Wednesday September 22, 2021

Blinken to pay first trip to India amid Afghan pullout

July 24, 2021

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will pay his first trip since taking office to India, the State Department said on Friday, as worries escalate about Afghanistan in a country increasingly aligned with Washington.

Blinken will meet Wednesday in New Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar before a stop in Kuwait, the State Department said.

It will be the first time since becoming the top US diplomat that Blinken will travel to India, which since the late 1990s has moved increasingly close to the United States as the world’s two largest democracies see shared interests on a rising China, Islamist extremism and other challenges.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited New Delhi as part of his first overseas trip but Blinken’s travel was put on hold amid a severe outbreak of Covid-19 in the billion-plus country. India has been among one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Afghanistan’s government, which took office with international support after the US invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

President Joe Biden has ordered US troops out of Afghanistan, ending America’s longest-ever war, by the end of August, saying nothing more can be achieved—despite rapid gains on the ground by Taliban. India recently evacuated 50 diplomats and others from its consulate in Kandahar although it insisted the mission remained open and that personnel would return as soon as security improves.