The visit of Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to New Delhi was an opportunity for the US to deepen its strategic partnership with India and engage substantively with some of the key interlocutors on pressing regional and global security challenges like the situation in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific, a top US official has said. Sherman, during her three-day visit, held extensive talks with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval during which the recent developments in Afghanistan, the need to counter cross-border terrorism and ensure peace and stability in that country, including through implementation of a UN Security Council resolution figured prominently.
Briefing media about her visit, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Sherman had an opportunity to engage substantively and constructively with some of the key interlocutors in New Delhi.
"Overall, this was an opportunity for the United States to deepen our strategic partnership with India, a partnership that affords opportunities for both the countries and a partnership that is incredibly important to us as we seek to underscore and to underline a free and open Indo-Pacific.
"And India, to us, as a member of the Quad, as an important geopolitical partner, is an instrumental element to that overarching goal," he told reporters at his daily news conference on Thursday.
In addition to her meeting with Foreign Secretary Shringla and NSA Doval, she also had a meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Price said, adding that Sherman had an opportunity to engage substantively and constructively with some of the key interlocutors.
"She had a meeting with the Foreign Secretary Shringla. They discussed, as we often do with our Indian partners, growing security, economic and Indo-Pacific convergence between India and the United States, including topics that are of mutual interest to both of our countries,” he said.
Ending the COVID-19 pandemic, combating the climate crisis and accelerating clean energy deployment, deepening trade and investment ties and expanding cooperation on cyber security and emerging technology were also discussed, Price said.
"We, of course, have worked closely with India over the course of many months now, after an announcement that emerged from the first virtual Quad Leaders' Summit about India's role as a key Covid vaccine manufacturer for the region. And so, this is one of the many areas where we have enjoyed a deep and collaborative relationship with India,” the State Department spokesperson said.
"They also discussed pressing regional and global security challenges that included those posed by events in Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, the People's Republic of China.
“They also discussed the ongoing efforts to return Myanmar to a path to democracy. The deputy also had an opportunity to meet with the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Dr Jaishankar, they discussed some of these same issues," Price added.
On September 24, US President Joe Biden hosted the first-ever in-person summit of Quad leaders that vowed to strive for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, anchored by democratic values and unconstrained by coercion, sending an apparent message to China. China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.
At President Biden' invitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterparts Scott Morrison from Australia and Yoshihide Suga from Japan attended the Quad summit during which they announced a slew of new initiatives to take on common challenges, amidst muscle-flexing by an assertive China in the strategic region.
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan last month, seizing control of almost all key towns and cities in the backdrop of withdrawal of the US forces that began on May 1. On August 15, the capital city of Kabul fell to the insurgents.
The Afghan militant group claimed victory over opposition forces in the last holdout province of Panjshir on September 6, completing their takeover of Afghanistan three weeks after capturing Kabul.
The Taliban have put in place a hardline interim 33-member Cabinet that has no women and includes UN-designated terrorists. The Taliban last ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.