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US backs India's line on Pak terror

Kerry said the US would help India bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2016 Pathankot attack to justice

Subhayan Chakraborty & Sahil Makkar  |  New Delhi 

Sending out a strong signal to Pakistan on terrorism emanating from its soil, US Secretary of State John Kerry lauded India’s efforts in Afghanistan and said a trilateral talk among India, the US, and Afghanistan would take place next month. US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who was also present along with Kerry for the second round of India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in New Delhi, promised to address India’s concerns on hike in visa fee and the totalisation agreement. However, her Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman said India would “wait and watch” for the next US government on contentious issues such as the bilateral investment treaty (BIT). Kerry said the US would help India bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attack and the 2016 Pathankot attack to justice. “We will not make distinctions between good and bad terrorists. Terror is terror, no matter from where it comes from or who carries it out,” said Kerry, adding: “We had conversations will all members of the region about the efforts they need to take to curb the terrorism that comes out of their countries. It is crystal clear the US and India are of exactly of similar minds with respect to terrorism.” When asked about the trilateral talks next month, Kerry said India has been helpful in re-building Afghanistan and has invested two billion dollars. “We all are in touch with Pakistan in one way or the other. I have recently spoken to Pakistan Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) and General Raheel Sharif regarding the need of Pakistan to deprive any terrorist group of sanctuary. It is well known that the Haqqani group has operated out of the western part of the country. Lashkar-e-Taiba is a threat we all know. It is vital that Pakistan join other countries in tackling the challenge and in fairness they have been moving more authoritatively in the western part of the country,” Kerry said. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Pakistan was responsible for the suspension of talks between the two countries. “If talks were to be resumed, we expect Pakistan to first show some action on the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack. Terrorism and talks can’t go hand-in-hand.” Swaraj also sought her counterpart’s assistance in resolving the long-pending issue of totalisation agreement and the recent hike in the visa fee for Indian professionals seeking employment in the US.

Sitharaman also stressed on the visa issue saying some Indian companies feel like being ‘targeted’. “Some of our stakeholders have raised concerns regarding measures which have the potential to act as barriers to the movement of natural persons and professionals,” Sitharaman said at the plenary meeting. She added India had provided estimates to the US of how much damage this could cause to Indian firms. On BIT, which did not find mention in the opening remarks of either Sitharaman and Pritzker, India's commerce minister said they had proposed a model and was waiting for feedback. She said her government would wait for the next US government to assume office after the Presidential elections in November. “While BIT would significantly boost India's efforts to attract US investments, it is not in anyone’s interest to negotiate an agreement which doesn’t meet those high standards.” Pritzker said. The BIT is expected to replace the existing bilateral investment protection and promotion agreements that India has signed with 72 nations. India is planning to sign BITs with countries it doesn’t have comprehensive investment agreements. The Union Cabinet has already given approval to the India-Cambodia BIT. Pritzker said in 2014-15, as much as 69 per cent of the all H1B visas and 30 per cent of L1 visas were issued to Indians. “Indian companies are an important part in the US economy; as of 2015, Indian foreign direct investment into the US stood at $11.8 billion.” The recent passage of the goods and services tax Bill was also showcased to the US as a major boost towards a simplified indirect tax regime. Pritzker lauded the reforms. Sitharaman told the US side that significant progress had been made on the recommendations made during the first meeting of the India-US CEO Forum last year. This time, they have decided to celebrate 2017 as the travel and tourism partnership year. Around 1.1 million Indians visited the US last year, up from 600,000 in 2008. Sitharaman said the Confederation of Indian Industry would be developing a Standards portal by September, 2016 in collaboration with the American National Standards Institute.

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First Published: Wed, August 31 2016. 00:47 IST
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