US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to discuss ways to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan during talks with Indian leadership next week, a top State Department official told reporters Friday.
Blinken, during his India visit next week, will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and discuss a wide range of issues including Indo-Pacific engagement and shared regional security interests.
During a special briefing, Acting Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson said, "Our bilateral discussions with our Indian partners will focus on expanding our security, defense, cyber, and counterterrorism cooperation."
"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."
Underscoring the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, Dean Thompson said, "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."
On the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Assistant Secretary said, the United States and India are also working urgently toward our 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."
Answering a question on whether Afghanistan would be on the agenda during Blinken's visit, Thompson said the US "will certainly be looking at talking with our Indian partners" about how both countries can work together to realize stable and secure Afghanistan.
"We expect 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," Mr Thompson said.
Over the nature of India-US ties since Biden came into power, Assistant Secretary said,"... it's fair to say that we see the relationship continuing at a very high level, and India will, of course, 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."
According to a statement by US State Department, Secretary Blinken will meet EAM Jaishankar and PM Modi on July 28 to discuss a wide range of issues. This will be Blinken's first visit to India after assuming charge as US Secretary of State.
Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that Secretary Blinken's visit is an opportunity to continue the high-level bilateral dialogue and bolster the India-US global strategic partnership.
"Both sides will review the robust and multifaceted India-US bilateral relations, and potential for consolidating them further. Discussions will focus on regional and global issues of mutual interest - including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indo-Pacific region, Afghanistan and cooperation in the United Nations," it said.
The visit holds significance as Afghanistan is witnessing a surge in violence as the Taliban has intensified its offensive against Afghan forces and civilians with the complete pullback of foreign forces just a few weeks away.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)