India and the United States on Thursday called on Pakistan to ensure that its soil is not used as safe havens by terror outfits. The two nations, holding their first two-plus-two dialogue in New Delhi, also called on Islamabad to bring to justice expeditiously the perpetrators of Mumbai, Pathankot and Uri attacks. Also Read - China Building Makeshift Hospital For Pakistan to Treat Coronavirus Patients
In a joint statement after the separate bilateral meetings of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with their respective counterparts US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defence General James Mattis, India said it welcomed the recent designations of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists by the United States. Also Read - Coronavirus: In Letter to UNSC, Pakistan Highlights 'Dire Human Rights Situation' in Jammu And Kashmir
“They underscore the international community’s scrutiny over the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, which has affected India and the United States alike. In the 10th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, we recognized the importance of justice and retribution for the masterminds behind this terrorist attack,” the statement read. Also Read - COVID-19: Pakistan Says Situation Under Control as Coronavirus Cases Rise to 1,526
“The Ministers welcomed the launch of a bilateral dialogue on designation of terrorists in 2017, which is strengthening cooperation and action against terrorist groups, including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, D-Company, and their affiliates,” it added.
The major takeaways of the inaugural 2+2 dialogue between the two nations were the signing of the long-pending Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and setting up of a hotline between External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister with their American counterparts.
“Signing of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) will enable India to access advanced technologies from the US,” Sitharaman said during the joint press briefing.
The COMCASA will facilitate India to obtain critical defence technologies from the US, and access critical communication network to ensure interoperability among the US and the Indian armed forces.
It will also allow the installation of high-security US communication equipment on defence platforms being sourced from the US.
Swaraj said both the sides also agreed on working together towards entry of India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). “We have agreed to speed up the process of India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Swaraj said.
Swaraj also asserted that the dialogue reflected the desire of leadership of the two countries to further elevate the bilateral strategic communication on cross-cutting defence and security issues.
She said, “The recent decision by the US to put India in the list of countries eligible for Strategic Trade Authorization Tier-I License Exemption reflects India’s robust and responsible export control policies. In our meeting today, we also agreed to work together to secure India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at the earliest.”
On the H-1B visa issue, Swaraj expressed hope that the US would not “act against” the interest of Indians. “We have also discussed the H-1B visa issue. This visa impacts Indian IT professionals. We have appealed to the US to keep this a high-priority in our ties,” Swaraj said.
Swaraj also noted that there was a growing convergence of views, including on the Indo-Pacific, during the discussion among the four ministers.
“We see the Indo-Pacific as a free, open and inclusive concept, with ASEAN centrality at the core and defined by a common rules-based order that both our countries are pursuing,” the minister said, adding India welcomed the US’ interest in expanding its economic footprint in the region as they “complement our own efforts”.
India welcomed the recent U.S.-North Korea summit. The two sides pledged to work together to counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and to hold accountable those countries that have supported them.
The joint statement issued after the talks said that the strategic importance of India’s designation as a Major Defense Partner (MDP) of the United States was reaffirmed during the talks.
“The Ministers reaffirmed the strategic importance of India’s designation as a Major Defense Partner (MDP) of the United States and commitment to expand the scope and take mutually agreed upon steps to strengthen defense ties further,” the joint statement said.
“ The Ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to a united, sovereign, democratic, inclusive, stable, prosperous, and peaceful Afghanistan. The two sides expressed support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process,” it added.
The two sides also discussed the ongoing efforts by India and the US in promoting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan government-controlled reconciliation process, that brings together all ethnic groups and political formation in that country, the minister added.