Anthony Blinken starts India meetings with address to civil society group

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to meet his Indian counterpart and other officials on Wednesday before heading to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the China rivals seek to deepen their cooperation and iron out differences.

Blinken, in his first visit to the country since
joining U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, is expected to discuss supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan as well as India’s human rights record. Speaking to a group of civil society leaders at a New Delhi hotel, Blinken said that the relationship between the United States and India was “one of the most important in the world”.

“The Indian people and the American people
believe in human dignity and equality of
opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental
freedoms including freedom of religion and
belief… these are the fundamental tenets of
democracies like ours”‘ he said. “And of course, both of our democracies are works in progress. As friends we talk about that.”

Attendees included religious leaders such as
Geshe Dorji Damdul of New Delhis Tibet House,
a cultural centre of the Dalai Lama. Indian foreign ministry sources said ahead of Blinken’s visit that the country was proud of its pluralistic traditions and happy to discuss the
issue with him.

Modi’s government has faced allegations it has
suppressed dissent, pursued divisive policies to
appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and
alienated Muslims, the country’s biggest
minority. Blinken arrived in India on Tuesday night and leaves for Kuwait later on Wednesday.

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