WASHINGTON - In a major display of solidarity with India, the United States has equated Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) with al-Qaeda, pledging to work with India to disrupt both, according to media reports.
In a joint statement issued simultaneously in Washington and New Delhi, the two states also urged Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice.
In the same statement, Washington assured New Delhi that “the United States looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member”, wish long cherished by New Delhi.
The two ‘allies’ noted that they were faced with the common threat of terrorism and committed to “intensify efforts” to combat it. They also pledged to work together to end proliferation of WMDs, nuclear terrorism and cross-border crime, and to address the misuse of the Internet for terrorist purposes.
The statement followed the fifth US-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi on Thursday. US Secretary of State John Kerry and India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj co-chaired the meeting.
“The leaders called for Pakistan to work toward bringing the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice,” said the statement issued after the talks.
They also “reiterated their condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and reaffirmed their commitment to eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, and disrupting terrorist networks, including al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba.”
US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker accompanied Kerry whose delegation included officials from the US Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and NASA.
This marks the first US cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since the election of the Narendra Modi government. The US had denied Modi a visa because of his alleged involvement in anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat but changed its policy after his election.
At the talks, the two sides recognised that Modi’s decisive mandate provided a unique opportunity to re-energise the US-India relationship.
They also expressed confidence that the summit meeting between Prime Minister Modi and US President Barack Obama in Washington in September this year would generate new dynamism in the relationship.
US Defence Secretary Hagel will visit New Delhi in August 2014 to deepen discussions on military exercises, defence trade, co-production and co-development, and research on new technologies for defence, the joint statement said.
On the other hand, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Thursday told reporters at his daily news conference in Washington that the US has decimated the core leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“What is beyond debate is that prior to 2001, core al-Qaeda was operating in a virtual vacuum in the area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and used that area that was essentially lawless as a base of operations to launch a horrific attack against the United States of America,” Earnest said.
“Since that time, members of the military, members of the intelligence community and others have worked to mitigate that threat, and, in fact, decimated the core al-Qaeda leadership that previously was operating with impunity in that area,” he said.
“I think what we are is we are in a position where we have made significant gains over the last decade or so against al-Qaeda elements that previously operated with impunity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and used that area to launch terrible attacks against the American people. There’s no doubt that we’ve made tremendous progress along those lines,” the official added.