New Delhi: The situation in Afghanistan is expected to be one of the main topics on the agenda for Blinken’s discussions during his India visit. The fallout of the drawdown of US troops on the security situation in Afghanistan and the need to pressure Pakistan on terror financing and sanctuaries for terrorists will be on his agenda.
The two sides are expected to discuss ways to deepen defence collaboration, including exercises, defence transfers and technologies, as part of preparations for the fourth 2+2 dialogue of defence and foreign ministers to be held in the US later this year, sources said.
Blinken is the third senior member of the Biden administration to visit India after defence secretary Lloyd Austin in March and special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry in April. During his two-day visit, he will meet external affairs minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on July 28.
The situation in Afghanistan is expected to be one of the main topics on the agenda for Blinken’s discussions with the Indian leadership because of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country in the aftermath of an offensive by the Taliban to capture territory and crucial border crossings with Pakistan, Iran and Uzbekistan.
India is concerned about the instability in Afghanistan spilling over into parts of the region and Pakistani terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed currently fighting alongside the Taliban turning their attention towards Kashmir.
“On the regional security situation, the implications of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, and the need for sustained pressure on Pakistan over terror financing and terror havens will be part of the agenda,” one of the people cited above said.
India attaches considerable importance to Blinken’s visit, which will be an opportunity to take forward the conversation with the US on bilateral and regional issues and tackling the Covid-19 crisis and other international developments. With regard to Covid-19, the people said discussions will cover containing the pandemic, supply of vaccine raw materials, and economic recovery efforts.
“India will continue to push for ensuring open and consistent supply chains for materials and items needed for vaccine production, as the country ramps up production for both domestic vaccination and global supplies thereafter,” the sources said.
The Indian side will also press for gradual resumption of international travel while maintaining health protocols, especially easing the mobility of students, professionals and business travellers, and allowing travel for family reunions and humanitarian issues.
As part of the focus on the Indo-Pacific region, the two sides will discuss ways to deepen engagement under the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, including the possibility of a meeting of foreign ministers of India, Australia, Japan and the US later this year.
The two sides will also take forward the Quad vaccine partnership, which was launched at the first virtual summit of the group in March, to enable the supply of made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to countries in the Indo-Pacific from early 2022.
The two sides will exchange assessments about the Indo-Pacific region, with the focus on Covid-19-related assistance, economic slowdown and the security scenario. The latest developments in West Asia and Central Asia are also likely to be covered.
This is Blinken’s first visit to India after assuming office and it reciprocates external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s trip to the US in May. The two ministers have also met in the UK on the margins of a G7 meeting and in Italy on the sidelines of a G20 meet.