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Afghan situation, Pak terror to top talks agenda during Blinken visit

New Delhi, July 25 (UNI): The escalating situation in Afghanistan with the rapid advances made by the Taliban following the US pulling out its troops, which has caused concern in India, and the need to continue pressing Pakistan to act on terror financing and terror havens, will be top on the agenda of talks during the two-day visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to New Delhi beginning on July 27.

Deepening Indo-US bilateral cooperation especially in defence, taking forward the Quad, and tackling the coronavirus pandemic, would also feature on the agenda of talks.

Blinken, on his maiden visit to India as US Secretary of State, is likely to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He will meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on July 28.

“On the regional security situation, implications of withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, and the need for sustained pressure on Pakistan on terror financing and terror havens, will be part of the agenda,” sources said on Sunday.

Blinken’s visit comes barely a month ahead of US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban making advances across the war-torn country and capturing newer territory has caused concern in India as the Taliban have started targeting Indian assets there.

The visit of the US Secretary of State also coincides with the India visit of Afghan Army Chief General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai from July 27-29.

Ahmadzai is expected to meet NSA Ajit Doval among other officials during his visit, during which the Afghan army chief could discuss logistic support and supply of military equipment.

India has invested over $3 billion in key infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including building roads, dams and the Parliament building.

“Discussions on deepening the Quad engagement will be a key focus area of talks, with the possibility of a Foreign Ministerial Quad meeting later this year,” the sources said.

The talks will also take forward the Quad vaccine initiative to enable supply of vaccines produced in India from early 2022, to countries in Indo-Pacific region, they added.

Blinken’s visit would coincide with his deputy, Wendy Sherman, heading to China where she will “represent the US interests and values and those of our allies and partners” in some tough talking.

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