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US President Donald Trump on Tuesday vowed to boost America’s strategic partnership with India in Afghanistan but pressed New Delhi to provide more help to the war-torn country, especially in the economic sector, as it makes billions of dollars in trade with America.
Trump, in his first prime-time televised address to the nation as commander-in-chief, laid out his South Asia policy saying a "critical part" of it was to further develop US' strategic partnership with India.
He said after a "comprehensive review", it was decided that the American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically.
The US President reached out to India seeking an enhanced role for New Delhi, especially in the economic field, to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. India, the world's largest democracy, is a key security and economic partner of the US, he said. "We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the US, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development," Trump said.
"We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region," said the US President.
Indo-US bilateral trade in goods and services increased from $104 billion in 2014 to $114 billion in 2016.
India has a strategic partnership with Afghanistan and is implementing projects worth $2 billion to help rebuild the country's infrastructure.
In June last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurated a landmark dam, a Rs 1,700-crore showpiece infrastructure project by India in strategically important Herat province.
In his speech, Trump came down heavily on Pakistan for its support to terror groups, saying Islamabad receives billions in aid from the US but continues to harbour terrorists.
"We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond," he said.
"In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognise those contributions and those sacrifices," Trump said.
"But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people," he added.
Trump noted that the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars but it continues to house the very terrorists that America is fighting.
"But that will have to change. That will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country's harbouring of militants and terrorists who target US service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace," Trump said.
In a statement following Trump's address, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the president's views on enhanced role for India in the new South Asia strategy.
"India will be an important partner in the effort to ensure peace and stability in the region, and we welcome its role in supporting Afghanistan's political and economic modernisation," he said.