India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Friday (Image courtesy: Twitter/S. Jaishankar)
India and the United States have agreed to strengthen the Indo-Pacific Quad grouping, reinforcing a strategic layer of the relationship, which will fuel cooperation in the fields of health security, Afghanistan and the transgressions by China in India's border areas.
Before the Quad physical summit this fall, US, Indian, Japanese and Australian diplomats will also work out an elaborate agenda to define the Quad grouping, reported Hindustan Times on Sunday following External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to New York and Washington this week.
"In the context of violence being perpetrated by Taliban, the US apparently assured Jaishankar that while its military will withdraw from Afghanistan in October, the Biden administration will be keeping a close watch on the Af-Pak region so that security situation in the region does not deteriorate," the newspaper reported.
With the Taliban wanting to convert the Islamic Republic into an Emirate with Sharia law enforced by Sunni Pashtuns over other minorities, the US national security team also assured the visiting minister of an appropriate response if things go south in Afghanistan, it said.
Jaishankar had on Thursday and Friday aligned coordinates with top US officials on Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific region and development of Covid-19 vaccines that would have a global footprint.
"Pleasure to meet Secretary Blinken. A productive discussion on various aspects of our bilateral cooperation as well as regional and global issues. Also focused on Indo-US vaccine partnership aimed at expanding access and ensuring supply. Appreciated strong solidarity expressed by US at this time. Today's talks have further solidified our strategic partnership and enlarged our agenda of cooperation," Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting with his counterpart, Antony Blinken.
The Minister also met National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and a string of US opinion makers including congressmen.
Senior diplomats told the Indian newspaper that during his interaction with principals of the Biden administration, Jaishankar was also assured of support for India’s vaccine programme and for vaccine raw materials. The US has conveyed that it will do all it can to support India in its quest for health security.
Reaffirming the Biden administration’s commitment to deepening the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, Blinken had later tweeted that both had also discussed the situation at the India-China border. It was also obvious that China would have been in focus during talks on ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific region — a topic that is bound to include a conversation on China’s expansionist moves in the South and East China seas.
"The Biden administration has gone a step ahead of the Trump administration in supporting India whether it be on Indo-Pacific, Defence Cooperation or health security," a senior Washington-based diplomat told Hindustan Times.
It added that before the Quad physical summit this year, US, Indian, Japanese and Australian diplomats will work out an elaborate agenda to define the Quad grouping which includes cooperation among QUAD partners in areas such as the economy, technology, disaster relief and building resilient supply chains – "all with an eye on the evolving security situation" in the Indo-Pacific.