NEW DELHI: Manila meeting held between VK Singh and Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting caps a week of renewed engagement between India and the US. It comes at a time when the Trump administration is working on a South Asia policy to deal with one of the longest and most difficult wars in Afghanistan.

Participation was seen from senior ranking officials from the State, Pentagon, and National Security Council in the 1.5 track dialogue held in India by the MEA and think tank Ananta Centre this week. Foreign secretary Jaishankar, and NSA Ajit Doval, amongst others was met by Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary for South Asia, Lisa Curtis, senior director in NSC and Cara Abercrombie from the Pentagon.

India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement at the Indo-US forum this week made it clear that India was watching Trump administration’s evolving South Asia/Af-Pak policy with interest. “We deeply appreciate the sacrifices made by the US to preserve peace, security, and democracy in Afghanistan,” she said.

According to sources, Trump is looking for a new approach towards the ongoing war in Afghanistan, where he claims that the current method is “not winning” them the war. The effort therefore is to look at new approaches, said sources familiar with the exercise. 

The core of the new policy seems to rest on these pillars: bolstering the security forces in Afghanistan, bringing down training missions, pursuing terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaida and pushing the Ghani government to reform to some level of efficiency. The peace and reconciliation process, which was such an important part in the Obama administration policy, could be placed in a regional context that will involve Afghanistan's neighbours — which makes sense, given the dynamics that fuel Taliban's continued relevance in Afghanistan.

While the Trump administration is demonstrably less captivated of Pakistan than previous US governments, Washington is looking to use a "mix of tools" to persuade Pakistan to cooperate with the US in Afghanistan. Previously, Pakistan has used these opportunities to ask for more weapons and greater leeway against India, which is something India would like to avoid.