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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Indian officials to hold talks with US NSA H.R. McMaster today

Indian officials to hold talks with US NSA H.R. McMaster today

New Delhi hopes discussions with Herbert Raymond McMaster will provide clarity on US President Donald Trump's policy for South Asia

US National Security Adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster. Photo: ReutersPremium
US National Security Adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: India will be hoping to get some clarity on US President Donald Trump’s policy towards South Asia and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region when US national security adviser (NSA) Herbert Raymond McMaster—the highest ranking official of the administration to visit the South Asian region—holds talks with Indian officials on Tuesday in New Delhi.

McMaster who began his trip to the region with a stop-over in Afghanistan on Sunday, was in Pakistan on Monday where he met Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad. He was seen as key in developing US military’s counter-insurgency strategy under General David Petraeus while serving as his special assistant when Petraeus commanded US troops in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. McMaster was also deployed in Afghanistan in 2010.

A Pakistani statement after talks between McMaster and Sharif said “the prime minister reaffirmed his commitment to a peaceful neighbourhood and apprised the US NSA of the steps taken by Pakistan to reach out to both India and Afghanistan."

India and Pakistan are seen as vying for influence in Afghanistan with Islamabad seeking to install a friendly government in Kabul in case of a conflict with India. New Delhi, on the other hand, wants a government in Kabul that will not be inimical to its interests.

So far, the signals for India from Washington vis-a-vis South Asia have been mixed.

President Trump had seemed inclined to act tough on terrorism in the early days of his inauguration—with the White House readout of a conversation Trump had with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January stating that “Trump and Prime Minister Modi resolved that the US and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism."

ALSO READ : Pakistan briefs US on ‘plight’ of Kashmiris

But rather than focusing on cross-border terrorism of the kind perpetuated by Pakistan against India, Trump has been seen as keen on targeting groups like the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Incidentally, McMaster’s visit to Afghanistan came just a day after the US dropped its biggest non-nuclear bomb on Nangarhar province of that country, killing some 100 IS militants.

Earlier this month, India rebuffed a US offer to mediate between India and Pakistan, stressing that New Delhi’s position on and conditions for a bilateral redressal of problems including the Kashmir dispute between the South Asian neighbours had not changed.

India also urged the US and the international community to lean on Pakistan to accept internationally mandated requirements that call for abandoning terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The sharp response came after the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley overnight indicated that the US would try and “find its place" in efforts to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan.

In Kabul on Sunday, McMaster in an interview to the local Tolonews said “what was critical was strengthening the Afghan security forces and institutions," besides creating and supporting an Afghan airforce and a zero tolerance approach towards the IS.

On the Taliban, the main insurgent force fighting the US-led troops in Afghanistan, McMaster said the group must be defeated except those who “are willing to join their Afghan brothers and sisters... and end the violence."

On Pakistan, McMaster said: “We hope that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups (of terrorists) less selectively than they have in the past and that the best way to pursue their interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy and not through the use of proxies who engage in violence."

According to the reading in New Delhi, such statements were in keeping with India’s own thinking about the region, “but we will have to wait and see how the talks on Tuesday proceed," said a second person familiar with the development.

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Published: 18 Apr 2017, 12:00 AM IST
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