"At a time of rising global threats to democracy and international freedoms -- we talk about a democratic recession -- it's vital that we two world leading democracies continue to stand together in support of these ideals," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said here on Wednesday.
On the first day of his visit to India, Blinken while addressing civil society representatives said, "Here in India, that includes the free media, independent courts, a vibrant and free and fair electoral system -- the largest expression of free political will by citizens anywhere in the world."
"We also know that successful democracies include thriving civil societies. That's how citizens become more fully engaged in the life of their communities. It's how we organize and provide the resources to respond to emergencies. And we've seen people and organizations come together throughout Covid-19 in creative and incredibly generous ways, and civil society is also where we're able to build meaningful connections across our social, religious, and cultural differences," Blinken said.
"In short, if we want to make our democracies more open, more inclusive, more resilient, more equitable, we need a vibrant civil society," he added.
"And I'm really here to underscore the importance of the relationships between our countries, to try to deepen our ties and extend our cooperation. I think it's hard to find countries with more -- who do more together in more different areas than with the United States and India," Blinken said.
"Later today, I'll have a chance to see Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, an old friend and colleague. We'll talk about many of the critical issues our countries are working on together, from Covid-19 to climate change, defense, mutual security, trade and investment, education, energy, science, technology. The list goes on and on," Blinken said.
"When you put it all together, the relationship between our countries is one of the most important in the world. And I think that's because not only is it a relationship between governments when we're working between our governments, but critically it's through relationships between the Indian and the American people. We're connected in so many different ways -- business ties, university ties, religious and spiritual ties, and of course, millions of family ties," Blinken said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commenced his India visit with an address to civil society leaders.
Attendees included religious leaders such as Geshe Dorji Damdul of New Delhi's Tibet House, a cultural centre of the Dalai Lama.