The United States and India pledged after a meeting of their top diplomats in New Delhi on July 28 to expand their security partnership, while Washington described India's contribution to stability in nearby Afghanistan as "vital."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar framed the meeting as an effort to highlight unity amid China's increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and the ongoing withdrawal of U.S.-led international troops from Afghanistan.
"There are few relationships in the world that are more vital than one between the United States and India," Blinken said at a press conference. "We are the world’s two leading democracies and our diversity fuels our national strength."
The United States and India are half of the so-called Quad regional alliance that also includes Australia and Japan. the Quad alliance is intended to respond to China's rising economic and military power.
Beijing has called the Quad a "narrow-purposed," "anti-Beijing club" aimed at hampering Chinese ambitions. It has discouraged other countries in the region from joining.
Longstanding U.S. grievances over China's trade, security, and human rights policies have mounted in recent years, particularly as Beijing tightens its grip on Hong Kong and continues to persecute ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities in western China.
More than a million Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim groups in China's Xinjiang region are thought to have been confined to camps or otherwise mistreated in actions that Washington has labeled a genocide.
Blinken on July 28 said India's cooperation in Afghanistan is "vital" as U.S. and other international troops push forward with a withdrawal due to be completed in late August. Many fear hard-line Taliban militants will assert greater control over more of the country following their departure.
"We will continue to work together to sustain the gains of the Afghan people and support regional stability after the withdrawal of coalition forces from the country," Blinken said.
Blinken said a return to power in Afghanistan by the Taliban would turn that country into a "pariah state." But he also said there was no "military solution" to the problems there.
India has expressed concern about a possible takeover in Afghanistan by the Taliban, whose gunmen have seized dozens of districts across the country since the U.S.-led withdrawal officially began in May.
Jaishankar said the international community wants an “independent, sovereign, democratic, and stable Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbors," which include India's historical foe Pakistan.
Jaishankar also said Afghanistan's "independence and sovereignty will only be ensured if it is free from malign influences."
Washington pledged in a deal with the Taliban in early 2020 to withdraw all of its combat troops in exchange for promises that the Taliban will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for terrorist attacks against the United States or its allies.
The State Department says Blinken met later on July 28 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.