External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday met met his counterpart, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, with the two reportedly discussing a broad range of issues. Held against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister said that the vaccine partnership between India and the US, and Quad-based discussions on vaccines was perhaps the most important subject of their talk.
"Secretary Blinken and Jaishankar discussed a broad range of issues, including COVID-19 relief, efforts to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation through the Quad, and a shared commitment to combating the climate crisis and enhancing multilateral cooperation, including at the UN Security Council," US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. Both the leaders also discussed regional developments, the coup in Burma, and continuing support for Afghanistan.
"US and India are working together on so many of most important challenges of our time -- one that are having profound impact on our citizens. We're united in confronting COVID-19 together," Blinken was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Contending that the partnership between US and India was "vital, strong, and increasingly productive", Blinken said that the US would never forget that India had been there for the country in the early days of the pandemic.
"In the early days of COVID-19, India was there for the US, something we will never forget. Now we want to make sure that we are there for and with India," the US Secretary of State said. A similar sentiment was expressed by EAM Jaishankar.
Jaishankar incidentally is the first Indian Cabinet minister to visit the US since President Joe Biden took over the reigns of the administration. He had met Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, US Trade Representatives Katherine Tai and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines over the past two days. He also held meetings with top officials from about a dozen departments of the administration. He also spoke with co-chairs of India Caucus, and Chairman and Ranking Member of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Jaishankar said he also met with business leaders in a meeting organised by the US India Business Council and US India Strategic and Partnership Forum, during which one of the key topics of discussion was related to COVID-19. The external affairs minister had also attended a series of meetings at the United Nations.
On India getting vaccines from the US, Jaishankar said there are ongoing conversations on various aspects of vaccines, ranging from regulatory aspects to legal and commercial ones. A large number of companies have reached out to ensure that their supply chain is smooth, he said.
"This was something I had discussed in detail with Secretary Blinken, when we were in London. We have seen in the last two to three weeks the supply chain is working more smoothly. I think some of that is also due to the interventions by the (India's) ambassador (to the US)," he said.
"In terms of the details of which is the American stock from which President Biden has said that they would be willing to do some supplies, the issue came up at the conceptual level. But my understanding is that, in the coming days or weeks, the US will obviously make its decisions," the minister noted.
(With inputs from agencies)
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