India, US send strong signals to Pakistan, Iran
India and the US Tuesday signalled common intent and purpose, asking Pakistan to take stronger action against terror, advising Iran to desist from its nuclear weapons programme and pledging support to Afghanistan's peace and prosperity.
Visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna were critical of Pakistan on its handling of terror groups operating from its soil and asked it to take "strong and more concerted" action against these outfits that threaten peace and security of the US, India and the world at large.
The two leaders had their bilateral meeting here over a breakfast of idlis and vadas at the Taj Palace Hotel.
They also affirmed that they were on the same page on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, though Tehran remains a key supplier of oil to meet New Delhi's energy needs.
On Afghanistan, the two nations committed to assist Kabul in handling its security, development and governance on its own, without interference from outside, even after the International Security Assistance Force moves out of the embattled nation in 2014.
At a joint press conference after their meeting, Clinton said the $10-million bounty on 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was an unmistakable sign of US "solidarity" with India on bringing the perpetrators of the audacious attack to justice.
Clinton said the US had every reason to believe Saeed was the "principal architect" of the Mumbai terror strikes that claimed 166 people, including six Americans.
"Combating violence and extremism is one we all agree on and we need to do more. And we look to the government of Pakistan to do more. It needs to make sure its territory is not used as launching terrorist attacks anywhere, including inside Pakistan," Clinton said.
Krishna noted that the recent violent strikes by Taliban on diplomatic missions in and around Kabul had once again highlighted the need for elimination of terrorist sanctuaries in the neighbourhood and "for stronger action from Pakistan" on terrorism, including bringing to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack.
Clinton noted that terrorism was obviously "incredibly important question" on the minds of both the US and India.
"We both know the tragedies and losses that come with terrorism on our soil. So we have increased our cooperation between India and the US. We are going to continue to do everything we can, not only to prevent terrorists from doing evil acts of violence, but also try to convince people not to get recruited into terrorism," she said.
Asked about the terror groups, like the Haqqani network, operating out of Pakistan, Clinton said the US and the international community were committed "to going after those who pose a direct threat to the US, Afghanistan and to our allies".
"We are also cooperating closely with India regarding the threats that emanate against them," she said.
On the sanctions against Iran over its nuclear weapons programme, Clinton said the US and India "share the same goal" of preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"India is a strong partner in urging Iran to adhere to its international obligations," Clinton said.
Krishna, noting that he discussed the importance of a peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue, said it must be based on the position that Iran has its rights as a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
"But it must also abide by its obligations as a non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT," he said, asserting that "this issue, however, is not a source of discord" between India and the US.
Clinton said the best way to achieve a diplomatic solution that the international community seeks was to keep up the pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table.
On Afghanistan, the two leaders said their respective strategic partnership agreements will pave the way for "stability and security" in the region.
Clinton said US consultations with India on Afghanistan was "very substantive and useful" and that the international community will remain engaged with Kabul on its future.
The critical issue of forwarding economic ties was discussed too.
Krishna said India was committed to providing a "level playing field" for US companies in nuclear commerce and expressed the hope that the talks between US and Indian companies will soon result in contracts.
Krishna also pointed out the difficulties faced by Indian IT companies in the US.
Clinton returned to the US later in the day after her swing through China, Bangladesh and India where she visited Kolkata and New Delhi.