New York, April 20: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar have agreed that the two nations will coordinate on efforts to promote stability in Afghanistan, from where Washington and NATO will be withdrawing their troops, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
Blinken spoke to Jaishankar “to reaffirm the importance of the US-India relationship and cooperation on regional security issues”, Price said in a readout of their conversation on Monday.
They “agreed to close and frequent coordination in support of a lasting peace and development for the people of Afghanistan”, he said.
Myanmar, where the military has flouted the results of parliamentary elections, imprisoned the democratically elected leaders and cracked down on protesters since the February 1, figured in their talks.
They “reaffirmed their shared commitment to democratic values and mutual support for the restoration of democracy in Burma”, Price said using the old name for Myanmar.
Other issues discussed were cooperation on climate change, for which President Joe Biden is convening a global summit, Covid-19 and “other global challenges”, he said.
Jaishankar said in a tweet that their “conversation covered recent developments in India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood. Exchanged views on the UNSC agenda. Also discussed issues pertaining to our health cooperation”.
Reports that the US was going to lift the embargo on exporting raw materials needed for making Covid-19 vaccines followed the mention of health and the pandemic as topics of their conversation.
However, President Joe Biden’s Spokesperson Jen Psaki would not confirm if there was an agreement on allowing the vaccine raw materials export.
Announcing his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan ending a 20-year-old war, Biden last week asked India and other regional countries to pitch in to help stabilise the country.
India, which was mostly on the sidelines of the US efforts to make a deal with the Taliban to facilitate the troop withdrawal by the September 11 deadline, has been invited at Washington’s suggestion to an Afghanistan peace conference in Turkey this month.
New Delhi has given Afghanistan economic assistance of over $3 billion since 2001 and also provided security assistance through training over 4,000 Afghan military and security personnel and supplying helicopters.
India also built Afghanistan’s Parliament and is constructing a network of roads that would also provide a link for the landlocked country to a port it has constructed in Chabahar, Iran.
By Arul Louis