Hitting out at Pakistan, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said cross border terrorism directed at India is now recognised as a larger regional and global challenge and there has been growing convergence between New Delhi and Washington to counter it. In an address at a think-tank, Swaraj also underlined the need for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity while carrying out connectivity projects, seen as a reference to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Touching on a variety of issues, she identified evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region as one of the main challenges confronting the world today. She said India and the US stand together in upholding an international rules-based system that has benefited all nations, in an apparent reference to the situation in the South China sea where China has been ramping up its military strength. Referring to India’s deteriorating ties with Pakistan, Swaraj said the “Neighbourhood First” policy of the government has yielded results with all countries in the region barring one.
On challenge of terrorism, Swaraj said India and the US has been attaching “high priority” to counter it. “Both our countries have been direct victims of this scourge. In India, we have been facing cross-border terrorism for many years now. This is now recognised as a larger regional –even global – challenge,” she said at the India-US Forum. Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington last month, Swaraj said the “clear and unambiguous” message given jointly by the two leaders to contain terrorism needs to be pursued with resolve by the international community. The external affairs minister said the increasing strategic convergence between India and the US was also reflected in bilateral defence ties as two-way military exchanges have grown in range and complexity.
“The focus now is on co-production and co-development. The recognition by the US of India as its Major Defence Partner is an important development; and we hope that it will enable higher levels of technology partnerships,” she said. On connectivity initiatives, Swaraj said India has outlined the principles that should be adhered to in undertaking connectivity initiatives, which included ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. “India will continue to work with the US and other partners in support of these objectives and principles,” she said. India has been critical of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) due to its sovereignty concerns as the USD 50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor which is part of the BRI passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
She identified Afghanistan as an important “theatre of cooperation” over the last decade and half between India and US. “We deeply appreciate the sacrifices made by the US to preserve peace, security and democracy in Afghanistan. However, it is important that the international community, particularly the US, must remain engaged in Afghanistan so that the gains of last 16 years are not frittered away,” she said. She said India remains committed to continue supporting the Government and people of Afghanistan. Swaraj said India’s emergence as the world’s fastest growing major economy and the revival of growth in the US create win-win opportunities for both countries.
She also talked about reform initiatives undertaken by the Modi government. “The scale and size of the changes can be gauged by the fact that the government has removed 1200 obsolete laws and taken 7000 steps to improve ease of doing business at the federal level alone in the last three years,” she said.