| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

U.S. Top Diplomat Blinken to visit India, Kuwait

The State Department said on Friday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit India next week, marking the top US diplomat’s first trip to the world’s largest democracy and a key US partner in Asia.

During his July 26-29 trip, Blinken will also visit Kuwait and meet with senior officials there.

India is seen as a key ally in the United States’ efforts to counter China’s increasingly assertive actions. Blinken’s travel will follow Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s trip to China and coincide with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s tour to Southeast Asia.

Blinken will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on Wednesday.

“Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic ideals, and resolving the climate issue,” as well as the response to the coronavirus outbreak, are among the topics on the agenda, according to a statement.

Blinken is expected to discuss plans for an in-person summit of the Quad group of countries, which includes India, Japan, Australia, and the United States, to oppose China’s growing influence. In the context of China’s vast Belt and Road Initiative, the gathering later this year is anticipated to focus on measures to strengthen regional infrastructure.

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

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

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

Sources told Reuters this month that India expected to receive foreign-made COVID-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing program for the first time, with 3-4 million doses from U.S. firms Pfizer and Moderna shots potentially arriving by August.

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

  • Reuters