A speculation on what the meeting between Blinken and Jaishankar might entail, does tend to centre around the trouble brewing in Afghanistan and the spillover it might have in the region
By Dr Aparaajita Pandey,
These are interesting times for India and its neighbours. As the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken comes to India in a series of continuing talks between him and the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Subhramanyam Jaishankar; all eyes would be on the return of the American troops from Afghanistan and its greater impact in the region.
The American (US) troops in Afghanistan have been a reality for a majority of the past two decades, an entire generation has grown up seeing the troops as a permanent fixture on the Afghan Hindukush, however as the troops prepare for a withdrawal that is set to be complete by the end of August, the threat of complete takeover by Taliban has become more impending by the day. The Taliban have already taken over districts in the north and closed the parts of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to stop the people who are now desperately trying to escape. The Taliban regime is synonymous with not only gruesome violence but also extreme oppression of womenkind. While most people are concerned with the kind of vacuum that the US troops are leaving behind and the pace at which the Taliban is gaining ground, President Biden stated in his recent address categorically stated that the ‘rights of the Afghan women and girls were not in the hands the American military and were now the responsibility of the current regime of Afghanistan’.
It is not just the Afghan people who are anxious about their fate but also the entire region of South Asia as it stares at the imminent instability that the ascension of the Taliban brings with itself. However, it is important to remember that a withdrawal of the American military from the Taliban does not automatically translate to a lack of American presence. The Chinese maritime ambitions have caused worry not only in the South China Sea and Indo-Pacific but also for nations around the world. The UK has decided to station two of its warships in the South China Sea itself and one of those naval vessels has reached its destination today; one can expect a similar growth in interest and use of naval forces in the greater Indian Ocean region from the QUAD member countries also.
A speculation on what the meeting between Blinken and Jaishankar might entail, does tend to centre around the trouble brewing in Afghanistan and the spillover it might have in the region and also the Chinese intentions for the Indian Ocean and also the region as a whole. This is however, not to say that the sole focus of the meeting would be a two- point agenda focusing on Afghanistan and China. The meeting today between the US Secretary of State and the Indian Minister of External Affairs must not be treated as an isolated incident. This is a continuation of the consistently growing interest of the US in the Indo- Pacific. Collaboration and cooperation on issues like Climate Change, Cyber Security, Democratic Alliances, as well as Humanitarian and Disaster Relief especially during the era of the Covid – 19 Pandemic has become the prime motive for most countries, especially those in the QUAD.
While Covid – 19 forced the world to function virtually, the QUAD Summit of March, 2021 was no exception. During this summit along with a discussion on the necessity of a free Indo – Pacific and a containment of China, it was also decided that a total of a billion vaccines will be delivered by 2022. Countries of the Indo – Pacific would benefit from this greatly. Covid Diplomacy that was followed by India in the beginning which focused on providing help in the form of sending medical supplies and equipment, PPE kits, masks, as well as vaccines once they were developed led to the US and India establishing a deeper relationship, which was evident when the US came to India’s aid in the time of need in context of vaccines.
Both US and India have shared largely cordial relations, and are now countries that are re-building themselves while simultaneously combating the pandemic. The threat of the constantly burgeoning Chinese influence in the developing world as well as its growing presence in the Indo – Pacific region is a cause of concern for both India and the US.
It would be reasonable to expect that the meeting today between Blinken and Jaishankar revolves around greater collaboration between the two countries in the Indo – Pacific and also in areas that are in need of global cooperation.
(The author is an Asst. Professor at the Department of Public Policy and Amity University, NOIDA and a PhD from Centre for Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)