NEW DELHI: India and the United States on Wednesday reaffirmed their plans to work closely in Afghanistan but they also kept the aperture of their bilateral ties calibrated to keep an eye on China.
As US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wound up his three-nation tour of South Asia, which included trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said too many terrorist groups found safe haven in Pakistan and such sanctuaries were threatening to destabilise the government in Islamabad.
Speaking at a news conference with India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, he said the unnamed terrorist groups “are now threatening stability of the Pakistani government”.
He urged Islamabad to work with Washington to defeat militancy. “We want to work with Pakistan in a positive way as we think this is in their interest in longer term.”
Mr Tillerson said he had a very “open and frank exchange with Pakistan leaders in Islamabad yesterday, [and] conveyed to Pakistan the expectations we have”.
For India, the visit was a useful occasion to raise the issue of professional visas for its sizeable nationals working in the United States, and who constitute a significant support base for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
US ready to share its technology for modernisation of India’s military, he says
In his meeting with Mr Tillerson, Mr Modi underscored what his office called “the commonality in the objectives of India and the US to eradicate terrorism, terrorist infrastructure, safe havens and support, while bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan”.
Mr Modi noted this in the context of President Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Mr Tillerson exchanged with the Indian premier views on his recent travels in the region.
“They further discussed stepping up effective cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms and promoting regional stability and security,” the PMO statement said.
Welcoming the US secretary on his first visit to India in his current capacity, Mr Modi noted with appreciation the “firm upward trajectory” in the bilateral strategic partnership following the “positive and far-reaching” talks with President Trump in June this year, the statement said.
The prime minister shared the resolve expressed by Mr Tillerson on taking further steps in the direction of accelerating and strengthening the content, pace and scope of the bilateral engagement, Mr Modi’s office said. Both “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”.
Mr Tillerson also held detailed discussion with India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
Earlier, Ms Swaraj told Mr Tillerson that New Delhi wanted to retain its small embassy in North Korea despite Washington’s efforts to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
She said India believed a diplomatic presence in North Korea was necessary to keep lines of communication open.
Ms Swaraj said she also raised the issue of H1B visa with the secretary and requested him not to take action that might adversely affect Indians.
Reports quoted Mr Tillerson as saying that the Trump administration was ready to share its best technology for India’s military modernisation, adding that it looked forward to discussing deals for F16 and F18 fighter jets with New Delhi.
Mr Trump has called for stricter rules for issuance of H1B visas, largely availed by Indian IT firms. A private member’s bill was introduced earlier this year in the US Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren seeking to increase the minimum salary of an H1B visa holder to a whopping $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2017
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