Hailing counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US under the eight years of Obama Administration as “incredibly successful”, a top US official has said this has not only “diminished the threat” of terrorism in the two countries, but also “foiled” a number of terror plots that saved several Indian and American lives.
“I can tell you quite definitively that due to our partnerships, several terrorism plots were foiled. Indian lives and American lives were saved because of this partnership,” said Peter Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, White House.
“So it’s a very significant development and I think, it can continue,” Lavoy told PTI. He, however, did not elaborate on the terror plots that were foiled.
He said that under the Obama Administration, which took over the reins of the country a few months after 26/11, counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries have reached a new height in the last eight years.
“I think, the partnership with India, in combating terrorism has really been incredibly successful,” he said, adding that the two countries now have dialogues on counter- terrorism at multiple levels.
On India not becoming a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) under the watch of US President Barack Obama, Lavoy expressed hope that it would be granted membership of the elite group “not before too long” as work is in progress.
“So, are we disappointed that India has not become a member (of NSG) so far? Yes, probably. But we also recognise that the NSG has to work through the procedures and its own other standings on how to consider non-NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) membership into the NSG.
“So, that’s not a trivial issue. But we would hope that there India would be granted membership not before too long,” he said answering a question on India being unable to become a member of NSG mainly due to the opposition from China.
Lavoy said the US remains concerned about al-Qaeda, though the outfit’s activities in the Af-Pak region have been significantly disrupted because of continuous efforts.
“We (also) remain concerned about ISIL. This is something that President Obama has talked about in his State of the Union and other addresses on the threat that both of these groups pose to the United States.
“And we would continue to take steps to counter them. We expect that those policies would continue. This is bipartisan in the vital interest to the United States,” he said, adding that cooperation on counter-terrorism issues “diminished the threat” to the two countries and is of incredible importance.
“I would highlight that US-India consultations about terrorist threats not only that are against India or the United States but throughout the region is an important hallmark and feature of our new and expanded counter-terrorism cooperation,” Lavoy said days before Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.
He also said the US does think that “any regional dialogue between India, Pakistan for including Afghanistan and others to counter terrorism would be desirable”.
“Terrorism is a threat to all of us and no country will be safe, unless terrorism is irradiated in every other country, especially in the neighbourhood,” Lavoy said.
Acknowledging that it is clear to all that many terrorist groups operate in Pakistan, he said the US continues to work with the Pakistani government in this regard.
“It’s clear to all that many terrorist groups operate in Pakistan. The Pakistani government and the Pakistani security apparatus confronts and fights and is trying to diminish terrorist strengths in Pakistan.
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“But clearly Pakistani government has prioritised its fight against the groups that target Pakistan first and has placed less priority on the terrorist groups that target Pakistan’s neighbours,” Lavoy said.
“We have been clear to Pakistan and I believe has India and Afghanistan, Pakistan’s other neighbour, that Pakistan cannot, should not, must not discriminate between terrorist groups. It must view all terrorist groups as its enemy and must fight all terrorism indiscriminately,” he said.
“We continue to work with Pakistan, encourage them to do so, and have offered to help with our capacity and willingness to do so.”
On India’s NSG membership, he said: “I think that for the Nuclear Suppliers Group the prospect of admitting a new member that is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a very, very big deal. One of the requirements for membership is to be a member of the NPT.”
The NSG over the last year has been undertaking a very, very intensive process to continue procedures for many non-NPT members such as India, he added.
“The US government, President Obama has been very clear that India is ready for membership now and we believe that India’s admission into NSG as a full regular member will be important and benefit the group and would also strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” Lavoy said.
The top White House official said the US declaring India as a major defence partner is a sign of success of India US partnership over the course of this administration.
Referring to three visits of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to India, he said this underscores America’s commitment to elevate the defence co-operation with India even at this time of transition.
“In 2016, US and India conducted six major military exercises and defence trade with India has grown to over USD 15 billion over the course of the Administration. No matter what indicator you identify, it truly has the feature of a major defence partnership,” he said.
Having Major Defence Partner title what will be realised is that the efforts under the defence trade and technology initiatives (DTTI) much co-operation has begun, and efforts have been made on both sides in co-developing, in developing together new defence technologies including very advanced technologies, the applications of which will be evident in the years to come, he said.
“I think you will see that the seeds planted over the course of last eight years which has materialised in very noticeable ways also will continue to materialise in ways that will be apparent in the years to come,” Lavoy observed.
The official refrained from responding to a question on India’s request for armed drones from the US. “I do not want to speak about any particular defence deal that is being considered. That will be the purview of the next Administration,” he said.