NEW DELHI - Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the United States would launch trilateral talks with India and Afghanistan at next month’s United Nations meetings in New York.

Kerry said Islamabad should not feel isolated by planned trilateral talks between the United States, India and Afghanistan.

Kerry announced the initiative on a visit to New Delhi, and his show of support for his Indian hosts marked a departure from Washington’s usual neutrality regarding the nuclear-armed South Asian antagonists.

Kerry said the United States would open the trilateral talks at the forthcoming United Nations meetings in New York with a view to stabilising Afghanistan, whose US-backed government is struggling to contain Taliban rebels.

“My hope is that Pakistan as a country is not isolated by this but is encouraged by this,” Kerry said, referring to the trilateral initiative.

India has provided a little over $2 billion in economic assistance to Afghanistan in the last 15 years and said recently it would deliver more arms to Afghanistan.

Kerry said the United States was working to address tensions in Afghanistan’s fragile coalition of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. India’s participation in the talks could only help strengthen those efforts and underscore to the Afghan leaders the importance of a stable and unified Afghanistan, he added.

Kerry also urged Pakistan to do more to counter extremist groups operating from its soil as Washington and New Delhi announced measures to strengthen security and energy ties.

Kerry declared that ties once clouded by suspicion had progressed “amazingly” in the last two years and echoed President Barack Obama’s description of their relationship as “the defining partnership of the 21st century”.

A flare-up in violence in Held Kashmir meant that India’s arch-rival Pakistan featured prominently in talks between Kerry and his counterpart, Sushma Swaraj.

After External Affairs Minister Swaraj reiterated long-running accusations that Pakistan was “providing safe havens to terror groups,” Kerry also urged Islamabad to do more to combat extremists operating from its territory.

He said it was vital Islamabad moved to “deprive any group of sanctuary”, highlighting the threat posed by Lashkar-e-Taiba. “We will not and we cannot make distinctions between good and bad terrorists... Terrorism is terrorism,” Kerry said at a press conference alongside Swaraj.

Kerry denounced terrorism in all its forms, saying the US “stands with India against all terrorism no matter where it comes from.” But, he did say he had spoken recently with Pakistani officials about “the need for Pakistan to deprive any (terrorist) group of sanctuary.” He specifically named the Haqqani network that operates in Afghanistan.

“It is vital that Pakistan join with other nations in tackling this challenge, and in fairness, in recent weeks and months they have been moving more authoritatively,” Kerry said.

Kerry said the US government had “had conversations with all members of the region frankly about efforts they need to take against terrorism which comes out of their country”, adding that he had personally raised the issue with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Swaraj said there was “a meeting of minds” during her talks with Kerry on tackling the threats posed by extremists as she reiterated long-standing accusations that Pakistan was sponsoring “cross-border terrorism”.

“We repeated our stand that Pakistan should stop providing safe havens to terror groups... We also agreed that countries must not categorise terrorists as good or bad,” said the Indian foreign minister.

She ruled out any dialogue with Islamabad, saying “talks with Pakistan will happen only when it takes steps on the Pathankot attack” since “terror and talks cannot go hand in hand”.

Both sides said that there had been an agreement to step up cooperation on intelligence. “We agree on additional measures to strengthen our counterterrorism,” said Swaraj. “We will intensify intelligence sharing.”

He also said there had been an agreement “to move forward” on long-standing plans for six nuclear reactors which he said would provide electricity to tens of millions of people, without giving more details.

The deal involving US giant Westinghouse has been held up in the past by concerns over an Indian law that would make US companies liable for accidents at plants they helped build.

The start of Kerry’s two-day visit came only hours after the two sides signed an agreement in Washington that allows access to each other’s military bases for repairs and resupplies.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar sealed the pact in efforts to strengthen defence ties to counter concerns over China’s growing military assertiveness.

Carter said the agreement would make joint operations between their militaries logistically easier and more efficient.

Washington has increasingly turned its focus to Asia as it tries to counter China’s growing clout in the South China Sea, and is eager for India to play a greater role in a network of defence alliances.

The two sides are also keen to expand business ties, with the US targeting an increase in two-way trade from $100 billion to $500 billion.

US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who is accompanying Kerry, praised recent reforms by the Indian government which has moved to ease caps on foreign direct investment in a range of business sectors.

“As a result of the reforms, the US and India trade more with each other, invest more in each other, and do more business together than ever before,” she said.