NEW DELHI — Afghanistan, terror dwellings in Pakistan, and Covid-19 are the top issues that India will take up with the United States during the latter’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken visit to India.

Blinken will visit the country on July 27 and 28 and this would be his first visit to India after assuming office.

New Delhi has attached considerable importance to the visit of Secretary Blinken and will try to take forward the conversation with the US on numerous issues, be it Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, bilateral, regional, addressing Covid-19 or global developments.

Blinken’s visit continues the high-level visits from the Biden Administration after the visits by U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

In the defense domain, both sides are expected to explore ways and means to deepen their collaboration. This will cover policy exchanges, exercises, and defense transfers and technologies. These would be covered in greater detail during the fourth 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue due in the U.S. 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 travelers, family reunions, humanitarian cases, etc.

“The need for resilient supply chains of critical medicines and healthcare equipment is likely to come up,” a media report said citing sources.

“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.”

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 U.S. 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.

Afghanistan witnessing massive violence will be the central issue, implications of the withdrawal of U.S. 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 a focus on Covid-19 assistance, economic slowdown and security scenario. The latest developments pertaining to West Asia and Central Asia are also likely to be covered, the media report said citing sources.

“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,” said an official to a news website.

“India will also engage with the U.S. 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.”

“As Blinken heads to New Delhi, he could find some surprising common ground on Afghanistan,” tweeted C. Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies.

“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 recognize the value of diversity,” the media report said citing sources.

Discussions will also cover working together in the United Nations, especially with India holding the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council in August 2021.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Praveen Pramod Tewari)



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