Indo-Pacific, regional security, Afghanistan, Covid on talks agenda during Blinken visit

New Delhi, Jul 27 (FN Agency) The US said it supports India’s “emergence as a leading global power and vital partner” in efforts to ensure the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability and economic inclusion, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday evening on a two-day visit that will see both sides discuss a host of issues, including the Indo-Pacific, regional security and Afghanistan. The two sides will also discuss continued cooperation on Covid-19 response efforts, “shared democratic values”, and addressing the climate crisis”, the US State Department said in a statement, as Blinken landed in New Delhi. He is to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and also National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Wednesday. The US State Department said Blinken’s visit will reaffirm the US’s “commitment to strengthening our partnership and underscore cooperation on our shared priorities”.

It said the US and India have a strong strategic partnership founded on shared values and a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The statement termed India as “a leading global power and a key US partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond”. Blinken’s visit comes as US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was in China for two days during which she met the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. On cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, it said that at the inaugural Quad Leaders’ Summit in March, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi joined their Japanese and Australian counterparts “in pledging to respond to the economic and health impacts of Covid-19, combat the climate crisis, and address shared challenges, including in cyber-space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime security.”

U.S.-India defense cooperation is reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, increasingly complex exercises like Malabar, and defense-enabling agreements, such as the secure communications agreement COMCASA. As of 2020, the United States has authorized over $20 billion in defense sales to India. Through the U.S.-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, the United States and India work together on co-production and co-development of defense equipment. The United States and India are also closely coordinating on regional security issues, such as Afghanistan. In October 2020, India hosted the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, and the United States looks forward to the next 2+2 later this year, it said.