‘We remain engaged in Afghanistan despite troop withdrawal,’ says US secretary of state

Antony Blinken in New Delhi on 1st visit to India after assuming office.

‘We remain engaged in Afghanistan despite troop withdrawal,’ says US secretary of state

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that there was no “military solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan and that the country would turn into a “pariah state” if the Taliban takes control by force.

Speaking at a joint news conference with this Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar in India’s capital New Delhi, Blinken said that the US would remain engaged in Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal.

"Even as we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan, we remain engaged in Afghanistan. We have not only a strong embassy there but also have important programs that support the country economically through development and security assistance,” he said.

"We are very much engaged in the diplomacy of working to bring parties together at the table for the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan,” the US secretary of state added.

Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, for his part, spoke about cooperation during the pandemic and deepening expansion of Washington-New Delhi cooperation under the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad.

Speaking about Afghanistan, he said: “It is essential that peace negotiations are taken seriously by all parties. The world wishes to see an independent, sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbors but its independence and sovereignty will only be ensured if it is free from malign influences.”

“Afghanistan must neither be home to terrorism nor resource of refugees,” he added.

While speaking about relationship with India, Blinken said that there are very few relationships in the world that are more vital than the one between India and the US.

"We are two of the world-leading democracies and diversity fuels our national strength," he added.

"Together the actions that the United States and India takes are shaping the 21st Century and beyond, that's why strengthening the partnership with India is US' top foreign policy priority," he added.

Earlier, Blinken met a group of civil society leaders where he said that the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion, as being the bedrock of democracies like India and the US.

"The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion and belief … these are the fundamental tenets of democracies like ours," he said, according to local broadcaster New Delhi Television (NDTV).

A representative of Dalai Lama was also present at the meeting in what is seen as a strong message to China. Ngodup Dongchung serves as a representative of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), also known as the Tibetan government in exile.

The US secretary of state said on Twitter: "I was pleased to meet civil society leaders today. The US and India share a commitment to democratic values; this is part of the bedrock of our relationship and reflective of India's pluralistic society and history of harmony. Civil society helps advance these values."

Blinken, who is on his first visit to India after assuming office, also met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.