U.S. Secretary of State Blinken to visit India on Tuesday

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken to visit India on Tuesday

On the agenda are the situation in Afghanistan, the Quad summit, and COVID-19 vaccines

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to India next week for a two-day visit over which he will hold talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, announced the Ministry of External Affairs and the U.S. State Department on Friday. Mr. Blinken’s visit will be his first to Delhi since assuming office and is expected to focus on a number of bilateral issues as well as prepare for a Quad summit with leaders of U.S.-India-Japan-Australia in Washington D.C. later this year.

“This trip will underscore the importance of our cooperation on topics like COVID-19 response efforts, shared security interests, and the climate crisis. I look forward to strengthening our important partnerships,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement, referring to his visit to India, which will be followed by a visit to Kuwait. The U.S. State Department also said that the two sides will discuss U.S. and India’s “shared democratic values”.

Mr. Blinken’s visit is expected to focus on the situation in Afghanistan and discuss possible cooperation with India as the Taliban makes advances there. His visit will coincide with that of Afghanistan Army Chief General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai (on July 27-30), leading to some speculation that the two visiting officials could meet while in Delhi.

The MEA said that the discussions between Mr. Blinken and Indian leaders will focus on “regional and global issues of mutual interest — including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indo-Pacific region, Afghanistan and cooperation in the UN”. India is set to take the rotational Presidency of the UN Security Council in August, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the UNGA in September, which is also when the Quad summit is expected to be scheduled, barring changes in the COVID-19 situation and the schedule of the leaders.

Mr. Blinken will arrive in Delhi on Tuesday, July 27, and will hold his official meetings on Wednesday. According to the MEA’s statement, he will meet National Security Advisor Ajit Doval as well, while the U.S. State Department said he would meet with the PM.

During the visit, officials are expected to try and iron out indemnity issues between both countries over the import to India of U.S.-made vaccines like those by Moderna and Pfizer, which have been held up due to New Delhi’s refusal to sign a liability waiver. U.S. companies have been pressing for this. A shipment of Moderna vaccines as well as the U.S.’s commitment to make available vaccines, including Covax, the donations have not yet arrived in India, although the U.S. has sent vaccines to most of India’s neighbours, including Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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