Setting the tone of his maiden official visit to New Delhi, US Secretary of State Rex Tillersonhad expressed last week the US administration’s determination to “dramatically deepen ways” to build an ambitious strategic partnership with Indianot just specific to South Asia but also including the Indo-Pacific, with an eye on China’s rising assertiveness in the region.In New Delhi on a 36-hour visit, Mr. Tillerson reaffirmed his country’s support for India’s rise as a regional power and providing further assistance in advancing India’s military mordernisation by equipping it with best technologies.Speaking to the media after her extensive talks with the visiting US diplomat on October 25, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was unequivocal in expressing India’s stance vis-à-vis terrorism emanating from Pakistan when she said that “America’s South Asia policy can succeed only if Pakistan will act decisively against terror groups” operating from its soil. “India and the US discussed that no country in the world should provide safe havens to terror groups. Any country backing terrorism must be made responsible,” she said.
Sharing India’s concerns on Pak-sponsored terrorism, Mr. Tillerson,who had stopped over in Islamabad and held meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Foreign MinisterKhwaja Mohammad Asif and Army Chief General QamarJaved Bajwa, before flying into New Delhi, said that “terror safe havens will not be tolerated”. “We have extended to Pakistan certain conditions and expectations we have in particular with regard to these organisations and the leaders of these organisations,” he said. Mr. Tillerson also expressed concern that these terror groups could pose a threat to Pakistan’s own stability. “It is not in anyone’s interests that the government of Pakistan be destabilised,” he saidadding that India and US, therefore, have a mutually shared interest in working towards containing and eventually eliminating these organisations.
Mr. Tillerson,who had also made an unannounced visit to Kabul as part of his six-nation tour, said that India was crucial for America’s Afghan strategy. Unveiling his policy on Afghanistan in August, President Donald Trump had envisaged a bigger role for India in the ongoing peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, following which India has been actively engaged in various developmental and infrastructure building projects in Afghanistan.
Among the other important issues that were talking- points during the EAM’s meeting with the vising US diplomat was the Indo-US cooperation in the broader Indo-Pacific region and an initiation of “2 plus 2” dialogue beginning early next year. Mr. Tillerson said, “I look forward to further cooperation in the broader Indo-Pacific region as we both promote a rules-based approach to commerce and a transparent and sustainable approach to economic development. We are glad to be joined in this effort by our close mutual partner Japan.”
Speaking about concerns over H1B and L1 visas, Ms. Swaraj said that a two-pronged approach is being followed to find a solution to the visa issue so that Indian professionals are not affected adversely.Later in the day Mr. Tillerson called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held wide-ranging talks on bolstering the bilateral relationship. “They affirmed that a strengthened India-US partnership is not just of mutual benefit to both countries, but has significant positive impact on the prospects for regional and global stability and prosperity,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
During the talks, both sides expressed the need to step up “cooperation in combating terrorism in all forms and promoting regional stability and security.”National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s meeting with the visiting dignitary earlier in the day had also focussed on tackling terrorism and extremism in all forms.
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