Antony Blinken
Antony BlinkenIANS (File photo)

Blinken's talks in India will focus on security, defence, cyber and counterterrorism cooperation

Washington, July 24, 2021

The United States has said that Secretary of State Antony J Blinken's discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi next week would focus on expanding the bilteral security, defence, cyber and counterterrrorism cooperation.

"In the Secretary’s meetings with Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, we expect the discussions to focus on ways to further deepen our bilateral partnership, which is very broad in scope, as well as increased convergence on regional and global issues," Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson said at a briefing at the State Department on Friday.

Blinken is scheduled to reach New Delhi late on Tuesday and has a full slate of engagements on Wednesday. This will be Blinken's first visit to India after assuming office as US Secretary of State and comes barely a month ahead of US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"We collaborate across the government on these issues, including through regular U.S.-India working group meetings, and we look forward to further strengthening our ties with India to ensure a safer and more secure world. To that end, the Secretary and Defense Secretary Austin look forward to hosting their Indian counterparts for the annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year," Thompson said.

"On regional issues, we intend to discuss our efforts to support a just and durable peace in Afghanistan. All of Afghanistan’s neighbors and countries in the region have an interest in a peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan, which can only be accomplished through a negotiated political settlement that brings an end to 40 years of conflict. India, of course, is a critical partner in the region, and we welcome India’s shared commitment to peace and supporting economic development in Afghanistan," he said.

Thompson said the two sides were also expected to discuss developments in the Indo-Pacific region.

"One of the first multilateral events that President Biden hosted this year was a Quad summit with his counterparts from India, Japan, and Australia. The Quad leaders agreed on a shared vision for the region, one that’s free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values and respect for human rights, and where sovereignty is safeguarded. We’re working with India and other friends and partners in the region to advance this shared vision of the Indo-Pacific. Importantly, we’ll also discuss our health collaboration to combat COVID-19, including the Quad vaccine partnership that was first announced during President Biden’s Quad summit," he said.

Other issues that Blinken woud discuss with the Indian leadership include the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic is still with us and very much on our minds. India and the United States have both suffered tremendously during this pandemic, and we’re fortunate that the U.S.-India partnership has carried us through some of the most difficult days. We have provided COVID-19 assistance to each other, including a whole-of-government effort from the United States. Since March 2020, the U.S. has allocated more than $226 million in COVID-19 relief to India, including more than $100 million to support India’s response to the recent surge. In addition, more than $400 million has been contributed by American citizens and U.S. companies to assist the people of India in their time of need," Thompson said.

He said the US and India were also working urgently toward their shared goal of overcoming the pandemic.

"We’re confident that through our combined efforts, including through the Quad vaccine partnership and the G7-plus vaccine commitment, we will be able to share vaccines – safe and effective vaccines – to the Indo-Pacific region and the world. We will continue to seek ways in which we can work together to save lives around the world, and bring an end to the global pandemic," he said

Thompson said climate change was another pressing global challenge that might figure at the talks.

"The United States and India both recognize the unique role we have to play in reducing the world’s emissions, as well as our complementary strengths when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. We’re pleased to have launched the U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership in April this year. The partnership will reinforce our collective efforts to achieve both the goals of the Paris Agreement and our own ambitious 2030 targets for climate action and clean energy, as an excellent example of how the United States and India can bring our strengths to bear on some of the world’s most challenging issues.

"We hope to continue those conversations in New Delhi, and look forward to a productive visit that advances U.S.-India collaboration on the full range of regional and global issues," he added.

To a question about what the US was looking for from India post its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Thompson said that Washington expected that all the countries in the region have a shared interest in a stable and secure Afghanistan going forward.

"And so, we will certainly be looking at talking with our Indian partners about how we can work together to realize that goal, to find ways to bring the parties together, and continue to pursue a negotiated settlement to end the longstanding war.

"With regard to India’s position in the country, I would have to refer you back to them. But I would say that we definitely – we certainly intend to continue our relationship with the Afghan Government, to look for ways to reinforce the long-term goals we have, which includes Afghanistan’s economic development and long-term prosperity, of course. But of course, all of that is dependent on getting to a political settlement," he said.

On India-Pakistan, Thompson said the US strongly believed that the issues between the two countries were ones for them to work out between themselves.

"We are pleased to see that the ceasefire that went into place earlier this year is – has remained intact, and we certainly always encourage them to continue their efforts to find ways to build a more stable relationship going forward," he said.

In response to another question about India-US ties as well as human rights issues in India, Thompson said the Biden administration saw the US-India relationship continuing at a very high level and that India would remain an "incredibly important partner".

"We’re going to continue pursuing our global comprehensive strategic partnership, and I think by virtue of the President making the Quad and our partnership with India very high priorities right at the outset of this administration, it sets the tone for what we think we can achieve and accomplish with them, and with our other partners as well. So. I would expect to continue the dialogues that we’ve had on all those fronts.

"And with respect to the human rights and democracy question, yes, you’re right; I will tell you that we will raise it, and we will continue that conversation, because we firmly believe that we have more values in common on those fronts than we don’t. And we believe India is going to be a really important part of continuing those conversations and building strong efforts on those fronts in partnership as we go forward.

"The relationship with India is a strong one that has endured through administrations of all colors and stripes in the United States, and will continue to do so. So, we’re looking forward to this opportunity for the Secretary to talk with Prime Minister Modi, with EAM Jaishankar, and continue to pursue the myriad areas of common interest that we have," he added.

To a question about the alleged use of Israeli spyware Pegasus on journalists and political leaders in India, Thompson said, "Obviously, we – the whole notion of using this type of technology against civil society, or regime critics, or journalists, or anybody like that through extrajudicial means is always concerning. We – I don’t have any particular special insights into the India case. I know this is a broader issue, but I will say that we’ve been, I think, quite vocal about trying to find ways for companies to be able to ensure that their technology is not used in these types of ways. And we will certainly continue to press – to press those issues."


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