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Antony Blinken in India LIVE Updates: Jaishankar highlights cooperation against COVID, shared interests in opening remark

·6 min read

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in India on Tuesday on a two-day maiden visit to expand the strong and growing bilateral partnership with the Biden administration describing India as a "leading global power and a key US partner" in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

Blinken is on a two-day visit to India to hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and India's NSA Ajit Doval on topics related to regional security, defence, China, Quad and recent human rights records of India.

Blinken has already met with Doval and currently talks are underway between the US Secretary of State and India's foreign minister S Jaishankar, the MEA said.

Listing out the broad topics that Jaishankar listed out in his opening remark during the meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the MEA stressed on how the India-US cooperation covers virtually all domains of contemporary relevance.

Jaishankar highligted the shared interests, similar concerns and cooperation that India and US showed against COVID-19 pandemic in his opening remarks, the MEA tweeted.

The meeting is being held amid US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and Jaishankar is also expected to bring up India's security concerns, including seeking US help in keeping up the pressure on Pakistan to give up its support to terrorism.

Then there's the matter of Indo-Pacific security, China's growing assertiveness and the Quad as a possible response to that.

Blinken's India visit is expected to focus on a plethora of pressing issues such as the fluid situation in Afghanistan, regional security concerns, COVID-19 response and ways to boost Indo-Pacific engagement, people familiar with the agenda of talks said.

"India is a leading global power and a key U.S. partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond," the US State Department said in the fact sheet which was shared with reporters by the US embassy here.

"A partnership anchored in shared values, mutual interests and goodwill. Welcome to US Secretary of State @SecBlinken on his arrival in Delhi," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

Besides holding extensive talks with Jaishankar and meeting Doval, Blinken will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi before leaving for Kuwait as part of his two-nation tour.

".@SecBlinken is wheels down in New Delhi for meetings with our Indian partners. We're excited to expand the strong and growing #USIndia partnership," US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Twitter.

The US State Department said Blinken is visiting India to reaffirm the United States' commitment to strengthening the partnership and underscore cooperation on shared priorities.

"Secretary Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to discuss a wide range of issues, including continued cooperation on COVID-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis," it said.

This 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 visits to New Delhi by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in March and Special Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry in April.

According to a media advisory released by the Ministry of External Affairs, Blinken will be in Delhi for a little over 20 hours. His meeting with Jaishankar was scheduled to begin at 12 pm and he will call on Prime Minister Modi at 4:30 pm. Blinken is scheduled to emplane from Delhi at 5:30 PM.

Just before leaving for India, Blinken had said that he was looking forward to consultations with partners of the US for further cooperation in support of its shared interests in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East.

"Wheels up for my trip to New Delhi and Kuwait City. I look forward to consultations with our partners to further cooperation in support of our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East," he tweeted.

It is learnt that situation in Afghanistan, expansion of cooperation under Quad, regional security concerns in the wake of China's aggressive behaviour and issues relating to the Indo-Pacific will dominate the talks.

People familiar with the agenda of the visit said both sides will extensively deliberate on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban increasing its hostilities in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the country.

Afghanistan witnessed a series of terror attacks in the last few weeks as the US withdrew the majority of its troops and is looking at completing the drawdown by August 31, ending nearly two-decade of its military presence in the country.

In the talks, the Indian side is expected to raise the implications of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the need for sustained pressure on Pakistan on terror financing and terrorist safe havens.

"The United States and India are also closely coordinating on regional security issues, such as Afghanistan," the State Department said.

In the talks, both sides are also expected to explore ways to deepen defence collaboration, including exercises, defence transfers and technologies ahead of the next edition of the 2+2 defence and foreign ministerial dialogue to be held in the US later this year.

"US-India defence cooperation is reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, increasingly complex exercises like Malabar, and defence enabling agreements, such as the secure communications agreement COMCASA," the State Department said in the fact-sheet under a sub-heading "Deterring Our Adversaries and Defending Our Interests".

"As of 2020, the United States has authorised over $20 billion in defence sales to India. Through the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, the United States and India work together on co-production and co-development of defence equipment," it said.

The two sides signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for the sale of high-end technology from the US to India.

In the talks, India and the US are also expected to look at implementing the Quad vaccine initiative.

On coronavirus pandemic, it said the US and India are partnering to strengthen the global response to COVID-19 and on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains.

"US pharmaceutical companies have coordinated with Indian companies since the beginning of the pandemic. This cooperation includes voluntary licensing and technology transfer agreements to increase global manufacturing capacity," it said.

In his address, Austin said Beijing's claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law.

"That assertion treads on the sovereignty of states in the region. We continue to support the region's coastal states in upholding their rights under international law.

And we remain committed to the treaty obligations that we have to Japan in the Senkaku Islands and to the Philippines in the South China Sea," he said. Referring to COVID-19, he said when India was besieged, its friends stepped up.

In the talks, India and the US are also likely to focus on ways to augment trade and investment ties besides looking at opportunities in healthcare, education, digital domains.

After arriving in India, Blinken tweeted that he spoke to Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and discussed the advancement of the US-Nepal partnership including cooperation on the shared fight against COVID-19 and the effects of climate change.

Also See: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to begin two-day India visit today; COVID-19, Afghanistan, Quad in focus

US secretary of state Antony Blinken to meet Narendra Modi, S Jaishankar during India visit next week

Afghanistan, China, Quad and human rights: Key issues likely on Blinken, Jaishankar's agenda today

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