India, US discuss 'urgency' of Pakistan acting against terrorist groups

Arul Louis

New York, March 11 (IANS) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Monday discussed the importance of bringing those responsible for the terrorist attacks on India "to justice and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil", a State Department official said.

At their meeting in Washington, Pompeo "affirmed that the United States stands with the people and government of India in the fight against terrorism", State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

This was the first high-level, face-to-face meting between India and the US after the Pulwama terrorist attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the the Indian attack on terrorist camp in Pakistan that followed and the air skirmish between the two neighbours last month.

At the height of the tensions between the two countries in the aftermath of the Indian MiG-21 being shot down and its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistan, Pompeo had spoken to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in an effort to tamp down the rising hostility.

According to a Ministry of External Affairs release in New Delhi, Gokhale conveyed India's appreciation to the US government and Pompeo for the firm support that India received from the US in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.

He also apprised Pompeo about recent developments in this regard.

"They agreed that Pakistan needs to take concerted action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and to deny safe haven to all terrorist groups in its territory. They also agreed that those who support or abet terrorism in any form should be held accountable," the release said.

The two also discussed other issues of mutual interest including Afghanistan and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, and expressed satisfaction over the significant progress and the quality of the India-US Strategic Partnership since Pompeo's visit to India in September 2018 for the first ever Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue.

Palladino said that the Gokhale and Pompeo had wide-ranging talks during which they "discussed our complementary visions for the Indo-Pacific, US-India defence cooperation, and the growing US-India economic partnership, including joint efforts to expand bilateral trade in a balanced and reciprocal manner".

He added that they "noted the strength of our partnership and discussed ways to further enhance cooperation, including on counterterrorism".

On the economic front, the Gokhale-Pompeo meeting took place against the backdrop of President Donald Trump ending tariff concessions worth $5.6 billion to India last week under the General Scheme of Preferences citing, what he called, New Delhi's failure to provide "equitable and reasonable access" for US to its markets.

According to the MEA release, the Foreign Secretary underscored the significant reduction in trade deficit in the last three years and conveyed India's willingness to remain engaged with the US for a meaningful and mutually acceptable package on trade issues.

Gokhale is in the US on a three-day visit in connection with the bilateral Foreign Office Consultation and Strategic Security Dialogue with his counterparts.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

--IANS

al/vd