Doval’s U.S. visit reinforces counter-terrorism cooperation

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) welcomes Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor, before their meeting at the Pentagon in Washington on Friday.  

The Trump administration is seeking to deepen its counter-terrorism cooperation with India and expand it further, sources here said after National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval’s meetings with top U.S. officials this week.

Mr. Doval met U.S. Defence Secretary General (Retd) James Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security General (rtd.) John Kelly and National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H R McMaster.

In all these meetings, the common thread was expansion and deepening of cooperation in collectively addressing the challenge posed by terrorism in South Asia.

Mr. Doval also met Senator John McCain, Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee and Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the powerful Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Mattis specifically applauded India’s efforts to promote stability in the South Asia region. Both leaders reaffirmed building upon the significant defence cooperation progress made in recent years,” Pentagon spokesperson Capt. Jeff Davis said in a readout of the meeting, adding that the two leaders discussed their role in cooperating to uphold international laws and principles.

“Secretary Mattis and NSA Doval further discussed collaboration on a wide range of regional security matters, including maritime security and counter terrorism. The two pledged to continue the strong defence partnership between both nations,” Capt. Davis said.

Mr. Doval and Mr. McMaster during their meeting at the White House on Thursday “committed” to work together as partners to “combat the full spectrum” of terrorist threats, affirming that both great democracies stand together in the fight against terrorism, a senior Trump administration official said.

“All the meetings were very warm, very positive, very constructive. I think there is an open approach to India,” Indian sources said as Doval concluded his meetings in Washington DC on Friday.

This was Mr. Doval’s second trip to the US after Mr. Trump won the presidential elections in November.

In December, he met NSA-designate Gen (Retd) Michael Flynn, who resigned a few weeks after he took over the job due to the controversy surrounding Russian diplomats during the transition and election campaign.

Mr. Flynn was quickly replaced by McMaster who, according to the officials, has a very positive view about India.

“The discussions [in all these meetings] covered India’s economic plans, reforms, growth. They covered our core security concerns, regional concerns, defence and security aspect of the India-U.S. engagement,” the senior official said on condition of anonymity.

For instance, the meeting at the Pentagon covered defence relationship and issues such as  maritime security.

“Naturally the challenge, nature and manifestation of terrorism and cooperation with regard,” the official said, adding that the sense from these meetings came out that the Trump administration seeks to take forward the upward trajectory of this bilateral relationship.

With Homeland Security, issues of radicalisation, cooperation in border controls, issues of information sharing, which can help fight terrorists, popped up.

The Trump administration officials were interested in hearing from Mr. Doval on New Delhi’s views in the region, in particular Afghanistan and vice versa, informed sources said.

In some of the conversations, issues like demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) also popped up, reflecting the close interest that the U.S. has in the economic growth of India.

There was no specific discussion on Pakistan, but it figured in the context of terrorism in the region.

Inside the Trump administration leadership, it is clear how this Indian neighbour is closely associated with terrorism, the official said.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 8:37:24 AM |

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