Top US official to visit Delhi, Thimphu
New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) Deepening its ties with India even as it reaffirmed that there is no change in its Kashmir policy, Washington is sending US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan on a visit to India next week, as well as to Bhutan.
Sullivan will travel to Thimphu and New Delhi, August 11-17 to "advance the United States' partnership with two nations that are critical to preserving the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region," said a press statement.
The US' interest in forging ties with Bhutan stems from its keenness to keep at bay the expanding footprint of China in the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing has been seeking to build its influence among India's close Himalayan neighbours, Nepal and Bhutan, as part of its encirclement policy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Bhutan on August 17-18 to build on the already close ties with Thimphu.
In Thimphu, Sullivan will explore expanding and deepening ties with the government and people of Bhutan.
He will then travel to New Delhi to advance the broad and multi-faceted US-India strategic partnership, which is based on a shared commitment to democratic values, economic growth, and the rule of law. In Delhi, he will meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and speak at the India-U.S. Forum.
The meeting between the two comes days after Jaishankar met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Bangkok on the sidelines of the ASEAN-related multilateral meetings.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said there is no change in America's policy on Kashmir -- that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and it is up to the two to decide on the pace and scope of the talks on the issue.