Blinken in India for talks dominated by Afghan turmoil, China

By: AFP      Published: 09:27 PM, 27 Jul, 2021
Blinken in India for talks dominated by Afghan turmoil, China

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken arrived Tuesday in India for talks dominated by turmoil in Afghanistan and common worries about China, while also touching on New Delhi's rights record.

Blinken, in his first India visit as secretary of state, was due to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Wednesday before flying to Kuwait.

US-Indian relations have long been cool but China's growing assertiveness pushed them closer, particularly since deadly clashes last year on the disputed Indo-Chinese Himalayan border.

New Delhi is meanwhile alarmed that a possible Taliban takeover in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of forces will turn the country into a haven for anti-India extremists.

India, a firm backer of the Afghan government which has spent billions on development projects, recently evacuated 50 staff from its Kandahar consulate as the Taliban gains ever more territory.

The talks in a monsoon-soaked New Delhi will also touch on joint efforts on making Covid-19 vaccines, climate change and, according to US officials, India's recent human rights record.

Under Modi, India has made growing use of anti-terrorism legislation and "sedition" laws to arrest people, in what critics say is aimed at silencing dissent. The government denies this.

The Hindu-nationalist government has also brought in legislation that detractors say discriminates against India's 170-million-strong Muslim minority. Modi insists all Indians have equal rights.