Besides agreeing that Pakistan should immediately take steps to eliminate terror organisations and terrorist safe havens on its soil, India and the US on Wednesday discussed a host of issues including ways to further boost defence and trade between the two countries.While the two sides agreed to work together for security in the Indo-Pacific region, it was decided that the new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue as announced by US President Donald Trump would take place early next year. At the end of wide-ranging talks in New Delhi with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told mediapersons that Islamabad needed to take concrete action against terror groups to ensure peace and security in the region, particularly in Afghanistan.
Tillerson is the second high-ranking official of the Trump administration to visit India in the last two months. Last month, US defence secretary James Mattis visited India. The top US diplomat, here as part of his five-nation visit, echoed Swaraj’s views and said that “terror safe havens will not be tolerated”.He said his country would continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region. He added the US acknowledges with gratitude India’s “generous contributions” to the development of Afghanistan, including construction of the Afghan Parliament building. The Trump administration was ready to share its best technology for India’s military modernisation and it looked forward to discussing deals for F16 and F18 fighter jets with New Delhi, said Tillerson.
Responding to a question about India’s investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the Iranian port of Chabahar, the US Secretary of State said he saw “no contradiction” in the US call for sanctions and India’s deal in Chabahar. He said Washington did not aim “to interfere with legitimate business activities that are going on with other businesses whether they be from Europe (or) India”.The construction of Chabahar expands a trade route for landlocked countries in central Asia that bypasses Pakistan. Earlier, in her opening remarks, Swaraj said both India and the US have agreed that Trump’s new Afghanistan policy would be effective only if Pakistan takes action against terror groups on its soil.“We discussed the issue of terrorism at length. This is a big threat for the whole world. We also discussed implementing President Trump’s new Afghanistan and South Asia policy, so that it can achieve the desired results,” she said.
She said that both countries have agreed that it is important to ensure that no country is a safe haven for terrorists. She said nations supporting terror should be held accountable. Tillerson said he had asked the Pakistani leadership to take action against terror groups and said an enhancement in their capabilities may pose a threat to the government in Islamabad. Both also discussed the emerging security challenges and issues in the Indo-Pacific region. “We discussed the importance of freedom of navigation, overflights and unhindered trade under international rules and norms for a sovereign and developed Indo-Pacific region,” Swaraj stated. Stating that the US supports India’s emergence as a leading power, Tillerson said the two countries will cooperate further in the Indo-Pacific region to promote rules-based commerce. The issue of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme also came up and in reply to a question as to whether India was ready to cut off diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, Swaraj said that trade relations with the nation are at a minimum, but it is important to continue having an embassy in North Korea to keep communication channels open.