U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland met with Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla on Monday, for Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) that focussed on preparations for “2+2” Ministerial meetings likely to be held in Washington next month, ahead of an in-person Quad summit due to be held in Tokyo later this year. Ms. Nuland, who is on a visit to South Asia, arrived in Delhi from Dhaka, and will meet with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday before travelling to Colombo.
“The FOC provided a valuable opportunity to discuss contemporary regional issues pertaining to South Asia, the Indo-Pacific region, West Asia, and the situation in Ukraine, among others,” said a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs, adding that “Foreign Secretary Shringla and Under Secretary of State Nuland agreed to maintain regular dialogue and consultations on regional issues.”
Ms. Nuland is one of an unusually large number of visitors headed to New Delhi amidst the continuing war in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held two back-to-back summits, with Japanese PM Kishida on Saturday and a virtual summit with Australian Prime Minister Morrison on Monday, and the MEA has either hosted, or is preparing to host Foreign Ministers and delegations from Austria, Lithuania, Greece, Oman and the United Kingdom. Next weekend, Mr. Modi is expected to host Israeli PM Naftali Bennet, the Israeli government announced on Saturday, although the MEA has not made any comment on the visit. Most of the visitors are believed to have discussed the issue in Ukraine, and in particular the need for India to shift its position, where the government has thus far refused to criticise Russia’s actions in Ukraine or join the sanctions against Russia.
In her previous role as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Ms. Nuland had, in tapes that appeared to have been leaked in 2014, spoken about U.S. involvement in Ukrainian politics. The U.S. government had subsequently acknowledged and apologised for the comments. In Ms. Nuland’s current role, she is part of the Biden administration team strategizing on sanctions against Russia and has accused Russian President Putin of “trying to turn Ukraine into rubble”, expressed specific concerns about Russian troops trying to seize bio-research facilities in Ukraine and called for a “strategic defeat of President Putin in this adventure” while testifying at a U.S. Senate Foreign relations committee hearing earlier this month.
However, neither side gave any details of the discussions on Ukraine held on Monday, and officials said the situation in Ukraine did not “overshadow” the Foreign Office Consultations, as they went through a very large number of bilateral and regional issues, as well as India-U.S. engagement as a part of the Quad.
“Given their shared democratic values and convergences of strategic interests, Foreign Secretary Shringla and Under Secretary Nuland agreed to work together to strengthen the India-U.S. global partnership regarding supply chains, critical technologies, health security, climate actions & clean energy and terrorism,” the MEA statement said.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are due to visit the United States for the next round of 2+2 consultations with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Gen (Retd) Lloyd Austin, that has been postponed for several months. In September last year, Mr. Shringla had visited Washington for consultations, and had announced that the 2+2 would be held in November, but they were subsequently postponed due to scheduling issues. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also due to meet U.S. President Joseph Biden, along with Japanese and Australian PMs in Tokyo at the next Quad summit due in the “first half of this year”, by July.