Jaishankar-Blinken meet in DC, remain tight-lipped on Nijjar killing row

India and the US agreed to continue their cooperation in the areas of defence, space and clean energy as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, DC, amid a simmering diplomatic row between India and Canada over the killing of a Khalistani separatist.

Jaishankar is currently on a five-day official trip to Washington, DC. This is the highest-level interaction between the two countries after the recent G-20 Summit in New Delhi.

“Great to meet my friend US Secretary of State @SecBlinken at State Department today. A wide ranging discussion, following up on PM @narendramodi’s June visit. Also exchanged notes on global developments. Laid the groundwork of our 2+2 meeting very soon,” he posted on X on Friday.

The two top diplomats ”discussed a full range of issues, including key outcomes of India’s G20 presidency, and the creation of India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor and its potential to generate transparent, sustainable, and high-standard infrastructure investments,” state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

”The secretary and the external affairs minister also emphasised the continued importance of cooperation ahead of the upcoming 2+2 Dialogue, in particular in the areas of defence, space, and clean energy,” Miller said in a statement after the meeting.

New Delhi will host the fifth edition of India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue, Jaishankar announced on Thursday. Although he did not reveal the dates of the meeting, it is learnt that the ministerial dialogue would be held in the first half of November.

The US delegation would be represented by Blinken along with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will lead the Indian delegation.

”I actually look forward to seeing you in Delhi for the 2+2,” Jaishankar told Blinken, as the latter welcomed him at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department for the meeting.

The last 2+2 ministerial was held in Washington, DC, on April 11. Started during the previous Trump administration, the first 2+2 ministerial was held in New Delhi on September 6, 2018.

“Focused discussion on India-US collaboration on critical and emerging tech and creating resilient supply chains at discussion convened by @USISPForum,” Jaishankar said in another post on social media platform X.

“Glad to know that India is the major talking point in corporate boardrooms. Our collaboration offers more possibilities with each passing day,” he said.

The two sides remained tight-lipped about the direct or indirect implications of the diplomatic row between India and Canada over the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia early this year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has alleged that the Indian government was behind the killing of  Nijjar on June 18. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020. India has rejected Canada’s allegations as “absurd” and “motivated”.

Secretary Blinken refused to respond to reporters’ questions about the row.

”It’s a pleasure to welcome my friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Jaishankar, here to the state department, back to Washington.  We’ve had very good discussions over the last weeks — of course at the G20, in New York at the General Assembly — and I’m looking forward to pursuing them this afternoon,” Blinken said welcoming Jaishankar at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department.

Both the top diplomats were smiling and in a cheerful mood as they appeared before the media at the treaty room of the state department for a photo-op ahead of their bilateral meeting on Thursday.

”Good to be back here, and we, of course, had the prime minister here this summer.  We thank the US for all the support at the G20 summit,” Jaishankar said in his brief remarks. Soon thereafter, the two leaders headed for the bilateral meeting.

Jaishankar, who arrived in DC from New York on Wednesday after addressing the 78th General Assembly session of the United Nations on Tuesday, held a series of meetings with top Biden administration officials on Thursday.

He started the day with a visit to the White House for a meeting with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The White House did not issue a readout of the meeting.

”Recognized the tremendous progress in our bilateral relationship this year and discussed taking it forward,” the minister posted on X.

After a meeting with representatives of the think tanks from Washington DC, Jaishankar met US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

”Spoke about our expanding trade and economic relationship and its broader significance,” he wrote on X.

”Today I met with Jaishankar to discuss the positive momentum of the US-India trade relationship, and opportunities to collaborate on WTO reform and IPEF negotiations,” Tai said.

Jaishankar described his meetings with the think tanks as an open and productive conversation.

”Discussed transformations underway around the world and India’s growing role,” he said.

On Friday, Jaishankar will speak on ‘India’s Role in the World Today’ at the prestigious Hudson Institute think-tank. 

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