India today called for enhanced co-operation with the United States in counter-terrorism, defence and trade, as Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai began consultations with his American counterparts on a range of bilateral and regional issues.
"Our mutual investment in the India-US partnership is actually all about making our people safer and more prosperous," Mathai said in his address to the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington-based eminent American think tank while setting the stage for deepening Indo-US ties in second term of the Obama administration.
"It is also about jointly addressing the growing complexities of a world in which the people of India and their American partners face many of the same global challenges. And it is in working towards addressing this strategic reality that our partnership will be defined in the decades ahead," Mathai said.
Soon thereafter Mathai and his team of officials drove to Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department for day-long series of in-depth deliberations with top American officials including a meeting with newly-appointed Secretary of State John Kerry.
Earlier, Mathai in his Carnegie speech laid out the broader contour of the India-US relationship as New Delhi wants it in the second term of the Obama administration.
"First, from our perspective, closer and more effective cooperation between us on terrorism is critical. There is strong public support in India for this aspect of our partnership. Obviously, this has an impact on our bilateral and trilateral consultations on Afghanistan and the region," he said.
"We recognise and welcome your enduring commitment to the security and stability of Afghanistan. We hope that our concerns will also factor into your calculations," Mathai said.
Without directly mentioning David Headley - the 26/11 convict - of whom India is seeking extradition, Mathai said counter-terrorism is an area which must continue to strengthen, including in exchanging information and working to bring terrorists to justice.
"We are aware of the specificities of legal procedure and their requirements but we need to commit to the goal of assisting our authorities in the pursuit of justice," he said.
"The relationship between us must now stand squarely on its own merits. It has taken decades for us to stop viewing each other from the prism of each other's relationships with third countries," Mathai said.
"As you re-calibrate your presence in Afghanistan, we hope that the transformation of our relationship can accelerate, based on the unique merits of what each side brings to the table," he said.
Reflecting on India's constructive role in Afghanistan which has been praised by the US, Mathai reiterated New Delhi's commitment towards development of the war-torn country and told the American audience that India will not leave Afghanistan.
"Why is India involved? Very simply, history has taught us that whatever happens in Afghanistan has and will continue to affect our security directly and materially. We have not forgotten the terrorist havens that targeted us, springing up as Afghanistan descended into chaos in the 1990s. And obviously, we do not want that to happen again," he said.
Expressing satisfaction over the co-operation between the two countries in multilateral forums, Mathai said there is room to do more.
"We have begun to work together well in a number of multilateral fora-the G-20 is a case in point. We appreciate the support of the US for our membership in various multilateral export control regimes. There is also room for us to do more together as our interests coincide with yours in the maintenance of a strong and stable global and regional architecture," he said.
"However, to keep this process on the rails, it is important that the signalling remains positive. We have been told that the US has placed a strategic bet on India's rise; therefore it makes little sense to accept strategic arguments from those working to make you lose that bet," Mathai said.
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