US share strong interest in peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan. As a credible partner in the region, India has and will continue to make vital contribution to Afghanistan's stability and development," he said.
Bliken also said that the US sees India as a force for good in defending a free and open Indo-Pacific.
PM Modi tweeted: "Good to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken today. I welcome President Joe Biden's strong commitment to strengthen the India-US Strategic Partnership, which is anchored in our shared democratic values and is a force for global good."
Blinken said on Quad that it was not a military alliance. "What Quad is? It's quite simple but as important. Four like-minded countries coming together to work on some of the most important issues of time that are going to have real impact on the lives of the people & do in a way that ensures a free and open Indo-Pacific," he said.
Its purpose is to advance cooperation on regional challenges while reinforcing international rules and values that we believe together underpin peace, prosperity, stability in the region, he added.
He also purportedly took a shot at China warning of “rising global threats to democracy".
"COVID-19 hit both the US and India very hard. We remember with gratitude and will not forget the aid and assistance India provided to us early in the pandemic. I am proud we could return the gesture to India," he said.
"We are determined to end this pandemic, and India and the US will work together to do it together including through the QUAD vaccine partnership. I believe India and US together around the world will be leaders to bring this pandemic to an end."
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar during joint press briefing with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also highlighted the partnership on the issue.
"Today, we focused on expanding vaccine production to make it globally affordable and accessible.. Let me acknowledge responsiveness of Biden administration to keeping the raw material supply chains open for vaccine production in India & then say big thanks for the support we received during COVID second wave from US, a support that was truly exceptional," he said.
"I'm proud to announce an additional $25 million from the US government, through US AID, to support India’s COVID-19 vaccination program," tweeted the US secretary of state.
On India-US Partnership
Blinken said that there were few relationships in the world that were more vital than the one between the US and India. "We are two of the world's leading democracies and diversity fuels our national strength," he said.
"We are two of the world's largest economies. Indian and American people are united by millions of family ties, tracing back generations and by shared values and shared aspirations," he added.
When asked about "democratic backslide" in India, he said, "Our shared values strengthen the US and India relationship. Like our own, India's democracy is powered by its free thinking citizens. We applaud that."
"We recognize that every democracy, starting with our own, is a work in progress. When we discussed these issues, I certainly do it from starting point of humility. We've seen challenges our own democracy faced & faces today. This is in a sense to all democracies," he added.
"We talk about in our founding document, search for a more perfect union that means that we are not perfect. Our quest is to get closer to the ideals we set for ourselves. At times, the challenge is painful & ugly, but as democracies, we do it openly."
"As friends (India and the US), we talk about these issues, we talk about challenges we face in renewing and strengthening our democracies. Humbly we can learn from each other. No democracy regardless of how old or large has it all figured out."
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