India pre-eminent partner of US in Indo-Pacific: Blinken tells Jaishankar

By Arul Louis
New York, Jan 30 (IANS) American Secretary of State Antony Blinken “underscored India’s role as a pre-eminent partner of the US in the Indo-Pacific” during a discussion with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on expanding ties, a top official said here.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken called Jaishankar on Friday “to reaffirm the growing US-India partnership and discuss issues of mutual concern, including Covid-19 vaccination efforts, regional developments, and next steps in expanding bilateral ties”.

“Both agreed to coordinate closely on global developments,” he said.

Taking to Twitter following the talks, Jaishankar said: “Warm conversation with Secretary of State @SecBlinken. Congratulated him on his appointment. Look forward to working with him again. Agreed that we could build further on the solid foundation of our partnership. Also discussed our efforts at combating the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The two had worked together and met in New Delhi when Jaishankar was the Foreign Secretary and Blinken was the Deputy Secretary of State in 2015.

Price said that they looked forward to meeting in person at the earliest opportunity.

During their conversation, Blinken also stressed the importance of working together to expand regional cooperation, including through the Quad, the spokesman added.

Quad is a group comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan, which was revived with a boost from the administration of former President Donald Trump in 2017 as a bulwark of democracies against China’s growing aggression in the region.

Friday’s conversation comes after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Wednesday and discussed continuing close co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region and promoting regional security, according to the White House.

Earlier, Blinken had told the Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that there would be a continuity in US relations with India which grew under the previous administration.

The US would continue “to make sure we were working with India so that no country in the region including China could challenge its sovereignty and also working with it on concerns that we share about terrorism”, he said.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

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