US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak next week in India about supporting Afghanistan as worries grow in New Delhi about Taliban gains amid the end of the two-decade US military mission, officials said Friday.
On his first visit to the emerging US ally since taking office, Blinken will also look to resume work together on supplying Covid-19 vaccines and explore greater security and cyber cooperation, officials said.
Blinken will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on the trip Wednesday and afterward hold separate talks in Kuwait.
Dean Thompson, the top US diplomat for South Asia, said that Blinken would welcome India’s “shared commitment to peace and supporting economic development in Afghanistan,”
where New Delhi has pumped in some $3 billion since the US invasion overthrew the Taliban regime following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“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 told reporters.
President Joe Biden has ordered an end to the longest-ever US war by the end of August, saying that nothing more can be achieved militarily — despite rapid gains on the ground by Taliban insurgents.
The Taliban welcomed virulently anti-Indian extremists when the Sunni Muslim militants ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, with an Indian civilian airliner hijacked to the Taliban bastion of Kandahar in 1999.
India’s enthusiastic support for the Afghan government, including helping build a new parliament building, has fueled suspicions in its historic rival Pakistan which was the main international backer of the Taliban regime.
India recently evacuated 50 diplomats and others from its consulate in Kandahar although it insisted personnel would return as soon as security improves. AFP