'Vital partnership': S Jaishankar, Anthony Blinken reaffirm India-US cooperation in fighting COVID-19

Fighting a joint battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and boosting vaccine cooperation were the reigning points of discussion in the meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Friday (local time).

Addressing the press before the meeting, Blinken affirmed the US' support for India to combat the second COVID-19 wave. He reiterated the Biden administration's message that the US will "never forget" that India had extended help when it was crippled by the pandemic in 2020.

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"We know, we remember, in the earlier days of COVID, India was there for the United States… something we’ll never forget. Now we want to make sure we are there for and with India," he said in reference to the overburdening of the healthcare system that India faced when the second wave was at its peak in April and May.

"The United States and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are putting a profound impact on our lives," he added.

Hailing the bilateral partnership between the two countries, Blinken said that the US and India are "united" against COVID-19 and climate change through the Quad partnership and the United Nations.

“The partnership between the United States and India is vital. It’s strong. And I think it’s increasingly predominant,” he said.

Jaishankar, who is the first Indian Cabinet minister to visit the US after Joe Biden became the president in January 2021, added, "We have a lot of issues to discuss. I think our relations have grown stronger over the years and I'm very confident that it will continue to do so. I want to express our gratitude to the administration and US for strong support and solidarity at the moment of great difficulty for us."

The Hindu reported that public and private companies, and citizens in the US have raised over $500 million in assistance to India since the second COVID-19 wave hit the country.

Friday's meeting between Jaishankar and Blinken was the second after they met on 3 May in London.

After the meeting, the US state department issued a statement saying that the two officials discussed a "broad" range of issues, including COVID-19 relief, efforts to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation through the Quad partnership, and a shared commitment to combating climate crisis.

Blinken and Jaishankar also discussed regional developments, the coup in Myanmar and continuing support for Afghanistan, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. He added that the two leaders pledged to continue their cooperation on shared economic and regional security priorities.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Dean Thompson earlier told reporters that the meeting demonstrated the US' deep commitment to the partnership and to strengthening it in the years to come.

The meeting between Blinken and Jaishankar, one of the first in-person visits that we have had in Washington since the beginning of the pandemic, showcased the breadth and depth of our relationship with India, which we view as one of the most important partnerships in the region and the world, Thompson was quoted as saying by PTI.

With inputs from agencies


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