Sunday September 19, 2021

US Secretary to visit India amid Afghanistan withdrawal

AFP
July 24, 2021

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

The State Department said US Secretary Blinken would meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Wednesday in New Delhi before a stop in Kuwait.

It would be the first time that a top US diplomat would travel to India after the late 1990s, in which the two countries have increasingly become close to each other to share interests on rising China, militancy and other challenges.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had visited New Delhi as part of his first overseas trip but Blinken’s trip was put on hold amid a severe outbreak of Covid-19 in India.

India has been among one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Afghan government, which took office with international support after the US invasion, following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

President Joe Biden has ordered the US troops to pull out from Afghanistan by the end of August, ending America’s longest-ever war, saying nothing more could be achieved, despite of the rapid gains on the ground by the Taliban.

India has pumped $3 billion in Afghanistan since 2001, including helping build a new parliament building, but it had recently evacuated 50 diplomats and others from its consulate in Kandahar although it insisted the mission remained open and the personnel would be sent back to the consulate sooner the security would be improved.