G7 foreign ministers’ summit serves as backdrop to reinvigorate relations and focus on vaccines, the Indo-Pacific and supply chains.
The G7 foreign ministers’ summit is serving as an opportune backdrop for India and the US to reinvigorate their relations against the backdrop of the pandemic.
Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in London in their first in-person meeting since the Biden administration took charge in January this year – with both being in London to attend the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, where India has been invited as a guest country.
Jaishankar and Blinken have spoken at least four times in the past three months, twice in the last fortnight and once at the Quad foreign ministers’ meeting through video-conferencing. But, as Dr Jaishankar put it: “Good to meet in person my old friend @SecBlinken. Detailed discussion on the global Covid challenge, focussing on expanded vaccine production capacity and reliable supply chains.”
While both Blinken and Dr Jaishankar have worked closely together in their previous capacities, the dynamics of the current engagement is certainly their most high-profile yet.
Blinken assured Dr Jaishankar that the US was monitoring developments closely and would respond positively to any Indian requirements, according to officials familiar with the conversations.
While oxygen and oxygen-producing equipment continue to be a key priority in view of the massive surge in cases across India, the US has also fast-tracked India's request for more Remdesivir - with the next shipment from the US expected to be landing in India soon.
Both foreign ministers also discussed how scaled-up Indian vaccine production can address both India's own needs and the requirement of global public health. According to sources, India and the US will collaborate on this bilaterally, through the Quad and also through other multilateral initiatives.
Of course, supply chain has become a core tenet of discussions ever since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced further reforms in production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes, aimed at boosting manufacturing and exports. PLI schemes are expected to increase India’s production by $520 billion in the next five years.
With an average of 5% of production given as incentive, such schemes “will lead to production worth $520 billion in India in the next five years," PM Modi said earlier.
That opens up lucrative opportunities for foreign investors and companies – including in the US – to boost 'Make in India' initiatives at different levels. The big leap in the speed and scale of manufacturing would dramatically increase employment generation in the country, analysts have said. It’s for those reasons that the Indian government has been working at every level to promote the industry through measures like ease of doing business, reducing the compliance burden, creating multi-modal infrastructure to reduce logistics costs, and constructing district-level export hubs.
Apart from supply chain logistics, both ministers also exchanged views on the Indo-Pacific strategic landscape and reviewed the progress in cooperation in recent months – with the US joining India in several recent multilateral security drills. The discussions also covered the agenda before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and India’s bid for a permanent seat – with the two top diplomats agreeing to work together in mutual interest. Both of them noted that climate action and clean energy can be areas of cooperation and discussed early operationalization of the 2030 Clean Energy Agenda.
The close engagement in London came as the newly-appointed US Charge d'Affaires to India, Daniel B Smith, said he was ready to get to work in support of the US-India partnership.
“Namaste, I'm Dan Smith, the new Charge d'Affaires at the US Mission in India. These are difficult times, but I'm ready to get to work in support of the #USIndia partnership. Just as India helped the US, the US will stand with India. I look forward to working with you all,” Smith tweeted. Ambassador Daniel Smith, the former US acting Secretary of State, was appointed as Charge d'Affaires at the United States embassy in New Delhi last week.