Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal Republicans demanding Blinken impeachment are forgetting one thing — the Constitution MORE plans to travel next week to India and Kuwait, participating in discussions surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and global issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
Blinken will leave for New Delhi on Monday and meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
It is the first visit for Blinken to the world’s largest democracy, a key security partner for the U.S. in confronting China’s global ambitions.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is making her first trip to China on Sunday.
The U.S. and India are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue group, along with Japan and Australia; its stated goal to ensure a “free, open and inclusive” Indo-Pacific but it is viewed as a counter to Beijing’s provocations in the region.
President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE met virtually with the leaders of Quad countries in March, and Blinken traveled to Tokyo that month ahead of his first meeting with Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska.
Dean Thompson, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said in a Friday briefing with reporters that the secretary’s bilateral discussions with Indian partners will focus on “expanding our security, defense, cyber and counterterrorism cooperation.”
Afghanistan will feature prominently in the discussions, Thompson said. The U.S. is set to complete its pullout of troops by Aug. 31, and the Taliban has made key territorial gains and increasing threats against the ruling government of President Ashraf Ghani.
“India of course is a critical partner in the region, and we welcome India's shared commitment to peace and supporting economic development in Afghanistan,” Thompson said.
Blinken will also discuss U.S. and Indian cooperation for the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. India is recovering from a devastating spike in COVID-19 infections in May — with a peak of more than 400,000 new cases at one point. The country is a critical hub of vaccine production but had to redirect much of the global supply it was producing to its own population, leaving a shortfall of about 140 million vaccines.
“The pandemic is still with us and very much on our minds, India and the United States have both suffered tremendously during this pandemic,” Thompson said.
Blinken will travel to Kuwait on Wednesday, where he’ll meet with senior officials and consult closely on regional issues concerning the threat from Iran and the ongoing war and humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.
“We've seen that Kuwait works to end conflicts, bridge gaps, de escalate tensions and provide humanitarian aid,” Daniel Benaim, deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula affairs, said in the Friday briefing.