Afghanistan, Quad meet to be focus of Blinken’s India visit

The situation in Afghanistan and cooperation at the UN will be part of the discussions on regional and global issues of mutual interest, the external affairs ministry said.
Blinken’s visit to New Delhi will coincide with a previously scheduled trip to the Indian capital by Afghan Army chief Gen Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai during July 27-30.(Reuters)
Blinken’s visit to New Delhi will coincide with a previously scheduled trip to the Indian capital by Afghan Army chief Gen Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai during July 27-30.(Reuters)
Updated on Jul 24, 2021 01:09 AM IST
Copy Link

The rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and preparations for the first in-person Quad Summit are expected to figure in the agenda for US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s maiden visit to India next week.

Blinken, the third senior member of the Biden administration to travel to India after defense secretary Lloyd Austin in March and special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry in April, will meet external affairs minister S Jaishankar, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on July 28.

His discussions with his Indian interlocutors will cover issues such as the continued cooperation on Covid-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values and addressing the climate crisis, the US state department said in a statement.

The situation in Afghanistan and cooperation at the UN will be part of the discussions on regional and global issues of mutual interest, the external affairs ministry said.

India has watched with growing concern as the rapid drawdown of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan has coincided with a violent offensive by the Taliban in recent weeks to capture territory and crucial border crossings with Iran, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Indian diplomats and security personnel were recently evacuated from the consulate in southern Kandahar city following a surge in clashes.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that Blinken’s visit will allow the two sides to hold consultations on the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan, especially India’s concerns about the Taliban’s unfettered campaign to expand its influence before any possible peace negotiations aimed at finding a political settlement.

India is also expected to convey its concerns about Pakistan’s efforts to limit the country’s role in Afghanistan and the presence of thousands of Pakistani terrorists on Afghan soil and the implications for regional peace.

Blinken’s visit to New Delhi will coincide with a previously scheduled trip to the Indian capital by Afghan Army chief Gen Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai during July 27-30.

Under the rubric of Indo-Pacific engagement, India and the US are expected to discuss preparations for the first in-person summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad later this year following the virtual meeting of the leaders of India, Australia, Japan and the US in March. The two sides are also expected to discuss China’s aggressive activities across the region.

The two sides will also discuss ways to give fresh impetus to the Quad’s Covid-19 vaccine partnership, which is largely dependent on India’s role as a supplier of vaccines and has been stalled since New Delhi curtailed the export of jabs after a devastating second wave of infections earlier this year.

Modi’s proposed visit to the US and bilateral trade issues, including talks on a trade deal and the US withdrawal of benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences programme for Indian exports, too could come up in the discussions.

With the Biden administration more focused on human rights issues and democracy than the previous Trump administration, the US has nudged India on these matters in recent months. This has included the US state department expressing concern over restrictions on freedom of expression and detention of human rights activists and journalists.

The US state department’s statement said Blinken’s visit to India and subsequently to Kuwait will “reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening our partnerships and underscore cooperation on our shared priorities”. The external affairs ministry described the visit as an opportunity to continue high-level bilateral dialogue and bolster the India-US global strategic partnership.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, January 25, 2022