New York: US President Donald Trump has declared that he sees a “critical” role for India in his country’s South Asia strategy for fighting terrorism and building up a safe Afghanistan.
With India “we are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region,” he said on Monday outlining his new strategy for Afghanistan and the region.
Speaking to 2,000 US military personnel at Fort Myer, near Washington, he also warned that Islamabad’s continued backing for terrorists could lead to a clash with India.
Accusing Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” he said that the “threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.”
Trump’s approach to India outlined in the speech was in stark contrast to the stern warning he delivered to Pakistan that “it has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.”
A “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the US,” he said.
In Afghanistan, he said he wanted India’s help, but at the same time he made it appear a transactional issue by referring to India’s trade with the US making it sound like a quid pro quo for helping with Afghanistan.
“We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the US,” he said.
“We want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”
India pledged a $1 billion package for Afghanistan in 2016.
Kabul’s parliament costing $90 million was built by India, symbolic of its commitment to Afghanistan’s democracy and it has been attacked by the Taliban.
Among the various development projects undertaken by India, is the 215-kilometre Delaram-Zaranj highway built at a cost of over $150 million and at the cost of Indian lives, victims of terrorism.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed India’s role outlined by Trump.
“India will be an important partner in the effort to ensure peace and stability in the region and we welcome its role in supporting Afghanistan’s political and economic modernisation,” he said in a statement after Trump’s speech.
The Trump statements about India came after a series of diplomatic meetings.
Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh met Tillerson earlier in August in Manila during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting.
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishanker and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had meetings in India with Alice Wells, the US Acting Assistant Secretary for South Asia, Lisa Curtis, the National Security Council Senior Director for Central and Cara Abercrombie, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Southeast Asia.