The US government is pointing to the first leader level Quad summit earlier this year to headline its “high priority” status for the US-India partnership, ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to India next week to discuss China, the coronavirus response and Afghanistan.
Blinken is scheduled to travel to New Delhi and Kuwait on July 26-29 and will meet India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two day visit starting July 27. This is Blinken’s first visit to India after assuming charge as US Secretary of State and comes barely a month ahead of US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“I think it’s fair to say that we see the relationship continuing at a very high level and India will, of course, remain an incredibly important partner. We’re going to continue pursuing our global comprehensive strategic partnership,” Dean Thompson, the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia, told reporters Friday.
The US Secretary of State will be seeking India’s support in a “stable and secure” Afghanistan, Thompson said. The US launched multiple airstrikes this week in support of Afghan government forces fighting the Taliban. The Biden administration has not said whether it will continue that support after the pullout is complete, on August 31.
In response to questions on the Trump-Modi vs Biden-Modi relationship, Thompson said the Quad partnership “sets the tone” for what the US thinks it can achieve and accomplish with India as well as the other Quad partners Australia and Japan.
Leaders from Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – the so-called Quad- met virtually on March 12 this year and declared a new era for Indo-Pacific competition and collaboration. It was the first leader level summit for the grouping at a time when China continues to expand its clout in the Indo Pacific.
“You know, the relationship with India is a strong one it has, has endured through administrations of all colors and stripes in the US and will continue to do so,” noted Thompson. “So we’re looking forward to this opportunity for the Secretary to talk with Prime Minister Modi.”
Blinken is said to be considering an in person meeting of the Quad by year end — but details about timing and format are still unclear.
After the India visit, Blinken travels to Kuwait. Thousands of Afghans who worked for the US are hoping to be relocated there and in Qatar before the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan is through.