The United States Secretary of State Antony J Blinken arrived in New Delhi for his maiden two-day visit to the country on Tuesday. The purpose of the visit is to expand the strong and growing bilateral partnership between India and US with the Joe Biden administration describing India as a "leading global power and a key US partner" in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
Ahead of the talks, Blinken attended a meeting with civil society leaders in the capital on Wednesday where he said that fundamental freedoms, as well as the rule of law, formed the basis of any democracy.
"The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion and belief . . . these are the fundamental tenets of democracies like ours," Blinked said, as reported by Mint.
He also added that in the face of rising global threats, India and US, the "world’s two leading democracies", must stand together.
Blinken is expected to discuss with Indian interlocutors a range of issues overlapping mutual interests including Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific relations and Covid-19 response and cooperation.
However, ahead of the visit, American concerns regarding the state of democracy and human rights in India caused a stir back home.
Here is all you need to know about the Blinken visit in 7 points:
1. The two-day visit will mark Blinken's first trip to India after assuming charge as the US Secretary of State and the third by a high-ranking Biden administration official after it came to power in January.
2. Blinken is scheduled to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday before leaving for Kuwait as part of his two-nation tour.
3. Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson said that the discussions will focus on expanding ties in areas of security, defence, cyber, and counterterrorism cooperation.
4. Both US and India are expected to explore ways to deepen defence collaboration, including exercises, defence transfers and technologies ahead of the next edition of the 2+2 defence and foreign ministerial dialogue to be held in the US later this year.
5. Talks on Quad vaccine initiative and deepening engagement in the Indo-Pacific region are also on the agenda.
6. Dean Thompson, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, told reporters on Friday that Blinken will raise issues of human rights and democracy with Indian officials during the visit.
7. Responding to the US' concerns regarding democracy and human rights in India, official sources said that it is proud of its achievements in upholding democratic values and human rights and it is open to engaging with those who recognise diversity.
(With inputs from PTI)