Blinken Meets Indian FM Jaishankar, Discusses Covid-19 Relief; Indo-Pacific – State Dept

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Washington where they discussed the pandemic and strengthening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

“Secretary Blinken and Minister Jaishankar discussed a broad range of issues, including COVID-19 relief, efforts to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation through the Quad, and a shared commitment to combating the climate crisis and enhancing multilateral cooperation, including at the UN Security Council,” Price said on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Blinken told reporters the United States and India are “united” in confronting COVID-19.

The talks come as the virus continues to run rampant through India, where the death toll has surpassed the 318,000 mark. Blinken said India was there in the early stages of the pandemic for the United States and now Washington wants to reciprocate in kind.

Indian FM Jaishankar tweeted: Pleasure to meet @SecBlinken. A productive discussion on various aspects of our bilateral cooperation as well as regional and global issues. Covered Indo Pacific and the Quad, Afghanistan, Myanmar, UNSC matters and other international organizations.

In another tweet, he wrote: Also focused on Indo-US vaccine partnership aimed at expanding access and ensuring supply. Appreciated strong solidarity expressed by US at this time. Today’s talks have further solidified our strategic partnership and enlarged our agenda of cooperation.

The US has been fortifying its position in the Indo-Pacific regions both militarily and diplomatically, with the government’s new fiscal year 2022 budget reflecting increased engagement with the area.

The defense budget included $5.1 billion for the US military’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which is designed to increase American readiness and capabilities in the Indo-Pacific.

The State Department and USAID also requested $58.5 billion to go towards causes including engagement with China in the Indo-Pacific region from a position of collective strength. Defense officials noted that deterring Beijing involves using the US’s greatest advantage over them in the region: allies.