Blinken meets Modi, Jaishankar, discusses ways of deepening India-US strategic partnership
New Delhi, July 28, 2021
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs S Jaishankar here today and discussed with them ways of deepening the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.
During his meeting with Modi, the two also discussed regional challenges and a growing range of cooperation on COVID-19 response efforts, climate change, shared values and democratic principles, and regional security, including through U.S.-Australia-India-Japan Quad consultations.
Blinken, who is on his first visit to India as Secretary of State, conveyed greetings of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris to the Prime Minister.
He also briefed Modi on his exchanges with Jaishankar as well as National Security Adviser Ajit Doval earlier in the day and expressed strong commitment to further deepen India-US strategic relations in sectors such as defence, maritime security, trade & investment, climate change and science & technology.
Modi conveyed his warm greetings to President Biden and Vice President Harris and his appreciation for the initiatives taken by President Biden including those related to the Quad, COVID-19 and Climate Change.
Earlier, in his opening remarks at the delegation-level talks with Blinken, Jaishankar said the bilateral cooperation between the two countries had vastly expanded in the last few years and today covered virtually all domains of contemporary relevance.
"Our interests are shared, our concerns are similar and our convergences are strong. Talks today will provide an updated direction to our colleagues to translate these into practical outcomes," he said.
"Responding to the Covid pandemic has added new facets to our growing cooperation in an increasingly multi-polar world. Peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific is as important for both of us as democratic stability in Afghanistan. Deepening the Quad as a collaborative platform is in our mutual interest. And we must work together even more closely on key contemporary challenges like terrorism, climate change, pandemics and resilient supply chains.
"In democratic societies, it is also natural that legitimate concerns and people’s aspirations will find expression, including in foreign policy. Our conversations on global issues in a rebalancing world would surely be richer from real exchanges of national experiences and historical perspectives," Jaishankar said.
Blinken said there was not a single major challenge -- COVID-19, climate change, disrupting impact of emerging technologies -- that could be addressed by any country acting alone.
"There is a greater imperative than ever, I think, on cooperation, coordination, collaboration among countries, especially among countries who share basic perspectives, basic values, and basic interests. And that is certainly the case with the United States and India," he said.
"I think we’ve seen over the last couple of decades a relationship that has grown stronger and deeper across multiple administrations in both of our countries, and President Biden’s determination is to continue in exactly that direction, to grow it even stronger and even deeper. We have a lot on our agendas, and I think that’s actually a reflection of the strength of the relationship as it exists already, and you’ve touched on many of them," he said.
After the meeting, at a joint media interaction with Blinken, Jaishankar said the talks had taken place at an important juncture when key global and regional challenges need to be effectively addressed.
"That our bilateral partnership has advanced to a level that enables us to deal collaboratively with larger issues is a matter of particular satisfaction," he said.
"Now, you are all aware of the extent of transformation of our relationship in recent years. Prime Minister Modi and President Biden have spoken numerous times and participated in summits of the Quad, G7 and Climate Leaders this year and Secretary Blinken and I, the two of us we are actually meeting, I think, for the fourth time this year. As Foreign Ministers, it is our responsibility to regularly review cooperation in different domains and keep our leaders apprised of the progress in our ties and that is exactly what we have done today. Now whether it is responding to the Covid challenge, cooperating on defence and security, encouraging trade and investment, addressing climate change or expanding education and innovation, I can say truly that there is much that has happened in 2021.
"The Covid issue was naturally a particular priority, so let me first acknowledge the responsiveness of the Biden administration to keeping the raw material supply chain open for vaccine production in India and then say a big thanks for the support we received during the Covid second wave from the United States, a support that I would say was truly exceptional. We focus today on expanding vaccine production to make it globally affordable and accessible; we also discussed travel challenges resulting from Covid. The US has been very forthcoming on students. I really appreciate all the trouble that the State Department and the Embassy has gone to in that regard and I very much hope, will take a sympathetic view of other travellers in the days to come," he said.
