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Vaccines, Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific top Jaishankar’s agenda during key visit to US

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar's meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took off from their previous engagement earlier this month in London, where they had already flagged the US-India comprehensive global strategic partnership (Images courtesy: Twitter/S. Jaishankar)

In back-to-back meetings on a busy Friday night, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar aligned coordinates with the top US officials on Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific region and development of Covid-19 vaccines that would have a global footprint.

Jaishankar's sweeping engagement included meeting with his counterpart, Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and a string of US opinion makers including congressmen.

Jaishankar's meeting with Blinken took off from their previous engagement this month in London, where they already flagged the US-India comprehensive global strategic partnership.

"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.

The US said that Blinken and Jaishankar discussed a broad range of issues, including Covid-19 relief, efforts to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation through the Quad, and a shared commitment to combating the climate crisis and enhancing multilateral cooperation, including at the UN Security Council.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price confirmed that the duo also discussed regional developments, the coup in Burma, and continuing support for Afghanistan while pledging to continue their cooperation on shared economic and regional security priorities.

Reaffirming the Biden administration’s commitment to deepening the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, Blinken 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. A discussion on Pakistan is also inevitable during talks on the transition in Afghanistan, where Islamabad on reasons of geographical proximity and recent history is an inescapable player.

"Productive discussion today with @DrSJaishankar on regional security and economic priorities to include U.S. Covid-19 relief efforts, India-China border situation, and our support for Afghanistan. As friends, we will work together to address these areas of shared concern," the US Secretary of State wrote on the micro-blogging platform.

India US Vaccine

In Washington on Friday, Jaishankar also met the US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin to discuss shared priorities in the US-India strategic partnership and exchange views on a range of regional security challenges.

"A warm meeting with US @SecDef Lloyd Austin. A comprehensive conversation about further developing our strategic and defence partnership. Exchanged views on contemporary security challenges. Expressed appreciation of the US military role in responding to the Covid situation," the External Affairs Minister (EAM) tweeted.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that Austin and Jaishankar reaffirmed their commitment to sustaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region and strengthening the US-India Major Defence Partnership. They also discussed opportunities to deepen coordination amid the resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

Austin conveyed that he looks forward to hosting Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year.

The US Secretary of Defence had, on an official visit to India in March this year, reiterated the US government’s continued commitment towards strengthening the bilateral defence relations between the two countries and also the strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

"I had a terrific meeting with @DrSJaishankar today. He graciously hosted me in India in March, and I was delighted to return his hospitality. The @deptofdefense is deeply committed to strengthening our partnership with India as we work together to uphold a #FreeAndOpenIndoPacific," Lloyd tweeted Friday night.

India US Partnership

Earlier on Thursday (US time), Jaishankar had also met the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and held "wide-ranging discussions including on Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan" besides appreciating the US solidarity in addressing the Covid challenge.

India-US vaccine partnership can make a real difference, Jaishankar had said after meeting Sullivan.

"I met today with India’s Minister Jaishankar. Our people-to-people ties and our values are the foundation of the U.S.-India partnership and will help us end the pandemic, lead on climate, and support a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. government and Americans across the country have delivered over $500 million in Covid-19 relief to India. We will beat this pandemic together," Sullivan tweeted after the meeting.

India US Vaccine Partnership

The meetings wrapped up a busy Friday in Washington for the EAM. He had earlier, at the India House in Washington, engaged in wide-ranging discussions with the top officials from the US administration, holding talks on partnerships in trade, healthcare, digital, knowledge and the Indo–Pacific.

It included meetings with Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Congressmen Brad Sherman and Steve Chabot, the co-chairs of powerful Congressional India Caucus and United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai on developing efficient and robust supply chains for post-Covid economic recovery.


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