External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is holding a dialogue with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with talks expected to focus on strengthening strategic ties and defence partnership between the two countries. Mr Blinken arrived in India today with an aim of winning backing for the US’ position on the Israel-Hamas war.
Mr Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will hold the annual “two-plus-two” India-US talks with Blinked and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin. India has said the talks will focus on “defence and security cooperation”.
India is part of the Quad alliance alongside the United States, Australia and Japan, a grouping that positions itself as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region. US hopes a tighter defence relationship will help wean India off Russia, New Delhi’s primary military supplier.
“It is always wonderful to be here in India. We are building a remarkable year of engagement. We have not only the strongest bilateral partnership we’ve ever had, but also a regional one, and indeed, a global one that was further evidenced by India’s leadership for the G20 this year,” Mr Blinken said after meeting Mr Jaishankar today.
“We have a lot to do, including with our defence colleagues. I think it’s further evidence of our resolute focus for the United States on the Indo-Pacific, our region for the future, the future is actually now, and we’re building it together with India,” he added.
Mr Blinken arrived in smog-choked New Delhi on Thursday from South Korea, the latest leg of a marathon trip that has included a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Japan — which sought to find common ground on the Gaza conflict — and a whirlwind tour of the Middle East.
Mr Blinken is also expected to raise the Israel-Hamas war during the 2+2 meeting and win India’s backing for its position on the war.
Soon after Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, India was swift to condemn Hamas and shares the same view as US for an independent Palestinian state.
The conflict in Gaza poses poses a major challenge to hopes of a key trade and transport route linking Europe, the Middle East and India, unveiled during G20 talks in Delhi in September.