'Few Relationships More Vital Than India-US': Blinken on Meeting EAM Jaishankar
Blinken spoke about the rising global threats to democratic values at a meeting with civil leaders in Delhi.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held discussions with External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar in Delhi on Wednesday, 28 July, saying, "President Biden's determination is to continue to strengthen the relationship between India and the US."
Following the meeting, Blinken addressed a joint presser with the EAM in Delhi and stressed the importance of the relationship between the two countries. "There are few relationships in the world that are more vital than the one between the US and India. We are two of the world's leading democracies and diversity fuels our national strength," he stated.
He also added that people of India and the US are tied together by shared aspirations and values.
The EAM referred to the meeting as "wide-ranging" and "productive," and added that it was "useful in mapping out the next steps in our bilateral partnership."
Further, Blinken elaborated on the purpose of the Quad alliance, by saying that the Quad refers to "Four like-minded countries coming together to work on some of the most important issues of time that are going to have real impact on the lives of the people and do in a way that ensures a free and open Indo-Pacific."
Underlining that it is not a military alliance, he said that it aims to "advance cooperation on regional challenges while reinforcing international rules and values that we believe together underpin peace, prosperity, stability in the region."
'Share an Interest in Stable Afghanistan'
Talking about the meeting, Blinken further stated, "We discussed regional security issues including Afghanistan. India and US share strong interest in peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan. As a credible partner in the region, India has and will continue to make vital contribution to Afghanistan's stability and development," news agency ANI reported.
He added that both nations will "continue to work together to sustain the gains of the Afghan people and support regional stability after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country."
Blinken stressed that with Taliban's forces escalating in the region, the US remains engaged in Afghanistan.
"We are very much engaged in the diplomacy of working to bring parties together at the table for the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan," he stated.
Jaishankar, meanwhile, was quoted as saying, "Peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific is as important for both of us as democratic stability in Afghanistan. Deepening Quad as a collaborative platform is in our mutual interest and we must work together even more closely on key contemporary challenges, like terrorism," ANI reported.
The external affairs minister further said the independence and sovereignty of Afghanistan can only be achieved “if it is free from malign influences” – a reference to Pakistan’s involvement in the country's conflict with the Taliban.
During the meeting, Jaishankar also spoke to Blinken about the shared interests of India and US co-operation against the COVID-19 pandemic.
US Offers $25 Mn Aid for India's Vaccination Programme
At the press conference, the US secretary of state said, "COVID-19 hit both the US and India very hard. We remember with gratitude and will not forget the aid and assistance India provided to us early in the pandemic. I am proud we could return the gesture to India."
He said that both nations are determined to end the pandemic, and India and the US will achieve this together, with initiatives like the QUAD vaccine partnership. "I believe India and US together around the world will be leaders to bring this pandemic to an end," he said.
The US Secretary of State highlighted that the US has contributed more than 200 million dollars worth in its fight against COVID in India, and said "I am pleased to announce that the United States government will send additional 25 million dollars to support vaccination efforts across India."
He stated that the funding will strengthen vaccine supply chain logistics, address misinformation, vaccine hesitancy and help train more healthcare workers.
"There isn't a challenge that doesn't have impact on lives of our citizens whether it's COVID, disruptive impact of emerging technologies, that can be addressed by any one of us acting alone. There's greater imperative on cooperation among countries than ever before," Blinken had stated during the meet, ANI reported.
"I deeply appreciate the work that we have been able to do together and the work that we are going to do together in the coming months," the state secretary said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Blinken met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. He will also be meeting Prime Narendra Modi later on Wednesday, as part of his India trip.
'Threats to Democracy on the Rise': US State Secretary Blinken in Delhi
Blinken, who also met a group of civil society members ahead of his meetings with the Indian political on leaders Wednesday, said "We believe that all people deserve to have a voice in their governments and be treated with respect, no matter who they are. These are fundamental tenets of democracies, like ours, and our purpose is to give real meaning to these words and constantly renew our commitment to these ideals."
Speaking at the meet with the civil society leaders, the US Secretary of State observed, "And of course, both of our democracies are works in progress. As friends, we talk about that because doing the hard work of strengthening democracy and making our ideals real is often challenging," news agency PTI reported.
"At the same time, we celebrate our achievements. Here in India, that includes the free media, independent courts, a vibrant and free and fair electoral system – the largest expression of free political will by citizens anywhere in the world," he added.
The US representative also spoke about the dwindling of democratic values across the globe and the need to counter democratic recession.
"At a time of rising global threats to democracy and international freedoms – we talk about a democratic recession – it's vital that we two world-leading democracies continue to stand together in support of these ideals," he stated, PTI reported.
After the meeting, he tweeted, "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."
"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," Blinken told a group of civil society leaders on Wednesday, ahead of the meetings, NDTV reported.
The two-day visit is Blinken's first to the country after taking charge as the US secretary of state.
What Did the MEA Say About the Agenda?
The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement on 23 July had said that the "discussions will focus on regional and global issues of mutual interest – including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indo-Pacific region, Afghanistan and cooperation in the UN."
"Secretary Blinken's visit is an opportunity to continue the high-level bilateral dialogue and bolster the India-US global strategic partnership. Both sides will review the robust and multifaceted India-US bilateral relations, and potential for consolidating them further."Ministry of External Affairs
Meanwhile, the US Department of State, in a statement, had said the discussion will focus on issues such as 'continued cooperation on COVID-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values and addressing the climate crisis'.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI and NDTV)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.