The US will not tolerate cross- border terrorism or terrorist safe havens anywhere, its newly- appointed Ambassador Kenneth Juster said today, asserting that USD 2 billion military aid to Pakistan was suspended as America felt "they have not done as much as they could in eliminating terror sanctuaries" there. In his first public speech after taking over as the ambassador in November, Juster talked about robust Indo-US partnership in key areas of defence and counter-terrorism and pitched for enhanced trade ties while describing India as a "net provider" of security in the Indo-Pacific region. He said President Donald Trump and other US leaders have been clear that they will not "tolerate cross-border terrorism or terrorist safe havens anywhere". "As part of this effort, last month we launched the first-ever US-India Counterterrorism Designations Dialogue. We need to continue to enhance the sharing of information, designations of terrorists, combating of financial crimes and networks, and disruption and dismantling of terrorist camps and operations both regionally and globally," Juster said. However, he made no reference to Pakistan in his speech. The US recently suspended USD 2 billion military aid to Islamabad for failing to clamp down on the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network terror groups and dismantle their safe havens. When asked why the terror groups which were active against India were not named while suspension of the aid, Juster said, "Pakistan is important too for the situation in Afghanistan." "Don't think we will get stability in Afghanistan if Pakistan does not positively contribute. That was the major factor behind the suspension as we feel they have not done as much as they could in eliminating terror sanctuaries in Pakistan that are contributing to instability in Afghanistan," he added. Emphasising that it was time to make sure that the Indo- US strategic partnership is a durable one, Juster stressed on the need to view the Indo-US ties strategically and not from the "signature initiatives". He also noted that a combination of India's interest in technology and engaging in the co-development and co- production of military equipment and the US's interest in safeguarding information and technology underpins the future success of initiatives in defence sector. "These interests will never be perfectly aligned, and the burdens cannot fall only on one party or another.
The two sides need to patiently make step-by-step progress on these defence initiatives rather than expect to resolve all issues at once," he said. "With that in mind, perhaps in the next year we can announce major agreements enabling cooperation in areas such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms; fighter aircraft production; and the co-development of next generation systems, including a Future Vertical Lift platform or Advanced Technology Ground Combat Vehicles," he added. Talking about various facets of Indo-US ties, which have evolved in last 17 years, Juster said some of the landmark steps along the way include the expansion of defence cooperation and combined military exercises, the work of the High Technology Cooperation Group, the historic civil nuclear deal, the nearly six-fold increase in bilateral trade, and the designation of India as a "major defence partner". He also acknowledged that the US and India had initial "strained" exchanges on topics related to the transfer of sensitive US technology with both military and conventional applications. "Now, India is celebrating its membership in two of the four multilateral export control regimes the Wassenaar Arrangement on dual-use items, which India just joined, and the Missile Technology Control Regime. We also expect in the very near future India to join the Australia Group on chemical and biological weapons," he said and added that the US was "working closely" with the international partners to secure India's membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Juster also talked about shared values and "common interests" of India, which was a "leading power in the region and beyond", and the US for the strategically significant Indo-Pacific region, sea lanes of which contain many of the vital choke points for global trade. He said both India and the US want "a free and open region, where the rule of law and democratic principles are reflected in a rules-based order; promote respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; guarantee freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce, and other lawful uses of the sea". The remarks come in the backdrop of increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region. On defence and counter-terrorism, Juster observed that both India and the US have suffered "horrific terrorist attacks" and continue to be targeted. "We have a strong mutual interest in eliminating this threat to our societies." A major part of Juster's speech was on ways to enhance economic and commercial relations and underlined that the US is concerned about persistent trade deficits with India. Importantly, he stated that a number of US companies have reported "increasing difficulties" conducting business in China and accordingly some companies are downgrading their operations there, while others are looking with great interest at alternative markets. "India can seize the strategic opportunity through trade and investment to become an alternative hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region," he said, adding that Trump's poll slogan 'America First' and the Centre's flagship initiative 'Make in India' are not incompatible. Asked about the US ties with China, he said his country wants to have a constructive relationship with every country in the region. "We want to have a constructive relationship with the Chinese as well. But we also want to make it clear that if they are going to be engaged in certain predatory economic behaviour or other activities than there's an alternative set of principles that other countries of the region are going to follow," he said. He also added that "we can have more points of convergence than divergence but the only way to try to make that happen is to constructively build something on our part that China sees benefit to be a part of.
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