Wed, 22 Sep 2021

By Naveen KapoorNew Delhi [India], July 25 (ANI): US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be visiting India on July 27-28, 2021. This will be his first visit to India after assuming the office.

New Delhi attaches considerable importance to the visit of Secretary Blinken and looks forward to taking forward the conversation with the US on numerous issues, be it Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, bilateral, regional, addressing Covid or global developments according to a source familiar with the agenda of the meeting.

It continues the high-level visits from the Biden Administration after the visits by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in March, and Special Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry in April.

Secretary Blinken's visit reciprocates the visit by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to the US in May 2021. The two leaders have also had detailed conversations this year in the UK (at the G7 meeting) and Italy (at the G20 meeting).

Issues like augmenting trade and investment, and tapping opportunities in healthcare, education, digital domain, innovation and security, will be important elements of the conversation said another source.

In the defence domain, both sides are expected to explore ways and means to deepen their collaboration. This will cover policy exchanges, exercises, and defence transfers and technologies. These would be covered in greater detail during the fourth 22 Ministerial Dialogue due in the US later this year.

As both countries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, discussions will cover containment of virus and pandemic recovery efforts. India will press for gradual resumption of international travel, while maintaining health protocols, especially easing the mobility of students, professionals, business travellers, family reunions, humanitarian cases, etc.

Sources tell ANI, "The need for resilient supply chains of critical medicines and healthcare equipment is likely to come up.""On vaccines, India will continue to push for ensuring open and consistent supply chains for materials and items required for vaccine production, as India ramps up both for domestic vaccination and as for global supplies thereafter," sources added.

Discussions on deepening Quad engagement are also expected to be a key focus area of talks, with the possibility of a Foreign Ministerial Quad meeting later this year.

India and the US will also take forward the Quad vaccine initiative to enable the supply of vaccines produced in India from early 2022 to countries in the Indo-Pacific region, said a source.

Afghanistan witnessing massive violence will be the central issue, implications of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, and the need for sustained pressure on Pakistan on terror financing and terror havens will be part of the agenda.

Two sides will also exchange assessments about the Indo-Pacific region, with focus on Covid assistance, economic slowdown and security scenario. Latest developments pertaining to West Asia and Central Asia are also likely to be covered, sources said.

An official told ANI, "Climate change remains an important area of our conversation, particularly the potential for green collaborations as well as climate finance and transfer of clean technologies to developing countries.""India will also engage with the US on other global issues. Political and cultural rebalancing are important trends. India supports a truly multipolar, democratic and diverse world order and expects international conversations to reflect this evolution. We believe in equity and fairness, whether in development, climate change or global decision-making," the official added.

"India believes issues such as human rights and democracy are universal and extend beyond a particular national or cultural perspective. India is proud of its achievements in both domains and is always glad to share experiences. As a long-standing pluralistic society, India is open to engaging those who now recognise the value of diversity," the source added.

Discussions will also cover working together in the UN, especially with India holding the Presidency of the UN Security Council in August 2021. (ANI)

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