NEW DELHI :
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said India and Pakistan should be fighting terrorism in Afghanistan instead of the US. The statement holds significance ahead of the US pulling out its forces from Afghanistan, and the growing animosity between India and Pakistan.
“Look, India is right there. They are not fighting it. We are fighting it. Pakistan is right next door. They are fighting it very little. Very, very little. It’s not fair. The United States is 7,000 miles away," Trump said.
So far, Delhi has been reluctant to send soldiers to reinforce a US-led multinational force. India’s reluctance stems from the fact that its embassy in Kabul and its consulates in other parts of Afghanistan have been targeted by terrorist groups, such as the Haqqani network, which are allegedly linked to Pakistan-backed Taliban insurgents, who are aiming to dislodge Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
With the Afghan peace talks underway in Qatar between the US and the Taliban, India has been hoping to coordinate its position with like-minded countries in the region to ensure that its interests are taken care of when the US pulls out of the country after 18 years. India is worried that the Taliban joining the government in Kabul could mean arch rival Pakistan getting a major say in governance in Afghanistan. The Taliban are seen to be controlled by Pakistan.
Trump’s statement comes ahead of his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit. French President Emmanuel Macron had invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the event during the weekend.
On Thursday, PM Modi left for a three-nation visit starting with France, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Watch video: US President Donald Trump suggests India fight ISIS in Afghanistan
Meanwhile, India and the US will hold an intersessional meeting of the India-US 2+2 Dialogue in California late on Thursday to discuss ways to advance cooperation on critical diplomatic and security priorities at a time when tension between India and Pakistan has intensified over the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. The interactions will lay the ground work for the visit of external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh to the US later this fall for the 2+2 ministerial dialogue.
“Acting assistant secretary for south and central Asian affairs, Alice Wells, and assistant secretary of defence for Indo-Pacific affairs, Randall Schriver, are on travel to Monterey, California, August 21–23, for engagements with Indian government officials on strengthening our strategic partnership," a US State Department statement said.
The two sides will discuss ways to advance cooperation on critical diplomatic and security priorities, including shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and review preparations for the next 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, the statement said.
On 23 August, Wells and Schriver will co-host their Indian counterparts for the fourth US-India Maritime Security Dialogue, wherein the two sides will exchange views on maritime developments in the Indo-Pacific region and consider steps to further strengthen bilateral maritime security cooperation.
The meeting comes at a time when Vietnam has informed India that Chinese coast guard ships have stationed themselves near the ONGC Videsh oil block within its Exclusive Economic Zone in the disputed South China sea. The US has been pushing for a broader role by India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.