India-US ties key to anchoring Indo-Pacific region

Source: Livemint, Indian Express

Relevance: Indo-US ties under the new Biden administration

Synopsis: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first visit to India after the Biden administration took office in January 2021. Key points that were discussed and the significance of the visit.

Relevant points

During talks the emphasis seemed to be on building on the convergences and not allowing irritants – like India’s alleged record on minority rights and freedom of the press – to overshadow ties.

  • Meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader: Blinken also met with a representative of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, Geshe Dorji Damdul, a move that could elicit an angry response from China. It should be noted that The US supports the Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama with many thousands of Tibetan refugees seeking asylum in the US.
  • On Indo-US partnership: Blinken also said that strengthening the partnership with India is one of the US top foreign policy priorities, stating that this partnership will be critical to delivering stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond
  • On Afghanistan: It was agreed that the peace negotiations should be taken seriously. It is the only way to create a lasting solution and that the diversity of Afghanistan must be taken into account for finding that lasting solution
Significance of the visit
  • Expansion of strategic partnership: The visit highlights the commitment of Delhi and Washington to expand the scope and intensity of their strategic partnership while avoiding a potential split over the question of human rights.
  • Concerns over India’s democratic deficit: Visit assumes importance due to America’s apprehensions of India’s democratic backsliding in terms of rising of majoritarian politics and the undermining of institutions. Such concerns were expressed by President Barack Obama too during his visit to India in January 2015. But the idea that India has become an illiberal democracy has gained much ground since then.
  • Meeting of the QUAD: the Visit to New Delhi is also aimed at laying the groundwork for an in-person meeting of the leaders of the four Quad countries – i.e. the US, India, Australia, and Japan – who back a free and open Indo-Pacific.
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