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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the Press Statement/Media Interaction following India-US Ministerial Meeting

July 28, 2021

Friends of the Media,

Secretary Blinken and I just concluded our discussions; I welcome the opportunity to brief all of you. Let me say right at the start that it’s a real pleasure to welcome you back here Secretary, back to Delhi. Our meeting takes place at an important juncture when key global and regional challenges need to be affectively addressed that our bilateral partnership has advanced to a level that enables us to deal collaboratively with larger issues is a matter of particular satisfaction. Now, you are all aware of the extent of transformation of our relationship in recent years. Prime Minister Modi and President Biden have spoken numerous times and participated in summits of the Quad, G7 and Climate Leaders this year and Secretary Blinken and I, the two of us we are actually meeting, I think, for the fourth time this year. As Foreign Ministers, it is our responsibility to regularly review cooperation in different domains and keep our leaders apprised of the progress in our ties and that is exactly what we have done today. Now whether it is responding to the Covid challenge, cooperating on defence and security, encouraging trade and investment, addressing climate change or expanding education and innovation, I can say truly that there is much that has happened in 2021. The Covid issue was naturally a particular priority, so let me first acknowledge the responsiveness of the Biden administration to keeping the raw material supply chain open for vaccine production in India and then say a big thanks for the support we received during the Covid second wave from the United States, a support that I would say was truly exceptional. We focus today on expanding vaccine production to make it globally affordable and accessible; we also discussed travel challenges resulting from Covid. The US has been very forthcoming on students. I really appreciate all the trouble that the State Department and the Embassy has gone to in that regard and I very much hope, will take a sympathetic view of other travellers in the days to come.

We spoke at length about regional concerns, multilateral institutions and global issues, the expanding Indian footprint, be it in Africa, South-east Asia, Caribbean or the South-pacific has naturally broadened the shared agenda. Among the many issues that we looked at, I would specifically note Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific and the Gulf. Regarding Afghanistan it is essential that peace negotiations are taken seriously by all parties. The world wishes to see an independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbours but its independence and sovereignty will only be ensured if it is free from malign influences. Similarly unilateral imposition of will by any party will obviously not be democratic and can never lead to stability nor indeed can such efforts ever acquire legitimacy. The gains to Afghan Civil Society especially on the rights of women, minorities and on social freedoms over the last two decades are self evident; we must collectively work to preserve them. Afghanistan must neither be home to terrorism nor resource of refugees. On the other side of India, the Indo Pacific presents a different set of challenges to stability, growth and prosperity. Under the aegis of the quad framework, we are engaged on maritime security, HADR counterterrorism, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber and digital concerns, COVID-19 response, climate action, education and resilient and reliable supply chains.

The secretary and I discussed not only opportunities for further collaboration on all these issues, but also the importance of observing international law, rules and norms, including UNCLOS. Our ability to work more closely, bilaterally, in the Quad and elsewhere, benefits the international community as a whole. Developments in India's extended neighbourhood are also naturally of great consequence to us. Stability in the Gulf where our political, economic and community interests are so visible was a shared concern. On Myanmar, I conveyed our commitment to its democratic transition as well as our support for ASEAN initiatives. India and the United States are currently both members of the UN Security Council. Some of the agenda before the UNSC was also covered in our discussions as also our approach to reform multilateralism. Countering terrorism has been the common endeavour for us in the UN Framework, bilaterally and in other bodies. We are convinced that the world will never accept cross border terrorism.

As regards climate change, the Agenda 2030 partnership that Prime Minister Modi and President Biden launched in April strengthens our commitment to meet Paris goals, taking forward its clean energy and finance mobilisation tracks is therefore vital.

Given the comprehensive and global nature of our strategic partnership, it is to be expected that our two countries would engage on major contemporary issues. Such conversations are not only essential in a democratic, diverse and multi-polar world, but actually affirm that we have entered a new era. We approach this pluralism through the lens of our own contexts, convictions and cultures. Secretary Blinken and I have been very much part of the journey that has brought our two nations so close today. Our ties, obviously serve our national and mutual interests well, but more important, make a real difference to the world and the big issues of our times. Having noted that, let me ask you, Antony to give your take on our talks today and I request the Secretary for his remarks.

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