U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with leaders of India next week to discuss support for Afghanistan as the withdrawal of U.S. forces nears completion and concern grows over the country’s stability.
Blinken will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on July 28, the State Department said on July 23.
Blinken will be seeking India's support in stabilizing Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal is completed at the end of August, said Dean Thompson, the top U.S. diplomat for South Asia.
"We expect that all the countries in the region have a shared interest in a stable and secure Afghanistan going forward, and so we will certainly be looking at talking with our Indian partners about how we can work together to realize that goal," Thompson said in a conference call with reporters.
The United States and India have been building closer relations since the late 1990s as the world's two largest democracies see shared interests on the rise of China, Islamist extremism, and other challenges.
Blinken's agenda also includes Indo-Pacific engagement, shared democratic values, climate change, and the response to the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department said.
The U.S. top diplomat described India as “a critical country” in the fight against COVID-19, and he will look to resume cooperation on supplying COVID-19 vaccines.
A major Indian drugmaker agreed in March to produce at least 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of 2022, mainly for Southeast Asian and Pacific countries, but India was subsequently hit by a catastrophic wave of infections and halted vaccine exports.
"Of course, they're focused understandably on their own internal challenges now, but when that production engine gets fully going and can distribute again to the rest of the world, that's going to make a big difference, too,” Blinken said on MSNBC.
Blinken also will be looking to set up a meeting of the leaders of the so-called Quad, a grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States that is seen as a counter to China's rising influence.
President Joe Biden earlier this year hosted a virtual Quad summit focused on the pandemic and threats posed by China but is hoping to arrange an in-person meeting by the end of the year.
Blinken will travel to Kuwait after his stop in India. Kuwait is one of the countries being considered to host thousands of Afghans who helped U.S. forces during the war and now are in the process of immigrating to the United States. Kuwait would be a place they could wait while the United States processes their visa applications.