Decoding the Blinken-S. Jaishankar Confab

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For the last few years, relations between the U.S. and India have been on an upswing. During a press conference in September with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, S. Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, said “The quality of our cooperation – as indeed of our conversations – have steadily improved.”

While India needs the U.S. as a trading partner, the U.S. needs India’s cooperation in South Asia. Since both parties share common interests in the region, Jaishankar expressed that he is extremely bullish about the future trajectory of the relationship.

U.S.-India relations are improving because each side needs something in return. Denoting the significance of the relationship, Blinken said “the relationship is simply one of the most consequential in the world.” Blinken further mentioned vast areas of cooperation such as climate change, and food security.

Blinken remarked on cooperation through the Quad and India’s goal for a seat on the UN Security Council. Blinken assured Jaishankar of U.S. support regarding the UN Security Council seat. Blinken showed his full desire to jointly work on disaster response, humanitarian assistance, cyber security, and tackling ransomware attacks under the Quad.

Jaishankar highlighted the core aspects of U.S.-India ties. In his remarks, Jaishankar said, “we engage each other across pretty much every domain, and the quality of our cooperation…has steadily improved.” Moreover, mentioning the Ukraine conflict, and the Indo-Pacific conundrum, Jaishankar talked about “political coordination, working together in plurilateral and multilateral format…and collaborating on important regional issues and global challenges.” Jaishankar also emphasized the necessity of “trust, transparency, and trusted research” in the digital age. Jaishankar also focused on the hardships of the Global South due to the grim reality of the Ukraine war stymieing the global supply chain.

Compared to previous years where there was inertia in New Delhi in engaging with Washington, there is a greater degree of strategic cooperation. Both sides are openly discussing pressing issues like Sri Lanka, China’s inroads in Nepal, Myanmar, and Islamist groups in Bangladesh.

Jaishankar confessed that he is extensively ‘bullish’ about the future trajectory of U.S.-India relations. In this regard, challenges and discrepancies have been palpable since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis. Since the war began, India, for a number of reasons, the need for Russian oil being one, abstained from voting to condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion of the country. As a result, the U.S. has been very critical of India, and called out India’s stance as “pro-Moscow neutrality.” India also abstained back in March in condemning Russia’s Ukraine war.

Because of its energy needs, India has felt compelled to buy Russian oil that, according to the U.S., is helping fund Vladimir Putin’s war effort. Per a report in The Economic Times, India would buy a total of 13 million barrels of Russian crude oil in Russian rubles, not U.S. dollars. Experts warned India of possible economic sanctions but India has still been resolute in its position. Last year, security experts also cautioned India about U.S. sanctions regarding buying the S-400 missile system from Russia, but India did not halt back. India also expressed concerns about U.S. military sales to Pakistan, though, during the conference, Blinken defended the sales. However, in such a labyrinth, this press conference might have been wider and more comprehensive in discussions including the predicaments and searching for treatments for a long-term cooperative vision.

 

– Kawsar Uddin Mahmud is a Research Intern at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in International Policy Digest [Link]