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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

US Dy Secy of State: India, US have one mind, one approach on Afghanistan

Meanwhile, the US Deputy Secretary of State hoped that the US and India will be able to resolve the differences over New Delhi's procurement of a batch of S-400 air defence missile systems from Russia.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: October 7, 2021 3:23:04 am
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla (Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia)

UNDERLINING THAT New Delhi and Washington have “one mind and one approach” on Afghanistan, the visiting US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, said on Wednesday that India, US and a group of “like-minded countries” have a video conference call every week where they share ideas and perspectives on how to approach the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Spelling out the common redlines — an inclusive government, rights of minorities, women and children, no safe haven for terrorists — Sherman, who is known to be a tough negotiator, said: “We believe the Taliban must act, not just speak words. None of us are in a rush for recognition, let alone some legitimacy. We have to see actions, not just words.”

Sherman, who met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Wednesday, said that India’s “security is first and foremost” in US’s considerations and will always be “front and centre”. The India-US counter-terrorism dialogue will take place from October 26 to 28.

This was Sherman’s first visit to India in her present capacity. Sherman was the lead US negotiator on the P-5+1 deal with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA), and was the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (equivalent to Foreign Secretary) in the Obama administration.


Kabul, Indo-Pacific on agenda

India and the US have laid out a roadmap for bilateral engagements in the next few weeks. The defence secretary and finance minister will travel to the US soon, and security officials will also meet. This will lead up to the 2+2 ministerial meeting between the defence and foreign ministers' from both sides. From Afghanistan to the Indo-Pacific, Delhi and Washington have a broad agenda ahead.

In an interaction with some journalists, Sherman, while responding to questions, said: “The US and India are absolutely of one mind and one approach when it comes to Afghanistan. And India, as a partner, has been part of a group of many like-minded countries that, all through the evacuation out of Afghanistan and now on an ongoing basis, has been part of a video teleconference every other day, and now every week, where like-minded nations share ideas and perspectives on how to approach the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

“And we have laid out together… exactly the kind of parameters that India has laid out, which is that the Taliban must create an inclusive government, ensure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for terrorists, that the Taliban allow the safe and orderly travel of people who wish to relocate, that they subscribe to human rights, including the rights of women, girls and minorities, that there must not be reprisal or revenge, that this will be a functional government that in fact lives by universal values,” she said.

“We believe that the Taliban must act, not just speak words. We have not seen them follow through on some of the things they said verbally. Their minds change on a daily basis. And indeed, we have to see actions. But I believe none of us are in a rush for recognition, let alone some legitimacy. We have to see actions, not just words,” she said.

Sherman said they support humanitarian assistance operated through NGOs or the UN. “But we do not believe that now’s the time to provide money directly (to the Taliban),” she said.

Asked about the S-400 deal between India and Russia, she said that “it’s dangerous” and “not in anybody’s security”. “We have a strong partnership” and discussions are going on between India and the US on this issue, she said. On the US’s engagement with China, she said the US strategy is to “compete, challenge and cooperate”.

After the meeting, Jaishankar tweeted, “Glad to meet US @DeputySecState Wendy Sherman today. A good conversation on our relationship, its significance and its growth. Appreciated the successful visit of PM @narendramodi to the US and the Quad Leaders’ Summit.”

Sherman is scheduled to hold meetings with the business community in Mumbai on Thursday, before she heads to Pakistan for talks.

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