World Blinken to pay first trip to India amid Afghanistan withdrawal
High-stakes talks between Afghan gov’t, Taliban as fighting rages
Negotiators for Afghan gov’t and Taliban meeting in Doha as violence in the country escalates amid US troop exit.The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital but the talks have lost momentum as a string of battlefield gains by the armed group has coincided with foreign forces finalising their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak next week in India about supporting Afghanistan as worries grow in New Delhi about Taliban gains amid the end of the two-decade US military mission, officials said Friday.
On his first visit to the emerging US ally since taking office, Blinken will also look to resume work together on supplying Covid-19 vaccines and explore greater security and cyber cooperation, officials said.
Blinken will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on the trip Wednesday and afterward hold separate talks in Kuwait.
Australia considering future return to Afghanistan to monitor Taliban resurgence
The ABC has been told the government is considering reestablishing a presence in Afghanistan to monitor the resurgence of the Taliban. The last Australian diplomats, military and intelligence officers quietly left the war-torn country on June 18 despite serious doubts about the strategic wisdom of the retreat.But the ABC has been told Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who is known to have been very reluctant about leaving Afghanistan, remains inclined to stage a careful return in the next few months.
Dean Thompson, the top US diplomat for South Asia, said that Blinken would welcome India's "shared commitment to peace and supporting economic development in Afghanistan," where New Delhi has pumped in some $3 billion since the US invasion overthrew the Taliban regime following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"We expect that all the countries in the region have a shared interest in a stable and secure Afghanistan going forward and so we will certainly be looking at talking with our Indian partners about how we can work together to realize that goal," Thompson told reporters.
Russia to Conduct Mock Air Raids Near Afghanistan Border, Says No Real Strikes Planned
"You are confusing us with the Americans or the experience that we 'carried over' from the Soviet times," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.The Russian Defense Ministry stated Thursday that Su-25SM attack aircraft of the Central Military District's aviation fleet based in allied Kyrgyzstan were set to take part in joint Russian-Uzbek aerial exercises from July 30 to August 20. The ministry said that the "practical part of the training event will take place at the Termez training ground in the area bordering Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden has ordered an end to the longest-ever US war by the end of August, saying that nothing more can be achieved militarily -- despite rapid gains on the ground by Taliban insurgents.
The Taliban welcomed virulently anti-Indian extremists when the Sunni Muslim militants ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, with an Indian civilian airliner hijacked to the Taliban bastion of Kandahar in 1999.
India's enthusiastic support for the Afghan government, including helping build a new parliament building, has fueled suspicions in its historic rival Pakistan which was the main international backer of the Taliban regime.
Video: What next for Afghanistan? Taliban on the offensive ahead of US withdrawal (France 24)
India recently evacuated 50 diplomats and others from its consulate in Kandahar although it insisted personnel would return as soon as security improves.
India ready to engage with Blinken on human rights: Officials
During his two-day visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to raise New Delhi’s human rights record. © Provided by Al Jazeera US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will begin his two-day India visit on Tuesday [File: Ken Cedeno/Reuters] Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced allegations it has suppressed dissent, pursued divisive policies to appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and alienated Muslims, the country’s biggest minority.
- Rights to be addressed -
US and Indian governments across party lines have been building closer relations since the late 1990s as the world's two largest democracies see shared interests on a rising China, Islamist extremism and other challenges.
But Biden, in a shift in tone if not substance from his predecessor Donald Trump, as a candidate voiced subtle criticism of Modi's Hindu nationalist government over controversial steps including a citizenship law that critics say discriminates against the Muslim minority.
Thompson said the United States "will raise" human rights issues but added: "We firmly believe that we have more values in common on those fronts than we don't."
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited New Delhi as part of his first overseas trip but Blinken's travel was put on hold amid a severe outbreak of Covid-19 in the billion-plus country.
The Biden administration had seen India as a key partner on fighting Covid with a deal announced in March for India to produce one billion Covid vaccine doses with US, Japanese and Australian support.
"This is such a critical country in the fight against Covid-19," Blinken said of his India trip during an interview on MSNBC.
"We have millions of vaccines ready to go to them when they finish their own legal process to bring them in. And India is the leading country when it comes to the production of vaccines," Blinken said.
"Of course, they're focused understandably on their own internal challenges now, but when that production engine gets fully going and can distribute again to the rest of the world, that's going to make a big difference, too."
Biden last month vowed to provide 500 million vaccine doses around the world and the United States has since been making near-daily announcements of shipments, seeing a global defeat of Covid as critical both to the world's economy and US leadership.
Blinken says Tunisian president promised ‘democratic path’ .
The top US diplomat says Kais Saied promised him he was committed to democracy, as he urged him to restore parliament.Antony Blinken said on Thursday that he was concerned about the possibility of Tunisia deviating from its democratic path, urging action including the restoration of parliament after he spoke to Saied on Monday.