A day after arriving in India for a two-day visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Wednesday said actions by India and the US shape the 21st century and beyond as he attributed this to the reason why strengthening partnership with New Delhi is one of Washington’s top foreign policy priorities.
After holding extensive talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Blinken said India and the US are two of world’s leading democracies where “diversity fuels our national strength.” He further pointed out that there are few relationships in the world that are more vital than one between the US and India.
Blinken held wide-ranging talks with Jaishankar covering an agenda that included the rapidly evolving security situation in Afghanistan, ways to boost Indo-Pacific engagement and enhancing COVID-19 response efforts among others.
Following the meeting, Jaishankar said talks with Blinken takes place at important juncture when key global, regional challenges need to be effectively addressed. He further said that the India-US bilateral ties have enhanced to a level that enables the two nations to deal collaboratively with larger issues.
The foreign minister also tweeted that a wide ranging and productive discussion was held with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which is significant in mapping out the next steps in the bilateral partnership.
The global issue of Covid-19 pandemic and the travel challenges resulting from it also featured in the meeting between Jaishankar and Blinken.
Further, on the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan, Blinken said India and the US share a strong interest in a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan adding that both the nations are committed to proposition that there is no military solution to the conflict in the region. The US official also noted that there has to be a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan that requires the Taliban and the Afghan government to come to the table.
“We both agreed strongly that any future government in Afghanistan has to be inclusive and fully representative of Afghan people. Ultimately it has to be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” he said.
Blinken also mentioned that India and the US share a vision of free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
Officially kicking off his visit to India, Blinken earlier in the day, in a meeting with civil society leaders, termed the Indo-US relationship as one of the most important partnerships in the world. Stating that the US and India share a commitment to democratic values, he said it is part of the bedrock of the bilateral relationship.
“I was pleased to meet civil society leaders today. The U.S. and India share a commitment to democratic values; this is part of the bedrock of our relationship and reflective of India’s pluralistic society and history of harmony. Civil society helps advance these values,” Blinken tweeted after the event.
Noting that Indians and Americans believe in human dignity, in equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion and belief, Blinken asserted that all people deserve to have a voice in their government and be treated with respect no matter who they are.
While lauding the shared commitment of the two countries to democratic values, Blinken also cited business cooperation, educational engagement, religious and spiritual ties and ties between millions of families as some of the key pillars of the overall relationship.
The US secretary, in his first public event after arriving in India, also referred to the rising global threats to democracy and international freedoms and talked about “democratic recession”, noting that it is vital for India and the US to continue to stand together in support of these ideals.
Further stating that both the democracies “are works in progress”, Blinken noted that “as friends we talk because doing hard work of strengthening democracy is often challenging.” “At a time of rising global threats to democracy and international freedoms – we talk about a democratic recession — it’s vital that we two world leading democracies continue to stand together in support of these ideals,” he noted.
Earlier in the day, Blinken held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on a range of bilateral and regional issues with a focus on taking the relationship to the “next level”. The evolving situation in Afghanistan as well as the Indo-Pacific engagement are learnt to have figured in the talks that went on for almost an hour, news agency PTI reported. Views were also exchanged on contemporary and futuristic issues related to regional and global security.
Blinken is also slated to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi before flying to Kuwait later in the evening.
Blinken’s visit is expected to lay the groundwork for the Quad leaders’ summit later this year in the US, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend.
Ahead of his visit, the Indian government had indicated that it is prepared to engage with the US on issues relating to human rights and democracy after a senior Biden administration official said that Blinken will raise these matters with Indian leaders.
With PTI inputs
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