Antony Blinken played a key role as the then-United States Deputy Secretary of State in nudging India to announce resumption of formal dialogue with Pakistan in December 2015, although the process was derailed just three weeks later in the wake of the terror attack at the Indian Air Force (IAF) base at Pathankot in Punjab.

Blinken, whom US President-elect Joe Biden is set to appoint his Secretary of State, visited New Delhi and met top officials of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government just before the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad, where she joined her counterpart Sartaj Aziz on December 9, 2015 to announce resumption of the talks that the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government had suspended in January 2013. He was also present in Islamabad to attend a conclave on Afghanistan when Swaraj and Aziz jointly made the announcement – just about a fortnight before Modi himself made his “surprise visit” to Lahore to greet the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, M Nawaz Sharif, on his birthday and to attend the wedding ceremony of his granddaughter.

The peace process, which the senior US diplomat subtly nudged India and Pakistan into, could not take off though. A series of attacks carried out by the terrorists from Pakistan in India in 2016 brought the relations between the two nations back to square one.

It is however too early to guess whether Blinken will once again make an attempt to broker peace between New Delhi and Islamabad as the Secretary of State of the Biden Administration and how Modi or Imran Khan’s governments would respond to any such move by Washington, DC.

But if the comments Blinken made as the Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to Biden during the run-up to the presidential elections in America over the past few months are any indication, the 58-year-old former diplomat apparently values strategic partnership between India and the US. He said during a webinar at the Hudson Institute on July 9 that strengthening and deepening US-India relationship would be “a very high priority” for the Biden Administration. “It’s usually important to the future of the Indo-Pacific and the kind of order that we all want; it’s fair, stable, and hopefully increasingly democratic and it’s vital to being able to tackle some of these big global challenges.”

He also described China as a “common challenge” for both India and the US during an address to Indian-American community on behalf of the Biden Campaign on August 15. He took note of China’s aggression along its Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.

Biden, himself, as well as several lawmakers of the Democratic Party in the US made critical remarks about the Modi Government over the past few months – not only over the shutdowns imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of December 5, 2019 move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories, but also over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

“We obviously have challenges now and real concerns, for example, about some of the actions that the government has taken particularly in cracking down on freedom of movement and freedom of speech in Kashmir, some of the laws on citizenship,” Blinken said in response to a question at the Hudson Institute. “But you’re always better engaging with a partner and a vitally important one like India, when you can speak frankly and directly about areas where you have differences even as you’re working to build greater cooperation and strengthen the relationship going forward. That would be the approach (of the Biden Administration) and again, I think we’ve seen evidence that it works.”