By Safiye Ergun
Redacted By Sami Burgaz
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited India for the first time and held important meetings with Indian officials.
It is possible to say that the consultations resulted in a positive outcome and is momentous in terms of relations between the two states. It was mentioned that relations between the two states have become “closer than ever before” and both sides agreed that the overthrow of power or violence would plunge the country into chaos.
It was also stated that both sides – US and India – are dealing with historical issues in their domestic politics: the Biden Administration is busy with racial tensions throughout the country while India is concerned about the Kashmir issue.
Indian foreign affairs analyst Gautam Lahiri underlined that the two states are on the same page about Afghanistan and China: “(…) they have clear convergence on two issues – Afghanistan and China. (…) but on the question of human rights and trends in democracy in India, there are differences.“
The most crucial titles of the discussions can be classified as the situation in Afghanistan, growing Chinese influence, human rights, and democracy, the Pakistan Issue and fake news spreading over social media.
The situation in Afghanistan
The Afghanistan issue was one of the important topics discussed during the interactions. It was indicated that some rapprochements were made between the Taliban and Afghanistan. The United States underlined that the violence would destabilize Afghanistan and evaluated their concerns about the spread of the Taliban as “very concerning”, while India expressed its agreement the US. Blinken highlighted that there cannot be “any military solution to the conflict” and added that there “has to be a peaceful resolution which requires Taliban and the Afghan government to come to the table”.
“An Afghanistan that does not respect the rights of its people, an Afghanistan that commits atrocities against its own people would become a pariah state. (…) Any future government in Afghanistan must be inclusive and fully representative of the Afghan people. But ultimately, this has to be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process that we will all support.”
Minister of External Affairs of India Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar supported Blinken’s statement with the following words, “We don’t think that the outcome should be decided by force on the battlefield. We think the peace negotiations should be a negotiation and should lead to peace.”
Growing Chinese influence
India-US relations have been painful throughout history, but the assertive rise of China has brought the two nations close to each other, especially after the bloody disputes on Indo-Chinese Himalayan border. Though China was not explicitly mentioned at the meeting, nevertheless it was one of the unquestionable agenda items on the table.
Experts from Delhi interpreted Blinken’s visit to India as a signal against China. They stated that increasing the friendship between QUAD group countries – USA, Japan, Australia and India – which was spoken at length in the meeting, is a strategic move to strengthen the US alliance in the Asia-Pacific region. According to Brahma Chellaney, who is a strategic affairs expert at India’s Centre for Policy Research, Despite the coalition between the two states, US support to India has “slipped a notch” in the Biden administration compared to the Trump one. He articulated that,
“India is locked in a military standoff with China but unlike top Trump administration officials who publicly condemned China’s aggression and backed India, no one in Team Biden has so far lent open support to India.”
Chellaney added the US’ “rushed and poorly planned exit from Afghanistan” angered India.
Additonaly Blinken had a separate meeting with the Director of the Bureau of the Delhi Dalai Lama in Delhi, Ngodup Dongchung. Considered the spiritual leader for Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is known for harshly criticizing China’s Tibetan policies. It is important to note that this meeting was carried with the expense of angering China.
Human rights and democracy
One of the most underscored issues at the meetings was human rights. According to France24, “Blinken told Indian civil society groups on Wednesday, before his talks with Modi that the world’s two biggest democracies were united in shared values such as rule of law and freedom of religion.”
Blinken clearly stated that the way to democracy has always needed to be “work in progress”, and he added that the steps might be barbed: “the challenges are painful, can even be ugly, but democracy’s objective is to deal with it openly.”
On human rights and civil liberties, the statements of the Indian side were clear: “don’t come into my politics and judge me”. In addition, Jaishankar stressed that fundamental “freedom is important, we all value that. But do not equate freedom” with “lack of government or poor government.”
The countries were not on the same page about Pakistan. For this reason, the US secretary of state preferred to remain silent on this issue.
India is fretted about the Taliban’s full takeover of the Afghan government, because there are rumours that India’s arch-rival Pakistan also supports the Taliban. The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan could mean the militants can use the Pakistan to attack India, due to Pakistani support.
Moreover, several Pakistan-based groups, which are listed as terrorists organisations by India, are fighting against India in Kashmir. There are even numerous reports that underline that these groups have joined the Taliban.
Fake news spread over social media
The Indian side, referring to a speech by Biden, drew attention to the fact that the US also suffers from fake news spreading on social media such as Facebook, and asked for help from the USA in the fight against phony news.