New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced on Friday that the Secretary of State of the United States of America (USA) Antony J Blinken will visit India next week. This will be Blinken's first visit to India after assuming charge as the US Secretary of State.

During his two-day visit, Blinken would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and hold discussions about COVID-19 crisis and the current situation in Afghanistan.

"Both sides will review the robust and multifaceted India-US bilateral relations, and potential for consolidating them further," the MEA said. "Discussions will focus on regional and global issues of mutual interest – including recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indo-Pacific region, Afghanistan and cooperation in the UN".

Blinken's visit to India comes at a time when the dynamics have been quickly changing in south-east Asia, particularly in Afghanistan. The US is scheduled to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by September 11 this year. However, this has allowed the Taliban to expand its wing, concerning both India and the Afghan government.

The situation in the Indo-Pacific region also remains tense as China continues to expand its territorial claims. However, the US and India are looking to counter the growing Chinese threat with help from Japan and Australia.

Blinken is expected to discuss plans for an in-person summit of the Quad countries. The meeting, which is scheduled to be held later this year, will likely focus on ways to develop regional infrastructure in the face of China's massive Belt and Road Initiative.

Meanwhile, Blinken will also discuss about the COVID-19 crisis in India. The two sides are looking to expand their cooperation to tackle the pandemic that has claimed the lives of 41.4 lakh people across the world so far.

Notably, the US had also held a virtual summit of the Quad countries in March this year where it had agreed Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd would produce at least a billion vaccine doses by the end of 2022.

Quoting sources, Reuters have reported that India expected to receive foreign-made COVID-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing program for the first time, with 3-4 million doses from US firms Pfizer and Moderna shots potentially arriving by August.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma