New Delhi: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on a quick maiden visit to India to expand the strong and growing bilateral ties between New Delhi and the Biden administration. Blinken will hold extensive talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. He will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi before leaving for Kuwait as part of his two-nation tour. Key agendas that are likely to come up for talks are the evolving security situation in Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific engagement and ways to enhance COVID-19 response efforts.Also Read - How 18 Travellers Were Trapped by Death in Barabanki Accident

All You Need to Know:

  •  The US State Department said Blinken is visiting India to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening the partnership and underscore cooperation on shared priorities.
  • This is Blinken’s first visit to India after assuming charge as the US Secretary of State and the third by a high-ranking Biden administration official after visits to New Delhi by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in March and Special Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry in April.
  • According to a media advisory released by the Ministry of External Affairs, Blinken will be in Delhi for a little over 20 hours. His meeting with Jaishankar is scheduled to begin at 12 pm and he will call on Prime Minister Modi at 4:30 pm. Blinken is scheduled to emplane from Delhi at 5:30 PM.
  • Just before leaving for India, Blinken said he was looking forward to consultations with partners of the US for further cooperation in support of its shared interests in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East.
  • It is learnt that situation in Afghanistan, expansion of cooperation under Quad, regional security concerns in the wake of China’s aggressive behaviour and issues relating to the Indo-Pacific will dominate the talks.
  • People familiar with the agenda of the visit said both sides will extensively deliberate on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban increasing its hostilities in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the country.
  • Afghanistan witnessed a series of terror attacks in the last few weeks as the US withdrew the majority of its troops and is looking at completing the drawdown by August 31, ending nearly two-decade of its military presence in the country.
  • In the talks, the Indian side is expected to raise the implications of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the need for sustained pressure on Pakistan on terror financing and terrorist safe havens.
  • In the talks, both sides are also expected to explore ways to deepen defence collaboration, including exercises, defence transfers and technologies ahead of the next edition of the 2+2 defence and foreign ministerial dialogue to be held in the US later this year.
  • In the talks, India and the US are also expected to look at implementing the Quad vaccine initiative.
  • On coronavirus pandemic, it said the US and India are partnering to strengthen the global response to COVID-19 and on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains.
  • In the talks, India and the US are also likely to focus on ways to augment trade and investment ties besides looking at opportunities in healthcare, education, digital domains.

(With agency inputs)