Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed Wednesday cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.
Blinken, who made his first trip to India as the top diplomat of President Joe Biden's administration, said in a press conference after his meeting with his Indian counterpart that the United States will provide an additional $25 million to support vaccination efforts in India, on top of over $200 million grant aid that Washington has extended to New Delhi to help fund its coronavirus response.
"We are determined to end this pandemic and India and the United States will work together to do it, including through the Quad vaccine partnership which will bring safe and effective vaccines to others across the region," said Blinken, referring to the group involving two other major Indo-Pacific democracies, Japan and Australia.
India has faced a severe second wave of the virus surge in May. While the number of cases largely decreased this month, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in India could be higher than 4 million, according to a U.S. research institute.
As one of largest vaccine production hubs in the world, India is expected to increase its coronavirus vaccine output and restart exports that the country has stopped since May.
The secretary of state also said that both India and the United States share a strong interest in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and maintaining the Afghan government, and the Taliban should come to the negotiating table for a peaceful solution to continuing conflicts.
Regarding the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan scheduled by the end of August, Blinken said the United States will remain engaged in the country, adding, "We have not only a strong embassy there but also an important program that continues to support Afghanistan economically."
India and the United States share a vision of "a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific," Blinken said, adding "We will work together to make that vision a reality and we will continue to advance peace, security and development worldwide."
While stressing bilateral ties, Jaishankar and Blinken agreed to strengthen regional cooperation through the Quad.
Jaishankar said in his statement released after the press conference, "Our ability to work more closely, bilaterally, in the Quad and elsewhere, benefits the international community as a whole."
The Quad group is widely seen as a counterweight to an increasingly assertive China, with the Biden administration framing the U.S.-China rivalry as a fight between democratic and authoritarian governments.
Blinken arrived in India on Tuesday on a two-day visit. He met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi later Wednesday.
Modi said in his twitter post that he welcomed Biden's strong commitment to strengthen the strategic partnership of the two countries, adding the partnership "is anchored in our shared democratic values and is a force for global good."