During his five-day trip to the United States, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday, 28 May, had an in-person meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where they discussed COVID-19 cooperation between the two countries.
Following the meeting, Blinken said, “the partnership between the United States and India is vital. It’s strong. And I think it’s increasingly predominant.”
This comes as India finds itself in the midst of the an acute vaccine paucity. Meanwhile, the US has a surplus of vaccines as well as accessibility to the raw materials needed to manufacture them.
At the onset of the meeting, Blinken referred to Jaishankar as “my friend and colleague”; both ministers had met earlier this month during the G-7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting held in London.
Blinken said, “The United States and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are putting a profound impact on our lives.”
He also added that besides COVID-19, the two countries are also confronting the challenge posed by climate change and partnering “together directly, through Quad and other institutions in the United Nations in dealing with many of the challenges that we face in the region and around the world.”
Jaishankar reiterated Blinken’s sentiment, saying, “We have a lot of issues to discuss. But our relations have grown stronger over the years and I’m very confident we’ll continue to do so, but I also want to take the opportunity to express to the Secretary and through him to the administration of the United States for the strong support and solidarity at a moment of great difficulty for us.”
Blinken, adding to this, said that the US remembers the support provided by India during the early days of the pandemic.
The secretary added, “ (it’s) something we’ll never forget. And now we want to make sure that we’re there for and with India.”
In the past three months, as India faces the most devastating health crisis in recent memory, Jaishankar and Blinken have spoken at least four times.
Jaishankar met with many senior US administration officials, including Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, top American lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties, and top American business leaders in Washington DC in 24 hours, The Indian Express reported.
The meeting with US officials comes a few days after US President Joe Biden said that the US will ship 20 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines, as well as 60 million shots of AstraZeneca (Covishield) to several countries in need by the end of June.
Jaishankar is the first Union minister to visit the US after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president on 20 January.