Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 28
In a departure from his predecessor Mike Pompeo, the visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken touched on democracy and human rights with the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar telling him that “it is the moral obligation of all polities to right wrongs done historically”.
Apparently responding to criticism of the Government’s actions on Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act, Jaishankar pointed out at a media interaction that, “many of the decisions and policies fall in that category”.
Blinken, in fact, had opened the day with a carefully-curated set of civil society leaders. They included a Tibetan Ngodup Dongchung and Dr AK Merchant from the Bahai community which faces persecution in Pakistan.
The US Secretary of State was careful in his responses to the media on the question. “We recognise that every democracy starting with our own is a work in progress. When we discuss these issues, I certainly do it, from the starting point of humility. We have seen challenges our democracy has faced in the past and faces today. This is common to all democracies,’’ he observed.
Terming strengthening partnership with India is one of the US’s top foreign policy priorities, Blinken said there are few relationships in the world that are more vital than the one between the US and India.
Earlier, Blinken met NSA Ajit Doval and discussed strategic issues of importance in security, defence, economic and technology-related sectors. He rounded up his engagements by calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The discussions with the Indian leaders touched on regional concerns, multilateral institutions and global issues. Jaishankar said another issue was the “expanding Indian footprint, be it in Africa, South-east Asia, Caribbean or the South-pacific (that) has naturally broadened the shared agenda”.
Among the many issues the two looked at, Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific and the Gulf were the most prominent. “It is essential that peace negotiations are taken seriously by all parties. Unilateral imposition of will by any party will never lead to stability nor indeed can such efforts ever acquire legitimacy,” noted the Minister.
On Afghanistan, Blinken told his Indian interlocutors that the US will remain engaged in the country even after the troop withdrawal as it is concerned about the Taliban advances. “There are reports of them committing atrocities in Afghanistan. It’s deeply troubling. It certainly doesn’t speak well about their intention for the country,” he said.
Jaishankar said a solution needs to be worked out through dialogue and not on the battlefield since a unilateral imposition of will can never lead to stability in Afghanistan.
Cooperation in battling the Covid pandemic figured prominently in Blinken’s talks with Jaishankar. Blinken also announced a $ 25 million assistance to support vaccination efforts across India and recalled with “gratitude” the aid and assistance India provided to the US early in the pandemic.
The two leaders also discussed closer cooperation in the defence and security spheres.
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