Jaishankar said the two sides had spoken at length about regional concerns, multilateral institutions and global issues.
"The expanding Indian footprint, be it in Africa, South-east Asia, Caribbean or the South-pacific has naturally broadened the shared agenda. Among the many issues that we looked at, I would specifically note Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific and the Gulf.
"Regarding Afghanistan it is essential that peace negotiations are taken seriously by all parties. The world wishes to see an independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbours but its independence and sovereignty will only be ensured if it is free from malign influences. Similarly unilateral imposition of will by any party will obviously not be democratic and can never lead to stability nor indeed can such efforts ever acquire legitimacy. The gains to Afghan Civil Society especially on the rights of women, minorities and on social freedoms over the last two decades are self evident; we must collectively work to preserve them. Afghanistan must neither be home to terrorism nor resource of refugees.
"On the other side of India, the Indo Pacific presents a different set of challenges to stability, growth and prosperity. Under the aegis of the quad framework, we are engaged on maritime security, HADR counterterrorism, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber and digital concerns, COVID-19 response, climate action, education and resilient and reliable supply chains," he said.
Jaishankar said Blinken and he had discussed not only opportunities for further collaboration on all these issues, but also the importance of observing international law, rules and norms, including UNCLOS.
"Our ability to work more closely, bilaterally, in the Quad and elsewhere, benefits the international community as a whole. Developments in India's extended neighbourhood are also naturally of great consequence to us. Stability in the Gulf where our political, economic and community interests are so visible was a shared concern. On Myanmar, I conveyed our commitment to its democratic transition as well as our support for ASEAN initiatives.
"India and the United States are currently both members of the UN Security Council. Some of the agenda before the UNSC was also covered in our discussions as also our approach to reform multilateralism. Countering terrorism has been the common endeavour for us in the UN Framework, bilaterally and in other bodies. We are convinced that the world will never accept cross-border terrorism," he said.
"As regards climate change, the Agenda 2030 partnership that Prime Minister Modi and President Biden launched in April strengthens our commitment to meet Paris goals, taking forward its clean energy and finance mobilisation tracks is therefore vital.
"Given the comprehensive and global nature of our strategic partnership, it is to be expected that our two countries would engage on major contemporary issues. Such conversations are not only essential in a democratic, diverse and multi-polar world, but actually affirm that we have entered a new era. We approach this pluralism through the lens of our own contexts, convictions and cultures. Secretary Blinken and I have been very much part of the journey that has brought our two nations so close today. Our ties, obviously serve our national and mutual interests well, but more important, make a real difference to the world and the big issues of our times," he added.
Blinken said there are few relationships in the world that are more vital than the one between the United States and India.
"We are two of the world's leading democracies and our diversity fuels our national strength. We are two of the world's largest economies, powered by the innovative spirit of our people. At a time of rising temperatures and sea levels, we two of the world's largest carbon emitters are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and the leading edge of a new green economy. Our countries know first-hand the legal consequences of climate change. And the Indian and American people are united by millions of family ties stretching back generations, and by shared values and shared aspirations. Together, the actions that India and the United States take are shaping the 21st century and beyond. That's why strengthening the partnership with India is one of the United States' top foreign policy priorities. That's been the case for the past several presidential administrations, Democrat and Republican alike. And President Biden feels a deep personal commitment to making our friendship with India, as strong and as effective as it can be. We believe this partnership will be critical for delivering stability and prosperity in the Indo Pacific region and beyond, and for showing the world how democracies can deliver for their people. And we believe that there's a good deal that we can accomplish together on so many fronts, including in the near term.
