Jaishankar, Pompeo discuss efforts to combat covid, peace process in Afghanistan1 min read . Updated: 07 Aug 2020, 12:22 PM IST
- The leaders also discussed 'recent destabilizing actions in the region'
- In recent months Pompeo and Jaishankar have held several such telephonic conversations
Minister of external affairs S Jaishankar and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo discussed a host of issues in a telephonic conversation overnight Friday, including the “recent destabilizing actions in the region". The efforts to combat the covid-19 pandemic and peace process in Afghanistan were among the other matters discussed.
A US readout of the conversation said both leaders agreed to “continue close cooperation on a full range of regional and international issues". It said the US looked "forward to Quadrilateral consultations and the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year".
In recent months, Jaishankar and Pompeo have held several rounds of such bilateral conversations during which the covid-19 pandemic and India’s current border tensions with China have been topics of discussion.
India and the US have been looking at ways to expand cooperation in the resource-rich Indo-Pacific region, where China has been trying to increase its influence. The US has also been seeking a broader role for India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific against the backdrop of calls by countries in the region for the need to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Jaishankar, Pompeo and their Japanese and Australian counterparts met in Washington last year elevating the “Quadrilateral" dialogue to the ministerial level—something China has been eyeing closely. In November 2017, officials of the four countries had met for the first time in a bid to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of Chinese influence.
According to the readout, Jaishankar and Pompeo also discussed the Afghan peace process which has entered a critical phase with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani set to host a national gathering of leaders starting Friday to discuss the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners. It is seen as a controversial move paving the way for intra-Afghan talks.
The three-day gathering of the Loya Jirga is to draw more than 3,000 delegates—tribal elders, politicians and other prominent figures.
Since a February peace agreement between the US and Taliban, only partial progress has been made on a key demand by the insurgent group—a prisoner swap of up to 5,000 Taliban fighters for about 1,000 government troops. The exchange was meant to pave the way for talks between the Taliban and Kabul to bring an end to the war. However, Ghani has been accused of dragging his feet on the release of the final 400 inmates.