Blinken: U.S. and India join forces to fight epidemic

The United States and India are working together to address the New Coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State John Blinken said Friday (May 29), and Washington wants to make sure it can take action to help India deal with the New Coronavirus crisis.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar traveled to the United States last week to seek help as India was hit by a second wave of the new coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to reporters at the U.S. State Department, where he stood alongside Secretary Blinken, Jaishankar said India appreciates the strong support and solidarity of the United States.

Brinken said, “India helped the United States in the early days of the new coronavirus outbreak, and that’s something we’ll never forget. Now we want to make sure that we can help India as well.”

Blinken said the partnership between the United States and India is “critical,” “strong” and “increasingly productive.

“We are united in our fight against the new pandemic,” Blinken said. He continued: “We are united in addressing the challenges posed by climate change; we will work directly through the Quartet (which includes the United States, India, Japan and Australia) with other U.N. agencies to address many of the challenges we face in this region and around the world.”

During one meeting, Blinken and Sugarson also discussed support for India’s neighbor, Afghanistan, a State Department spokeswoman said.

President Biden in April ordered U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 1. The risk of doing that is that Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency could topple the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Blinken and Sugarson also discuss the military coup in India’s other neighbor, Burma, in February.

India, which has the second highest number of infections in the world, recorded its highest number of deaths this month from the new crown pneumonia since the pandemic began more than a year ago. Only about 3 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated, which is the lowest rate of any of the 10 countries.

Indian Foreign Minister Su Jaisheng said the United States “has given us strong support and solidarity during our most difficult time.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced criticism for poorly safeguarding its people against the new crown pneumonia vaccine. Indian officials say Sujasan has been seeking supplies in the United States.

India pledged last month to fast-track vaccine imports. It stuck to local trials and a dispute over compensation stalled discussions with U.S. firm Pfizer. India scrapped the “mature” foreign vaccine on Thursday, and government officials said the Pfizer shots could arrive by July.

Su Jaisheng met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York on Tuesday. A spokesman for Guterres said they had “a ‘very good discussion’ on other peace and security issues with the new vaccine crown.”

The United States and India have grown closer in recent years amid concerns about the rise of China, and they have increased cooperation through the “quadrilateral” mechanism.

Kurt Campbell, the Biden administration’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific policy, said Wednesday that the U.S. hopes to hold a fall summit of the Quartet’s leaders, with a focus on infrastructure.

“The Quartet held its first virtual summit in March and pledged to work closely on the new vaccine crown, climate and security issues.