Indirectly targeting Pakistan for indulging in cross-border terrorism, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday said that India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy has yielded results with all countries except one. However, Sushma expressed satisfaction over the fact that cross-border terrorism directed at India is now recognised as a larger regional as well as a global challenge. Inaugurating the first edition of the India-US Forum in New Delhi, Sushma said that there has been growing convergence between India and the United States to counter the menace of cross-border terrorism.
In a veiled attack on China’s ambitious Belt and Road Project, Sushma Swaraj underlined the need for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity while carrying out connectivity projects
Touching on a variety of issues, she identified evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region as one of the main challenges confronting the world today.
She said India and the US stand 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 China has been ramping up its military strength.
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 added.
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 external affairs minister said 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) due to its sovereignty concerns as the USD 50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor which is part of the BRI passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
India wants continued US engagement in Afghanistan against terrorism
Sushma Swaraj also said that the US should continue to be engaged in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
"An important theatre of cooperation over the last decade and half between India and US has been Afghanistan," Sushma Swaraj said.
"We deeply appreciate the sacrifices made by the US to preserve peace, security and democracy in Afghanistan. However, it is important that the international community, particularly the US, must remain engaged in Afghanistan so that the gains of the last 16 years are not frittered away."
The External Affairs Minister said that India has made its own contributions and remained committed to continue supporting the people and government of Afghanistan.
"We have pledged another $1 billion to the earlier $2 billion as reflection of our continued commitment," she stated.
"During PM Modi's visit to the US, our leaders have agreed to work together and with the government of Afghanistan to secure a democratic, peaceful, prosperous and stable Afghanistan."
India is among the biggest aid donors for the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan.
(With IANS inputs)