A day after signing the landmark Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in Washington, in New Delhi, US secretary of state John Kerry and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj announced a mechanism of trilateral cooperation between India, the US and Afghanistan.
India is already in talks with Iran and Russia for another Afghanistan-specific trilateral to complete a string of pearls around Islamabad.
Both countries, however, could not agree on a resolution of visa fee hike, easy access to Indian nationals and the totalisation pact that would allow citizens from the two countries to repatriate their social security savings when they return.
Though both sides announced a slew of measures to boost trade and commerce, they could not agree on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), leaving many issues for the next occupant of the White House.
India’s efforts on the security front received a major boost when Kerry reaffirmed the “urgent necessity” for Pakistan to “dismantle safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks” including Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and D Company.
“Secretary Kerry and I also agreed on the need for Pakistan to do more to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terrorist attacks to justice quickly,” Sushma Swaraj said.
Swaraj said that she briefed Kerry on the continuing problem of cross-border terrorism that India and the larger region faces from Pakistan. “We both agreed that nations must not maintain double standards, such as the categorisation of good and bad terrorists, nor must they act as sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorist organisations,” she added.
Kerry also assured Swaraj that the US doesn’t make distinctions between good and bad terrorists. “”Terror is terror,” said Kerry, reiterating America’s support to India’s demand that Pakistan punish the attackers involved in 26/11 and January’s terror strike on the Pathankot air force base,” he said.
Kerry also confirmed that progress was made on an agreement about the construction of six nuclear reactors by US giant Westinghouse. The deal has been held up in the past by concerns over India’s laws that would make US companies liable for accidents at plants they helped build. The US also promised to push India’s bid at “the highest levels” before the next Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting later this year.
On the India-US-Afghanistan trilateral, Kerry attempted to ameliorate Pakistani fears, saying the mechanism is not aimed at isolating the country, but will be in its interest to ensure a peaceful Afghanistan.
Washington was in favour of engaging Taliban, but only under the auspices of the government in Kabul, he said. He said it was vital for Pakistan itself to join other nations to fight terrorism, but hastily added that Islamabad off late has been taking steps against the Haqqani network and other groups on its western front.
“Pakistan, as a country, is not isolated, but encouraged as a friend to chalk a road map of its own choices in tackling terrorism,” he added.
Kerry also cited cyber security and energy as areas where both Indian and the US could expand cooperation. The two sides have reached an understanding on financing to help India meet its ambitious renewable energy targets. Both sides have also agreed on a cyber security agreement.