Wednesday September 22, 2021

US, India agree to up security partnership

July 29, 2021

NEW DELHI: The top diplomats of India and the United States pledged Wednesday to expand their multilateral security partnership, underscoring the deepening of ties between two countries concerned over China’s growing influence in the region.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met in New Delhi and sought to strengthen a regional front against Beijing’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and their cooperation in Afghanistan. They also lauded each country’s help in fighting the coronavirus and said their vaccine partnership is an effort to end the pandemic, international media reported.

“There are few relationships in the world that are more vital than one between the US and India. We are the world’s two leading democracies and our diversity fuels our national strength,” Blinken said at a joint news conference.

Washington has made no secret of the US desire for India’s help in isolating China. The two countries have steadily ramped up their military relationship and signed a string of defence deals.

The US and India are part of the Quad regional alliance that also includes Japan and Australia and focuses on China’s growing economic and military strength. China has called the Quad an attempt to contain its ambitions.

Blinken’s India visit comes just days after the No 2 US diplomat, Wendy Sherman, was in China. He was to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later Wednesday.

Blinken said he and Jaishankar also discussed regional security issues including Afghanistan, where the US is expected to complete its military withdrawal in August. He called India’s contribution to the stability of Afghanistan “vital.”

Blinken said there was no “military solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan and that the country would turn into a “pariah state” if the Taliban took control by force. “We will continue to work together to sustain the gains of the Afghan people and support regional stability after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country,” Blinken said.

Before meeting with Jaishankar, Blinken spoke to civil society leaders and said fundamental freedoms and rule of law are “tenets of democracies” like the US and India.

Opponents of Modi’s governing Hindu nationalist party have accused it of stifling dissent and introducing divisive policies that discriminate against Muslims and other minorities. Modi has also been accused of trying to silence voices critical of his administration’s handling of the pandemic. “We believe that all people deserve to have a voice in their government, to be treated with respect, no matter who they are,” Blinken said.

Meanwhile, Blinken met with a representative of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in New Delhi, a State Department spokesperson said, a move that is likely to provoke anger in China.

According to a British wire service, Blinken met briefly with Ngodup Dongchung, who serves as a representative of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), also known as the Tibetan government in exile, the spokesperson said.

In November, Lobsang Sangay, the former head of the Tibetan government in exile, visited the White House, the first such visit in six decades.

A month later, the US Congress passed the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which calls for the right of Tibetans to choose the successor to the Dalai Lama, and the establishment of a US consulate in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Blinken’s meeting with Dongchung is the most significant contact with the Tibetan leadership since the Dalai Lama met then-president Barack Obama in Washington in 2016.