US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to visit India next week

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to make his first visit to India “very soon”, sources said, indicating that planning for the visit is underway for a meeting as early as next week.

“Dates are still being finalized,” said an official The Hindu, confirming the visit, while another official said meetings were scheduled in New Delhi in “late July”.

Mr Blinken’s visit is expected to set the stage for the Quad Summit and bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joseph Biden to be held in Washington later this year, and is also expected to discuss the emerging situation in Afghanistan. , including The Taliban advance after the withdrawal of US troops with Indian officials. Mr Blinken’s proposed visit, which has not yet been announced, could coincide with the three-day visit of the chief of the Afghan army, Lt. Gen. Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai to Delhi.

India and the United States have a wide range of bilateral relations to discuss and Mr. Biden has made it clear that the American Indo-Pacific strategy which includes India is an important area, especially given the growing tensions between the United States and China.

India and the United States have ongoing talks on a free trade agreement as well as India’s request to restore its GSP status for exports, which was revoked by the previous Trump administration, and the United States. two sides will discuss improving economic, defense and energy cooperation, as well as cooperation to fight COVID-19. The US Quad initiative to produce a billion vaccines is based on Indian production. Compensation issues for US vaccine makers, which have blocked supplies to India, have yet to be resolved and are expected to arise during the talks.

Despite problems with the spread of the pandemic, the Biden administration has made New Delhi a major stopover since being sworn in in January, and Mr. Blinken and Mr. Jaishankar have made early contact over a period of time. number of telephone conversations.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was the first senior official in the Biden administration to visit Delhi in March, followed by Mr Biden’s special envoy on climate change John Kerry. The Modi government has also made ties with the new administration a priority, and Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar visited Washington in May and met with Blinken in London on the sidelines of the ministers’ meeting. G-7 foreign affairs also in May and in Rome at the G-20 foreign ministers meeting in June.

The Quad summit comprising the leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, which took place virtually earlier this year, is scheduled to be held in Washington with the leaders “in person” in September, except programming issues and developments in the COVID situation.

After the second wave in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to cancel his plans to visit Europe and the UK over the summer, and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to travel to the US in September, as well as the G-20 summit in Italy in late October, or the COP 26 climate change summit in the UK in early November, to which he was invited.

As Secretary of State, Mr Blinken’s tenure has been marked by a wave of international and some visits, and his visit to Delhi is likely to see a mention of US concerns over human rights as well. man, as General (Ret.) Austin did so earlier this year.

In addition to comments by a senior State Department official on “growing restrictions on free speech and the detention of human rights activists and journalists in India” in April, and his report criticizing “government practices On minority rights and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in May, the State Department also issued a strong statement on Tuesday on the Pegasus spyware and “extrajudicial surveillance” affair.

However, officials say human rights issues are part of normal discussions between two “close partners and friends” like India and the United States who meet regularly.

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