A file photo of Antony Blinken listening to journalists' questions during a news conference in 2015.(REUTERS)
A file photo of Antony Blinken listening to journalists' questions during a news conference in 2015.(REUTERS)

Anthony Blinken, likely secretary of state, is positive on US-India ties

Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama-Biden administration, had been a frontrunner for the position of Biden’s top diplomat.
By Yashwant Raj , edited by Vinod Janardhanan | Hindustan Times, Washington
UPDATED ON NOV 23, 2020 01:09 PM IST

US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to appoint Anthony Blinken, a long-time national security and foreign policy expert who has been enthusiastic about ties with India and called China a “common challenge”, as his secretary of state, US media reported.

Jake Sullivan, a former top state department official in the Obama-Biden administration, is reported to be a frontrunner for the position of National Security Adviser. Michele Flournoy and Lael Brainard are top contenders for secretaries of defence and treasury.

Vivek Murthy, the Indian American who was President Barack Obama’s Surgeon General, is in contention for the position of secretary of health and human services. He is currently a co-chair of Biden’s team of advisers tasked with preparing the incoming administration’s Covid-19 plan.

Biden’s incoming chief of staff Ron Klain told ABC News on Sunday the president-elect will name some of his cabinet secretaries on Tuesday.

But he did not specify how many and which ones. But names began trickling out hours later that, according to a pattern noticed to be true for the incoming administration, have tended to be remarkably on target.

Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama-Biden administration, had been a frontrunner for the position of Biden’s top diplomat. He was also Biden campaign’s chief foreign policy official who also determined — among other things — the order in which the president-elect returned congratulatory calls from world leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first leaders of non-treaty allied countries Biden called, along with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an outreach to the Indian American community in the run-up to the election — on August 15, to commemorate the Indian Independence Day — Blinken described China as a “common challenge”, taking into cognizance China’s “aggression toward India at the line of actual control.

Speaking generally of ties with India he had said, “We will be an advocate for India to play a leading role in international institutions and that includes helping India get a seat on a reform. United Nations Security Council. We will work together to strengthen India’s defence.”

Blinken had gone on to reiterate long-running US commitment to combating terrorism, making common cause with India.

“We have no tolerance for terrorism in South Asia or anywhere else, cross-border, or otherwise,” Blinken had said, recalling meetings he attended with Rich Verma, the former US ambassador to India who moderated the panel discussion with Blinken and Nisha Biswal, the first Indian American to head the state department’s South and Central Asia bureau. “I was in virtually every NSC meeting with both of you in many instances on this issue. We used every tool at our disposal to make sure that our citizens, and the citizens of our partners are safe. And that’s something we will build on in a Biden ministration.”

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