(This was originally posted in Zee News)
Washington: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is currently on a 5-day visit to United States, is scheduled to hold a series of meetings with top officials of the Biden administration including US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Friday.
During his three-day stay here, EAM Jaishankar (66) is scheduled to meet his American counterpart, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, along with other key members of the Biden administration, said a PTI report. “The (defense) secretary will be meeting on Friday with the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Jaishankar, as part of India’s first cabinet-level visit to Washington,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters at a news conference.
Kirby is further quoted by PTI as saying, “The secretary is meeting with the external affairs minister, will continue discussions that the two held in New Delhi in March and will continue the robust bilateral defence and security relationship between our two countries. We are looking forward to having him here at the Pentagon and hosting him for a good set of talks.”
Jaishankar is expected to meet a group of eminent business leaders on Thursday at two different meetings organised by the US India Business Council and the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum.
“It will be a continuation of the discussion, the very productive discussions that we had when we were in New Delhi a month or so ago. Because India is a strategic defence partner and so, there are lots to discuss,” Kirby told reporters in response to a question at his Pentagon news conference.
Jaishankar, who was the Indian Ambassador to the US from December 2013 to January 2015, is also scheduled to have meetings with eminent American lawmakers. Congressman Brad Sherman, Co-Chair of the India Caucus, said he looks forward to meeting with Jaishankar, India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and other leaders concerned with the US-India relationship for dinner on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, in a conversation with former US National Security Advisor General (retd) H R McMaster, who is currently at the Hoover Institute, Jaishankar said in Washington DC today, there is a real appreciation of the potential of the India-US relationship and what it can do.
“And it is true of New Delhi as well. The challenge for us, keeping in mind a lot of the issues…It is not a question of one or two or three countries who will decide how the world is. The world is truly much more multipolar. And if it is multipolar, then it is all the more important for countries to learn how to work with each other more effectively. And I see a big change in the American mindset in that regard.”
Jaishankar said, “The United States has not only an enormous ability to reinvent itself, it also has a great ability to assess its situation and re-strategise in a way. I do think that when it comes to the big issues of our day, maybe because we are pluralistic societies, because we are political democracies, because we are market economies that we have fundamental convergences, convergences which are societal, convergences which are geopolitical.”
He further added, “I think the challenge before us is how to translate those convergences into actionable policies. That is really what I was very happy to work with you during your tenure as national security adviser…And I certainly look forward to doing that with the people in the administration.”
The State Department, however, has not yet announced the timing of Blinken’s meeting with Jaishankar at its Foggy Bottom headquarters. Blinken is currently travelling in the Middle East as asked by Biden to continue with the peace process.
Earlier this week, a State Department spokesperson said, “The secretary (of state) looks forward to meeting minister Jaishankar during his visit and discussing a broad range of issues, including COVID-19 relief, efforts to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation through the Quad, enhanced UN and multilateral cooperation, and a range of other shared regional security and economic priorities.”
Notably, India is engaged in talks with various US entities involved in Covid vaccines production and is looking forward to procuring and subsequently producing these vaccines. The issue of vaccine procurement is expected to be a key agenda item during Jaishankar`s interaction with US leadership and other stakeholders.
The US has already announced that it is going to distribute 80 million vaccines from its stockpile to countries in need. The US is playing a lead role in assisting India`s fight against the COVID-19 virus. It has already provided large oxygen plants, concentrators, critical medicines like Remdesivir and also raw materials for vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII), which is manufacturing Covishield.
The US is also backing the India-sponsored proposal on TRIPS waiver at the WTO. The TRIPS waiver aims at increasing global vaccine production in order to take on the challenge of vaccinating the poorest of the poor and save lives.
In October 2020, India and South Africa, along with 57 members of WTO proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement for prevention, containment, and treatment of the coronavirus. EAM Jaishankar met his US counterpart Antony Blinken in early May in London during G7 Foreign Minister`s meeting.