New Delhi: Hitting out at Pakistan, India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, has said that “cross border terrorism” directed at India was now recognised as a “larger regional and global challenge”. She said that there was growing convergence between New Delhi and Washington to counter it.
In an address at a think-tank on Tuesday, Swaraj also underlined the need for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity while carrying out connectivity projects. The statement is seen as a reference to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
Touching on a variety of issues, she identified evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region as one of the main challenges confronting the world. She said India and the US stood together in upholding an international rules-based system that has benefited all nations, in an apparent reference to the situation in the South China sea where US and China are engaged in a struggle for dominance.
Referring to India’s sour relations with Pakistan, Swaraj said India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy had yielded results with all countries in the region barring one. On challenge of terrorism, Swaraj said India and the US has been attaching “high priority” to counter it.
“Both our countries have been direct victims of this scourge. In India, we have been facing cross-border terrorism for many years now. This is now recognised as a larger regional, even global challenge,” she said at the India-US Forum.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington last month, Swaraj said the “clear and unambiguous” message given jointly by the two leaders to contain terrorism needs to be pursued with resolve by the international community.
The minister said that the increasing strategic convergence between India and the US was also reflected in bilateral defence ties as two-way military exchanges have grown in range and complexity.
“The focus now is on co-production and co-development.
The recognition by the US of India as its Major Defence Partner is an important development; and we hope that it will enable higher levels of technology partnerships,” she said.
On connectivity initiatives, Swaraj said India has outlined the principles that should be adhered to in undertaking connectivity initiatives, which included ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“India will continue to work with the US and other partners in support of these objectives and principles,” she said.
India has been critical of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the USD 50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK).
She identified Afghanistan as an important “theatre of cooperation” over the last decade and half between India and US.
“We deeply appreciate the sacrifices made by the US to preserve peace, security and democracy in Afghanistan,” she said. “However, it is important that the international community, particularly the US, must remain engaged in Afghanistan so that the gains of last 16 years are not frittered away.” She said India remains committed to continue supporting the government and people of Afghanistan.