McCain exhorts India to join fight against Islamic State

Updated - May 23, 2016 03:51 pm IST

Published - September 09, 2014 09:50 pm IST - Washington

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US Senator John McCain at a meeting in New Delhi. File photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US Senator John McCain at a meeting in New Delhi. File photo

U.S. Republican Senator John McCain has urged New Delhi and Washington to extend bilateral cooperation deeper into counterterrorism operations linked to West Asia, citing both al Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri’s announcement of a new terror ‘wing’ for the Indian subcontinent, and the growing presence of foreign recruits in the ranks of militant outfit Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday Mr. McCain argued that the al Qaeda announcement seemed to be sparking “an evolution of thinking in New Delhi,” and this could be the basis of expanded diplomatic, economic, and military cooperation in this area.

He also hinted at concerns in both nations’ capitals about radicalised IS recruits returning to their home countrie to wreak havoc through terror strikes saying, “Imagine the signal India would send if it joined the emerging international coalition to confront [IS],” adding that threats to both nations’ security from the region “have never been greater.”

The Senator, who visited India and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July, also pressed both administrations to consider working on Free Trade Agreement to foster stronger economic ties.

With a little over two weeks to go before Mr. Modi lands in the U.S. to address the United Nations General Assembly and then hold a summit meeting with President Barack Obama, Mr. McCain said, “Our governments are currently negotiating a Bilateral Investment Treaty, which is worthwhile. But why not aim instead for a Free Trade Agreement? India and the United States have, or are negotiating, FTAs with every other major global trading partner, so we are on course to discriminate only against one another.”

The Senator also emphasised the need to deepen U.S.’ ties with India with regard to defence issues, which he said would require that Washington should be “willing to transfer technology to India that can make its defence acquisitions more effective, and India being able to protect these capabilities as U.S. law requires.”

If this vision could become a future reality, he said, that could imply not only higher levels of arms sales, but also further cooperation in terms of joint development and production of leading-edge military systems, including “anti-tank missiles… [and] more ambitious joint ventures, like shipbuilding and maritime capabilities, even aircraft carriers.”

Mr. McCain however underscored that his sense that “some in India are starting to have doubts,” about whether a partnership with America was worth investing in, specifically that numerous Indians whom he met were concerned that the U.S. “seems distracted and unreliable, especially in its relations with India.”

He noted that Indians he had spoken expressed concerns that Mr. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” seemed to be “more rhetoric than reality;” that U.S. disengagement from West Asia has created a vacuum that extremism and terrorism are filling; about perceptions of U.S. weakness in the face of Russian aggression and Chinese provocation; and by the American plan to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2017, “which Indians believe will foster disorder and direct threats to India.”

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