EXCLUSIVE

It’s official: Sushma Swaraj will meet Rex Tillerson next week

Quartz india
Quartz india

United Nations, New York

Sushma Swaraj has a busy week coming up.

The Indian foreign minister will arrive in New York on Sept. 17 for seven days of back-to-back engagements centred around the UN General Assembly, including her first meeting with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson.

In all, Swaraj will have some two dozen bilateral meetings and several multilateral commitments, aside from speaking at the UN general debate on Sept. 23, highly placed sources told Quartz. She will hold talks with, among others, the newly-appointed Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono and her German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel. Swaraj will also attend a meeting hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron.

Swaraj, who underwent a kidney transplant late last year, took a few months off for treatment, returning to parliament in March. She’s had her hands full since, especially with the protracted border standoff with China in Doklam. And although she has been back to clocking in her air miles, with visits to Sri Lanka and Russia, the punishing schedule in New York will be a real test.

The meeting with Tillerson, in particular, will be crucial, coming after US president Donald Trump’s call last month for India to do more in Afghanistan. “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development,” Trump said on Aug. 21. India’s concerns over Pakistan’s backing of terror groups is likely to be on the table, given that Trump, in his statement, had also chastised Pakistan for providing a “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.”

In August, India and the US agreed to establish a new “2-by-2” dialogue that’ll rope in the defence and foreign ministers of both countries to help strengthen ties. US defence secretary James Mattis is slated to visit India later in September as Washington looks to expand its defence cooperation with New Delhi.

In the meantime, in New York, Swaraj will look to reinforce India’s stand on the Kashmir issue, with Pakistan expected to raise the dispute when its prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21.

So, for the many who constantly reach out to the Indian foreign minister on Twitter, seeking help in all sorts of issues, you may want to take it easy next week.

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