Will never forget India was there for US in Covid-19 crisis: Anthony Blinken
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday held wide-ranging talks with his US counterpart Antony Blinken and thanked the Biden administration for its "strong support and solidarity" with India at a moment of "great difficulty" for the country in combating the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Jaishankar, who is on an official trip to the US, is the first Indian Cabinet minister to visit the country since Joe Biden became US President on January 20.
Welcoming Jaishankar to the State Department, Blinken said in the early days of Covid-19, India was there for the US, something which the country "will never forget".
"Now we want to make sure that we are there for and with India," he said.
Addressing reporters at the State Department in a joint media interaction before the two leaders headed for the meeting, Jaishankar said, "We've a lot of issues to discuss. I think our relations have grown stronger over the years and I'm very confident that it'll continue to do so."
“I also want to take the opportunity to express to the Secretary, through him to the administration, (and) to the United States for the strong support and solidarity and at the moment of great difficulty (for us),” he said.
Blinken said the US and India are working together on many important challenges of "our time".
"We are united in confronting Covid-19 together...We are united in dealing with the challenge posed by climate change and we are partnered together directly through the QUAD and other institutions in the United Nations in dealing with many of the challenges that we face in the region,” he said.
The Quad is a grouping of the US, India, Japan and Australia that aims at strengthening a rules-based order in the strategically-important Indo-Pacific amidst China's aggressive actions in the region.
"The partnership between the US and India is vital, strong, and I think it is increasingly productive," Blinken added.
Jaishankar is also the only third foreign minister to have visited the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department to meet his US counterpart Blinken. The other two were Jordan's Ayman Safadi and Columbia's Foreign Minister-Designate Marta Lucia Ramirez, who met Blinken earlier in the day.
The Indian delegation included Ambassador of India to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu; MEA Joint Secretary Shilpak Ambule; Deputy Chief of Mission Sudhakar Dalela; and First Secretary Chitrangna Singh.
The American delegation included Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. The other members were Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Dean Thompson; Coordinator for Global Covid Response and Health Security, Gayle Smith; Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council, Sumona Guha; and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, Tom Sullivan.
Earlier in the day, Jaishankar met US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin during which they discussed further developing strategic and defence partnership between the two countries and exchanged views on "contemporary security challenges".
"A warm meeting with US @SecDef Lloyd Austin. A comprehensive conversation about further developing our strategic and defence partnership," he tweeted after the meeting, sharing a photograph of them together.
Jaishankar further said they exchanged views on "contemporary security challenges".
The two leaders are expected to have discussed the situation in the strategic Indo-Pacific region where China has been increasingly flexing its military muscles.