New Delhi: Amid the bonhomie between India and the US that witnessed the first ever in-person visit by a top official of the Joe Biden administration, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin also raised issues concerning human rights and democratic values with New Delhi Saturday.
In the hour-long meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, both sides also took stock of the ongoing Taliban peace talks and the intra-Afghan dialogue in Afghanistan, according to official sources.
Defence Secretary Austin, who is on a three-day visit to India, told External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in the meeting that as the two largest democracies in the world, “human rights and values are important” and that’s how both countries can “lead with values”, sources said.
Austin, however, did say that he did not get an opportunity to discuss with the Indian side, issues concerning “violation of human rights of minorities” during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday.
According to the sources, Jaishankar said that “a strong relationship between the two democracies was not only important for both countries but for the rest of the world”.
Taliban peace talks discussed
During the long discussion that took place for the first time between Minister Jaishankar and Secretary Austin, Afghanistan was one of the key focus areas, sources said.
Both sides stressed on the Biden administration’s Afghanistan policy and the stance it will take on the ongoing Taliban peace-deal negotiations as well as the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Sources added that assessments were exchanged on the peace process and the ground situation, as also the concerns and interests of regional powers and neighbours.
Jaishankar, sources said, “appreciated the Biden administration’s engagement with India on this issue”. They added that the discussions focused on the strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific.
The US side briefed New Delhi about its recent visits in East Asia while Jaishankar spoke about India’s current security challenges and the long-term strategic outlook. Conversation also covered changing global scenarios, including Europe and West Asia.
“Welcomed US @SecDef Lloyd Austin at MEA. A wide-ranging conversation on the global strategic situation. Look forward to working with him on enhancing our Strategic Partnership,” Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.
Welcomed US @SecDef Lloyd Austin at MEA. A wide-ranging conversation on the global strategic situation. Look forward to working with him on enhancing our Strategic Partnership. pic.twitter.com/ViDSLAQgpq
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) March 20, 2021
Minister Jaishankar also apprised the Defence Secretary of the progress and potential of various aspects of the leadership.
Sources said, highlighting the commonalities and convergence, Jaishankar said that the relationship was unique for the “breadth and intensity of cooperation that covered so many domains”.
Austin’s visit to India comes exactly after a week since the historic Quad Summit took place on 12 March, even as both countries deepened their comprehensive strategic partnership with an aim of countering China’s growing aggressiveness in the region.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)