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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Blinken visit to lay ground for Quad meet, US says will raise human rights issue

Besides discussing Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific and Covid-related cooperation, Blinken will also raise the issues of human rights and democracy.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: July 25, 2021 7:16:18 am
US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken.

In his first visit to India as the US Secretary of State next week, Antony J Blinken will lay the groundwork for the first in-person Quad leaders’ meeting as well as the India-US 2+2 meeting to be held later this year.

Besides discussing Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific and Covid-related cooperation, Blinken will also raise the issues of human rights and democracy. This was spelt out by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the US administration, Dean Thompson, at a briefing on Saturday morning.

Responding to a question, Thompson said that Blinken will raise issues of human rights and democracy with Indian officials during his first visit to New Delhi as the two nations have more values in common on those fronts than otherwise.

“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 Blinken visit to lay ground for Quad meet, US says will raise human rights issue have more values in common on those fronts than we don’t…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,” he said.

Responding to another question on the Pegasus spyware phone hacking controversy, he said: “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 those issues.”

Stressing that the relationship with India is a “strong one that has endured through administrations of all colours and stripes” in the US and will continue to do so, Thompson said: “Our bilateral discussions with our Indian partners will focus on expanding our security, defence, cyber and counter-terrorism cooperation. We collaborate across the government on these issues, including through regular US-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 Defence Secretary (Lloyd J) Austin look forward to hosting their Indian counterparts for the annual US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year”.

On Afghanistan, he said: “We intend to discuss our efforts to support a just and durable peace in Afghanistan. All of Afghanistan’s neighbours 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.”

Steering clear of India-Pakistan bilateral issues, Thompson said: “With regard to India-Pakistan, I would just note that we strongly believe that India and Pakistan’s issues are 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.”

Reminding that one of the first multilateral events that US President Joe Biden hosted this year was a Quad summit with his counterparts from India, Japan and Australia, he said the US is working with India and other friends and partners in the region to advance the shared vision of the Indo-Pacific – “free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values and respect for human rights, and where sovereignty is safeguarded”.

They will also discuss health collaboration to combat Covid-19, including the Quad vaccine partnership that was first announced during the Quad summit.

Blinken is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on July 27. During his stay, he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. The Ministry of External Affairs said in New Delhi that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will also meet him.

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