"As the minister said, we discussed a number of critical issues today. COVID-19 being at the top of the agenda, it's hit both of our countries very, very hard. We remember with gratitude, and we will not soon forget the aid and assistance that India provided to us in the early days of COVID-19 when our hospitals were overwhelmed early in the pandemic. And I'm proud that we could help return the gesture of friendship over the past few months, the United States government's contributed more than $200 million to India for COVID-19 relief. And there's been a huge outpouring from individual Americans from the private sector in support as well. Today, I'm pleased to announce that the United States government will send an additional $25 million to support vaccination efforts across India. This funding will contribute I think, to saving lives by strengthening vaccine supply chain logistics, addressing this information vaccine hesitancy and helping to train more healthcare workers. We're determined to end this pandemic. And India and the United States will work together to do it, including through the quad vaccine partnership, which will bring safe and effective vaccines to others across the region.
"And I believe, too, that as we move forward, India and the United States together, around the world will be leaders in bringing this pandemic to an end. And I hope, setting up an even stronger global health security system going forward so that we're in a better position should the next pandemic come around.
"We also have to address the very painful secondary consequences of the pandemic to fuel our economic recovery in the United States must continue to grow our trade relationship. And beyond that, we have to keep working through the barriers that stand in the way of greater bilateral investment, and deeper commercial ties. That's something we talked about today as well. If we create the right conditions for more trade and investment, and innovation, there really is no limit to what our private sectors can achieve together," he said.
Blinken said Jaishankar and he also discussed strengthening their regional cooperation, both bilaterally and through the quad with Japan and Australia, as well as other multilateral partnerships.
"So much of the future of the 21st century, will be written in this part of the world. We share a vision India and the United States of a free, open, secure, and prosperous Indo Pacific. We'll work together to make that vision a reality and will continue to advance peace, security and development worldwide, and to work in international organisations to strengthen a rules-based international order.
"Just to come back to one example, the quad countries as the minister noted are focused together on dealing effectively with COVID-19, on advancing the climate agenda, on dealing with emerging technologies. And we're bringing our experts together on a number of other vitally important issues to this region and beyond, including infrastructure, supply chains, maritime security," he said.
Blinken said the two sides discussed regional security issues, including Afghanistan.
"India and the United States share a strong interest in a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan. As a leader and critical partner in the region, India has made and will continue to make vital contributions to Afghanistan stability and development. And we'll continue to work together to sustain the gains of the Afghan people and support regional stability after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country.
"And indeed, we talked about the climate crisis as well. Earlier this year, we launched the US-India climate and clean energy agenda 2030 partnership to help achieve our ambitious 2030 targets for the United States slashing greenhouse gas emissions in half for India, installing 450 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, among other targets. That's nearly twice the amount of renewable energy capacity that the entire world added in 2020. It would demonstrate to emerging economies that economic development and a cleaner economy go hand in hand.
Blinken said his meetings with Modi, Jaishankar and Doval were valuable and important opportunities to carry the bilateral cooperation forward.
He also said that US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and he looked forward to hosting Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh later this year in Washington for the annual 2+2 Dialogue between the two countries.
"That's a critical forum for our two countries to deepen our strategic and security partnership. Finally, our bilateral relationship is strengthened by our shared values. As two of the world's leading democracies, we take seriously our responsibility to deliver freedom, equality, and opportunity to all of our people. And we know that we must constantly do more on these fronts, neither of us has achieved the ideals that we set for ourselves. Part of the promise of democracy is the constant striving for better, as America's founders put it, to form a more perfect union, to always seek to strengthen our democratic institutions, expand access to justice and opportunity, stand up forcefully for fundamental freedoms. Those values at the heart of our democratic systems, they're at the core of the vast array of partnerships connecting our countries, not only between our governments, but also between our private sectors, universities, civil societies, most of all, between our people.
"One last thing, to prepare for my visit today, I look back on an earlier visit to India, by an American leader. In 2006, then Senator Joe Biden was here. And during that visit to India, he said, and I quote, my dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world would be India and the United States, if that occurs, the world will be safer. Well, it's 2021. Joe Biden is president of the United States, the friendship between India and the United States is one of the most consequential in the world. And we too look to the future, to 2030 and beyond because once again, the choices and investments that we make today can produce a healthier, more peaceful, more prosperous, more democratic future for our children, and for the world. That's the opportunity before us. And that's what the people of India and the United States will work together to achieve," he added.