India, US and Afghanistan to hold trilateral talks

RSTV Bureau
New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj  shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI Photo

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI Photo

India and the US today agreed to restart a three-way dialogue with Afghanistan next month on the sidelines of the UN Genreal Assembly in New York.

The decision to restart trilateral talks excluding Pakistan assumes significance as the US always relied upon Pakistan for its Afghanistan policy due to its geographic location.

Asked if the close consultation with India on Afghanistan under the trilateral framework may result in Pakistan feeling isolated, Kerry said US appreciates India’s involvement in the war-torn country and Pakistan will not feel isolated but encouraged and workout a roadmap for itself in that country.

The US also fully backed India on its demand that Pakistan should act against terrorists operating from sanctuaries on its soil with US Secretary of State John Kerry asserting that his country “stands in strong partnership with India” against all terrorism.

Terrorism, more specifically that emanating from Pakistan, figured prominently in marathon talks between Kerry and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who briefed him extensively on the “continuing problem of cross-border terrorism that India and the larger region face from Pakistan”.

At a joint press conference with Kerry after the 2nd Indo-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD), Swaraj said, “We reaffirmed the urgent necessity for Pakistan to dismantle safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad 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.”

Kerry said he had spoken to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Raheel Sharif so that Pakistan deprives any terrorist group of sanctuary.

Terming terrorism as a “key challenge to the international community, and the foremost threat to international peace and security”, Swaraj noted that there was a “meeting of minds” on this issue between the two sides.

Asserting that they have interacted with Pakistan in one way or the other, Kerry said, “I have recently spoke to the Prime Minister and General Raheel Sharif regarding the need for Pakistan to deprive any group sanctuaries…

“It is well known that the Haqqani network and others operated out of the western part of the country. LeT, we all know and we all spoken out against had an impact on India, directly.

“It is vital that Pakistan join with other nations in tackling this challenge, and in fairness, in recent weeks and months they have been moving more authoritatively.”

Today’s Dialogue comes in the backdrop of unrest in Kashmir with India alleging Pakistan’s involvement in it.

Apart from counter-terrorism, the two sides during the Dialogue, which was also co-chaired by Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, discussed issues of commercial, regional and international interests.

Asked by an American journalist about the tension between India and Pakistan and when the dialogue between the two will resume, Swaraj made it clear that “terror and talks will not go hand in hand”.

She said India remained ready to have talks with Pakistan but there were legitimate expectations that it will act against terror groups which were carrying out attacks against India including the Pathankot one. “And the talks can only resume if these expectations were met,” she added.

Kerry had earlier met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval during which issue of Pak-sponsored terrorism was discussed.

India and the US also agreed to restart a three-way dialogue with Afghanistan next month on the sidelines of the UN Genreal Assembly in New York and signed an agreement to combat and counter cyber attacks.

Asked if the close consultation with India on Afghanistan under the trilateral framework may result in Pakistan feeling isolated, Kerry said US appreciates India’s involvement in the war-torn country and Pakistan will not feel isolated but encouraged and workout a roadmap for itself in that country.

The two sides also reaffirmed pledges to boost cooperation on climate change and clean energy development, including stepping up efforts on the previously agreed construction of six nuclear reactors by the US firm Westinghouse.