US assures nervous Baltics of NATO protection against Russia

Blinken to pay first trip to India amid Afghanistan withdrawal


Washington: Officials said on Friday that U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken will deliver a speech in support of Afghanistan in India next week, as New Delhi is increasingly worried about the Taliban’s gains after the two-year US military mission ends.

Officials said that when he visited this emerging American ally for the first time since taking office, Brinken would also seek to resume cooperation in the provision of Covid-19 vaccines and explore greater security and cyber cooperation.

Brinken will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subramanyam Jayshankar during his visit on Wednesday, and then hold separate talks in Kuwait.

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.

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.

When Sunni Muslim militants ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban welcomed vicious anti-Indian extremists. In 1999, an Indian civilian airliner was hijacked to the Taliban fortress in Kandahar.

India’s enthusiastic support for the Afghan government, including helping to build a new parliament building, aroused the suspicion of its historical rival Pakistan, which is the main international supporter of the Taliban regime.

India recently evacuated 50 diplomats and others from its consulate in Kandahar, but it insists that personnel will return once the security situation improves.

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