Jaishankar Holds Talks with US Counterpart Blinken in UK; Discusses Covid-19, Indo-Pacific

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in their first in-person meeting, discussed ways to deal with the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, situation in the strategic Indo-Pacific region and cooperation in multilateral forums. Jaishankar, who is in the UK for a four-day visit, held talks with Blinken on the sidelines of the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday.

He thanked Blinken for the US’ support in India’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Ahead of the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ meeting on Tuesday, they also held discussions over issues concerning the Indo-Pacific region, climate change, UN Security Council and Myanmar, according to a tweet by Jaishankar.

The focus of his discussion with Blinken was the American support during India’s Covid-19 challenge, especially the supply of oxygen and Remdesivir. “Good to meet in person my old friend Secretary Blinken. Detailed discussion on the global Covid challenge, focusing on expanded vaccine production capacity and reliable supply chains,” Jaishankar said on Twitter.

“Expressed appreciation for the strong US support to India at this difficult time, especially oxygen and Remdesivir,” he said. Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement issued in Washington that the two leaders reviewed recent efforts in the fight against Covid-19, including the US assistance to India, and expressed appreciation for each country’s support throughout the pandemic.

Jaishankar and Blinken discussed “addressing the Covid-19 challenge and deepening the US-India comprehensive global strategic partnership, Price said. During the meeting, Blinken reaffirmed India’s important role when it comes to the climate crisis and as a leading partner in the Indo-Pacific, he said.

They also discussed ways to deepen cooperation in multilateral fora, including at the UN Security Council and as a G7 guest country, Price said, adding that the two leaders looked forward to continuing the US-India cooperation on the full range of bilateral and global issues. Earlier, Jaishankar described it as a very good meeting.

“Among the many subjects we discussed was first and foremost the strong support we are getting from the United States on dealing with the Covid situation. We are very, very appreciative of that,” he told reporters in a joint appearance with Blinken in London. “We also discussed how our collaboration could help globally in expanding vaccination capabilities,” he said.

In his brief remarks, Blinken recognised the contribution of India when the United States was facing the Covid-19 crisis. “We remember so well when India came to our assistance in the early days of Covid in a very important and powerful way.

“We are joined in this fight together and determined to do everything we can to help,” Blinken said. Meanwhile, sources in New Delhi said Jaishankar and Blinken held in-depth discussion on the Covid-19 challenge and the immediate requirements of India.

Blinken assured Jaishankar that the US was monitoring developments closely and would respond positively to any Indian requirements. Sources said the next shipment of medical supplies from the US will be landing in India soon.

It was also conveyed to Jaishankar that the supply of oxygen and related equipment to India will continue to be a key priority of the US, the sources said. The US has also acted on India’s request for supply of more Remdesivir drugs, they said.

The sources said Jaishankar and Blinken also discussed how greater Indian vaccine production can address both India’s own needs and the requirement of global public health. They said India and the US will collaborate bilaterally, in Quad format and through multilateral initiatives.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the “Quad” to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence. According to a source, “Conversation brought out the convergence of interests. Ministers reviewed the progress in practical cooperation in recent months”.

The conversation covered the agenda before the UN Security Council and other multilateral organisations, the sources said. India and the US also exchanged views on the Indo-Pacific strategic landscape, they added.

China, which is flexing its military muscles in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. The country claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory.

China has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. It has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Both maritime areas in the South and East China seas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.

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