Monday September 20, 2021

Blinken to take up HR, Afghanistan with Indian leadership

ISLAMABAD: The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is reaching New Delhi on Tuesday at the first high-level visit by the new Biden administration for extensive talks with the Modi government on mutual interest despite a horrifying spike of coronavirus in the host country.

Earlier, the British Prime Minister called off his visit to India due to the virus while no other foreign dignitary has ventured in the India capital in the last more than one year.

Highly placed diplomatic sources told The News on Saturday that the US has de-hyphenated its relations with Pakistan and India long ago. For this reason, Blinken didn’t include Islamabad as part of this sojourn. Pakistan’s leadership felicitated Joe Biden on his election forthwith but the latter didn’t show courtesy to respond by customary return phone call for thanking and beginning afresh. Interestingly Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke to his US counterpart early this month, who did hint him on the upcoming visit to India but without offering any clues to visiting Islamabad. However, a high level delegation will be visiting Washington from Pakistan on an important mission this week but the US Secretary of State would not lead that.

During the visit to New Delhi, the US authorities have indicated that Antony Blinken will raise issues of human rights and democracy with Indian officials. They claim that the two countries have more values in common on those fronts than otherwise. The US Secretary of State will also meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is understood that the situation in Afghanistan and ties between Islamabad and New Delhi would also figure prominently in the official talks besides Covid-19 and the situation on the Ladakh border where China thrashed Indian forces in March this year. Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval will also meet Bilinken, who played an important role in enacting the LOC ceasefire through behind the scene talks with the relevant Pakistan circles.

The US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Dean Thompson, spoke at a conference called ahead of Blinken's visit to New Delhi on Saturday and told the media that questions with respect to human rights and democracy will be raised. “We will raise it, and we will continue that conversation, because we firmly believe that we have more values in common on those fronts than we don't. Dean Thompson reminded us that we believe India is going to be a really important part of continuing those conversations and building strong efforts on those fronts in partnership as we go forward." India has previously rejected criticism by foreign governments and human rights groups on allegations that civil liberties have eroded in the country. They have asserted that India has well established democratic practices and robust institutions to safeguard the rights of all although it is facing serious charges in Indian held Kashmir (IHK) and other parts of India. Disregarding Indian Constitution that provides for adequate safeguards under various statutes for protection of human rights, the incumbent India government has been grossly violating human rights.

Thompson asserted that the relationship with India is a strong one that has endured through administrations of all colours and stripes and will continue to do so. "We are looking forward to this opportunity for the Secretary to talk with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and continue to pursue the myriad areas of common interest that we have," he said. "I think it's fair to say that we see the relationship continuing at a very high level, and India will of course remain an incredibly important partner," he said. "We're going to continue pursuing our global comprehensive strategic partnership, and I think by virtue of the President making the Quad and our partnership with India, very high priorities right at the outset of this administration, it sets the tone for what we think we can achieve and accomplish with them, and with our other partners as well. So. we would expect to continue the dialogues that we've had on all those fronts," Thompson said.