Afghanistan, Quad, Covid Headline S Jaishankar-Antony Blinken Talks: 10 Points

Antony Blinken India visit: During the talks on wide-ranging issues, Dr S Jaishankar highlighted cooperation against the pandemic and deepening expansion of India-US cooperation under Quad.

This is Antony Blinken's first visit to India since joining Joe Biden's administration.

New Delhi: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in India on a two-day visit with an extensive agenda featuring the rapidly evolving security situation in Afghanistan, boosting Indo-Pacific engagement and ways to enhance COVID-19 response efforts.

Here are the top 10 updates on this big story:

  1. In his talks with the Foreign Minister, Mr Blinken stressed on the need for "cooperation among countries than ever before". "There isn't a challenge that doesn't have impact on the lives of our citizens whether it's Covid, disruptive impact of emerging technologies, that can be addressed by any one of us acting alone." He also said that US President Joe Biden is determined to strengthen India-US ties.

  2. He will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi this evening. Before meeting Dr Jaishankar, Mr Blinken held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on a range of bilateral and regional issues including the security situation in Afghanistan.

  3. During the talks on wide-ranging issues, Dr Jaishankar highlighted cooperation against the pandemic and deepening expansion of India-US cooperation under Quad. "Today, we focused on expanding vaccine production to make it globally affordable and accessible," Dr Jaishankar said during a media briefing with his US counterpart.

  4. Ahead of the talks, Mr Blinken reaffirmed the rule of law and fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion as being the bedrock of democracies like India and the US. "The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion and belief . . . these are the fundamental tenets of democracies like ours," he said today, speaking to a group of civil society leaders at a hotel in New Delhi.

  5. Part of these talks was a representative of Dalai Lama, in what is seen as a strong message to China. Ngodup Dongchung serves as a representative of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), also known as the Tibetan government in exile. "I was pleased to meet civil society leaders today. The US 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," he tweeted.

  6. This is Mr Blinken's first visit to the country since joining President Joe Biden's administration and the third by a high-ranking Biden administration official after it came to power in January.

  7. During this visit, the US intends to also focus on "shared democratic values" with India though details of this have not been spelt out so far.  In March this year, the US Secretary of Defence General Lloyd Austin shared concerns flagged about the "deteriorating situation of the democracy in India."

  8. The US said it backs India's emergence as a leading global power and a vital partner to make the Indo-Pacific a region of stability and economic inclusion. Sources in the government have said issues such as human rights and democracy are universal and extend beyond a particular national or cultural perspective.

  9. India and the US also discussed the worsening security situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban increasing its hostilities in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the country. "As a credible partner in the region, India has and will continue to make vital contribution to Afghanistan's stability and development," Mr Blinken said at the press conference.

  10. New Delhi is Mr Blinken's first stop in his two-nation tour. He said he had visited the country 40 years ago with his family. He will fly to Kuwait from India.