US Secretary of State visits India today before heading to Kuwait
NEW DELHI-- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will arrive in India today as part of a two-nation official Asian tour that will take him to the state of Kuwait on the second leg.
In a statement earlier, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that Blinken will be in India on 27 and 28 on his first visit since assuming charge in the Biden administration. Blinken is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Wednesday.
The visit of US Secretary of State, which comes after two high-level visits of US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin in March and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry in April is seen by Indian authorities as an "opportunity to continue the high-level bilateral dialogue and bolster the India-US global strategic partnership." Several issues of mutual interest in the bilateral, regional and global arenas including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indo-Pacific region, Afghanistan, and cooperation in the UN are expected to come up for discussions.
The US administration was in the forefront of global efforts to help India fight the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic as the health system was strained under massive spread of the pandemic and resultant casualties.
The US extended huge emergency aid to India in the form of oxygen cylinders, ventilators, essential medicines as the Modi government struggled to meet the increasing demand from hospitals across the country, and several thousand died due to the lack of oxygen and other medical facilities at hospitals across the country.
During Blinken's meetings in India, both sides are expected to seek ways to ramp up the production of vaccines in India to meet the national and global demands. The situation in Afghanistan post-American pull-out is also poised to figure prominently during the talks.
India is highly concerned about the emerging situation in the war-torn country where the Taliban, which is antagonistic to India, has made substantial gains in terms of territorial dominance. New Delhi had expressed its displeasure over the withdrawal of US forces without putting in place a viable alternative leaving the Afghan government and its forces aligned to Indian interests in the lurch.
Except for India, most other countries in the region including Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China have already come into terms with a resurgent Taliban which has captured several Afghan territories and is in control of several entry points soon after the US announcement that its forces would be completely pulled out of the Muslim country.
India has supported the Afghan government politically, financially, and militarily ever since the Taliban government was toppled in 2001 by US-led global forces making India a major foe of the Taliban. India will express its worries over Pakistan's alleged support to the Taliban and using Afghan territories against Indian interests in the region.
Another important issue to top the list of deliberations during Blinken's visit is the rising Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. India and the US are expected to work out a plan to counter increasing Chinese influence.
During the interaction, India and the US, which are two prominent members in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) along with Japan and Australia, are expected to plan further enhanced engagement among the member countries in order to protect their shared interests especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
Other issues of concern that might come up for discussion during the talks include security, defense, cyber, fight against terrorism, and strengthening shared values of democracy and human rights.
After talks with the Indian leadership, Blinken is slated to leave for Kuwait on Wednesday to hold talks with the leadership in order to cement ties and discuss issues of mutual interest.