Wed, 22 Sep 2021

New Delhi [India], July 28 (ANI): The US delegation led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken was candid on all issues during his interaction with External Affairs S Jaishankar including COVID vaccines, China, Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific and global issues, sources said.

The Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India was open to having a conversation on democracy and human rights as India's record is stellar on both counts. There was no discord or upbraiding done by the US side with regard to India's commitment to democracy and human rights, sources said.

Blinken's first meeting was with Indian civil society members. Referring to questions about democracy, civil society and comments at the joint press conference, the sources added there was no "lecturing" by the US side.

Blinken, in his remarks at the joint media interaction, said every democracy including the US was "a work in progress" and the quest of two counties is to "get closer to the ideals we set for ourselves" and while the challenge at times is painful and ugly "as democracies India and the US do it openly".

He said the "shared values strengthen the US and India relationship".

"Like our own, India's democracy is powered by its free-thinking citizens. We applaud that. We view Indian democracy as a force for good in defence of a free and open Indo-Pacific and free and open world," he said.

He referred to challenges faced by the US about the functioning of its democratic institutions.

"We recognize that every democracy, starting with our own, is a work in progress. When we discussed these issues, I certainly do it from a starting point of humility. We've seen challenges our own democracy faced and faces today. This is in a sense to all democracies," he said.

"We talk about in our founding document, search for a more perfect union that means that we are not perfect. Our quest is to get closer to the ideals we set for ourselves. At times, the challenge is painful and ugly, but as democracies, we do it openly," he added.

He said India and the US talk about issues and challenges in strengthening their democracies.

"As friends (India and the US), we talk about these issues, we talk about challenges we face in renewing and strengthening our democracies. Humbly we can learn from each other. No democracy regardless of how old or large has it all figured out," he said.

Referring to Blinken meeting with Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Dorji Damdul, current director of Tibet House in Delhi, sources added that it was an interesting choice and a not so subtle message to China.

Sources said that the meeting and guests were chosen by the US embassy and the Indian side had nothing to do with it.

The sources also said that India and the US are resolute in staying firm on their position on Quad and will not bend or modify it or redefine it, the way China is attempting to pressure the members to do.

On Afghanistan, sources said there is a general understanding that it's not possible to completely walk away from Afghanistan and there was "no question of a vacuum".

The sources said the US has come closer to the Indian view on Afghanistan and that there are non-military ways of continuing their presence in Afghanistan.

No mention of Kashmir, Article 370 or any pressure to talk to Pakistan was imposed in talks with India. "The neighbouring country came up only in passing in conversation," added the source.

In his remarks during the media interaction, Jaishankar said the Covid issue was naturally a particular priority.

He referred to the responsiveness of the Biden administration in keeping the raw material supply chain open for vaccine production in India and referred to the support that India received during the Covid second wave from the United States, He termed the support as "exceptional".

The two leaders spoke at length about regional concerns, multilateral institutions and global issues.

Jaishankar said that the expanding Indian footprint, be it in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean or the South-pacific has naturally broadened the shared agenda.

He said the world wished to see an independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbours but its independence and sovereignty will only be ensured if it is free from malign influences.

"Similarly unilateral imposition of will by any party will obviously not be democratic and can never lead to stability nor indeed can such efforts ever acquire legitimacy," he said.

Blinken said India and the US are determined to end the Covid-19 pandemic together with the Quad vaccine partnership.

"We are determined to end this pandemic, and India-US will work together to do it together including through the Quad vaccine partnership. I believe India and the US together around the world will be leaders to bring this pandemic to an end," Blinken said. (ANI)

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