US Secy of State Blinken to visit India to highlight ‘shared priorities’

By Arul LouisNew York, July 23 (IANS) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to visit India next week to strengthen cooperation and highlight shared interests, his spokesperson Ned Price announced on Friday. Price said that Blinken is to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Wednesday “to discuss a wide range of issues including continued cooperation on Covid-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis”.The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the advances made by the Taliban is a matter of immediate matter of concern for India, but Price did not specifically mention that as a topic of discussion. A statement from India’s External Affairs Ministry, however, listed Afghanistan as a topic of discussion. The ministry said that Blinken’s “visit is an opportunity to continue the high-level bilateral dialogue and bolster the India-US global strategic partnership”.Both countries have strategic concerns over China, which they did not directly mention but is covered by the mention of Indo-Pacific.During the trip starting on Monday, Blinken is to go from India to Kuwait, a country whose importance for Washington is increasing with rising tensions in the Middle East and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.In India and in Kuwait, Price said that Blinken will reaffirm the US’ commitment to strengthening our partnerships and underscore cooperation on our shared priorities.a¿After virtual interactions, Jaishankar visited Washington in May and met Blinken for their first in-person meeting after Blinken became the top US diplomat.It will be Blinken’s first visit to India and the second by a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet as the administration seeks to continue deepening ties with India, which it considers a strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific region amid rising tensions with China.Two months after Biden assuming office, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited India in March to discuss deepening strategic ties between the two countries with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.In his first multilateral summit, Biden met virtually Modi in March, along with the other leaders of the Quad, Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Yoshihide Suga of Japan, to discuss security issues in the face of Chinese aggressive actions.Price mentioned discussion of “shared democratic values”, which is code for human rights issues that some US lawmakers, local governments and groups have taken up with the Biden administration.(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed @arulouis)–IANSal/vd

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