India and the U.S. began a crucial homeland security dialogue on Friday, affirming the strategic importance of cooperation for the security of the two countries and their people and pledging to combat terrorism and other challenges, including cyber security, transnational crimes and counterfeit currency.

The two countries reaffirmed their resolve to defeat the forces of terrorism and called for effective steps by all countries to eliminate safe havens and infrastructure.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and the visiting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, committed their governments to comprehensive sharing of information on the Mumbai terror attacks.

A joint statement, issued after the first round of the dialogue, affirmed the deepening technological and economic partnership. The two leaders committed themselves to expanding cooperation to further strengthen the capacity to secure their countries and people.

“The two leaders agreed to share ideas on and experiences of the ongoing transformation of their countries' security-related organisational structures and systems as well as regulatory framework, in a democratic and federal environment,” it said.

India and the U.S. also decided to strengthen agency-to-agency engagement, including in exchange of intelligence, information-sharing, forensics and investigation, access to and sharing of data relating to terrorism, security of infrastructure, transport and trade and combating counterfeit currency, illicit financing and transnational crime.

Common approaches

Ms. Napolitano agreed that both countries faced a “common threat and we must develop common approaches to protecting critical infrastructure and ensuring free flow of people and commerce across our borders.”

Asked about the Lashkar-e-Taiba being on the list of banned terrorist outfits, Ms. Napolitano said: “LeT is right up there; it ranks in the terror list along with al-Qaeda.” However, she did not offer any comment when it was pointed out that LeT founder Hafiz Saeed was still moving about freely in Pakistan.

“I think, in my judgment, the LeT ranks right up there in the al-Qaeda and related groups as terrorist organisations, one that seeks to harm people and takes innocent lives. Our perspective, the U.S. perspective, is LeT is very, very, I do not want to say, important as that gives it too much credibility, but an organisation that is of the same ranking as al-Qaeda-related groups,” she said, addressing a press conference with Mr. Chidambaram.

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