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Blinken says US and India united in tackling Covid-19

Washington – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday the United States and India are united in trying to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic together and Washington wants to make sure it takes action to help India with its coronavirus crisis.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who has spent the past week in the United States seeking help amid a devastating second wave of infections at home, told reporters while standing with Blinken at the State Department that India is grateful to the United States for strong support and solidarity.

“In the earlier days of Covid, India was there for the United States ― something we will never forget,” Blinken said. “And now we want to make sure that we’re there for India as well.”

Blinken said the partnership between the United States and India is “vital,” “strong” and “increasingly productive.”

“We’re united in confronting Covid-19 together,” Blinken added. “We’re united in dealing with the challenge posed by climate change, and we are partnered together directly through the Quad (which includes the United States, India, Japan and Australia), other institutions in the United Nations, in dealing with many of the challenges we face in the region and around the world.”

In a meeting, Blinken and Jaishankar also discussed support for India’s neighbor, Afghanistan, a state department spokesman said.

US President Joe Biden in April ordered American troops withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 1, embracing a risk that Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency could topple the US-backed government in Kabul. Blinken and Jaishankar also discussed the February military coup in Myanmar, another of India’s neighbors.

India, the world’s second most-populous country, this month has recorded its highest Covid-19 death toll since the pandemic began more than a year ago. Only about 3 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate among the 10 countries with the most cases.

Jaishankar said India was appreciative to the United States for its “strong support and solidarity at a moment of great difficulty for us.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced mounting criticism for its failure to secure Covid-19 vaccines for its people. Indian officials have said Jaishankar has been seeking supplies while in the United States.

India pledged last month to fast-track vaccine imports. Its insistence on local trials and a dispute over indemnity stalled discussions with US firm Pfizer. India scrapped local trials for “well-established” foreign vaccines on Thursday and a government official said Pfizer shots could arrive by July.

Jaishankar met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York on Tuesday. Guterres’ spokesman said they had a “very good discussion” on “Covid-19, the issue of vaccines and also a number of other peace and security issues in general.”

US-India ties have grown closer in recent years amid shared concerns about China’s rise and they have increased cooperation through the Quad.

Biden’s Indo-Pacific policy coordinator, Kurt Campbell, said on Wednesday that the United States is looking to convene an in-person summit of leaders of the Quad in the fall, with a focus on infrastructure.

The Quad held a first virtual summit in March and pledged to work closely on Covid-19 vaccines, climate and security. ― Reuters

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