Monday, January 17, 2022

Top US diplomat Blinken to visit India, Kuwait

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit India next week, the State Department said on Friday, marking the first visit of a top US diplomat to the world’s largest democracy and an important US ally in Asia.

At the end of the 26-29 July visit, Blinken will also visit Kuwait and meet senior officials there.

The United States sees India as an important partner in efforts to counter China’s increasingly assertive behavior. Blinken’s visit will follow Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to China and coincides with a visit to Southeast Asia by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Blinken will call on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Topics on the agenda will be “Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values ​​and addressing the climate crisis” as well as the response to the coronavirus pandemic, a statement said.

The Quad group of Blinken countries – Indian, Japan, Australia and the United States are likely to discuss plans for an individual summit – which is seen as a counter to China’s growing influence. The meeting, due later this year, is expected to focus on ways to develop regional infrastructure in front of China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative.

The United States hosted a virtual summit of the Quad countries in March, in which they agreed that Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd would produce at least one billion coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of 2022, mainly in the Southeast For Asian and Pacific countries.

However, India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, was later hit by a catastrophic wave of COVID-19 infections and halted vaccine exports amid sharp criticism of Modi’s domestic vaccination efforts.

Washington sent raw materials for vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear to India after the spike.

India expects to receive 3-4 million doses of US-made vaccines by August.

“(India) is such an important country in the fight against COVID-19,” Blinken told MSNBC on Friday, explaining that India will eventually become an important source of vaccines for the world.

“Of course, they are now focused on their internal challenges, but when that production engine is fully up and running and can redistribute to the rest of the world, it will make a big difference.”

Last November, India, the United States, Japan and Australia conducted their largest joint naval exercise in a decade as part of efforts to balance China’s growing military and economic power in the region.

Nation World News Desk
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