Ahead of India seeking replies on the new Afghan peace process, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday advocated central role for New Delhi in organising next year’s presidential elections. At the same time, he said Taliban has to adhere to the redlines to reach any political settlement.
Kerry arrived in the afternoon from Doha for his three-day trip, the main purpose of which is to co-chair the fourth round of the India-US Strategic Dialogue along with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
“The world’s largest democracy can play a central role in helping the Government of Afghanistan improve its electoral system and create a credible and independent framework for resolving disputes,” Kerry said in his hour-long speech on US-India Strategic Partnership.
Afghanistan would certainly be featured in the talks as India is worried at the hurry with which the West was pushing for talks with the Taliban for a political settlement. The Ministry of External Affairs had on Friday issued a statement strongly supporting Kabul’s position on the talks.
Assuring that no agreement would be rushed through, Kerry said the US knows that “a final settlement may be long in coming”. “And let me be clear. Any political settlement must result in the Taliban breaking ties with al-Qaeda, renouncing violence and accepting the Afghan Constitution, including its protections for all Afghans, women and men,” he asserted. Kerry said even after the departure of international forces from Afghanistan next year, they would continue to aid the Afghan Government. “Afghanistan cannot again become a safe haven for international terrorism,” he asserted. On ties with Pakistan, he said normalising economic ties would be the best way to advance economies. “One of the most fruitful, meaningful ways to advance economy is your continuing normalisation of trade relations with Pakistan,” he said.
Welcoming the 21 per cent increase in Indo-Pak trade, Kerry said it could be the harbinger of “a new era of new India-Pakistan relations that could be based on mutually beneficial trade, and hopefully bring a level of trust”. He said new Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that his country’s chief goal is economic revival and “that is a goal that India and the US share”.
Kerry said if India and Pakistan could “confidently invest in each other, then the rest of the world will more confidently invest in you”.
“The world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy must do more together, uniting not only as a threat to anyone, to counter-weigh some region or other countries, but unite as partners building a strong smart future in a critical age,” Kerry said.
Interestingly, he spoke in Hindi of the proverb ‘Ek aur ek gyarah hote hai’ to illustrate that both countries could complementarily work to take on tough global challenges. In the first part of his speech, Kerry dwelled long on climate change as he tried to persuade that both countries needed to be work “side by side” on UN climate change negotiations. “Here in India, the home of so much of the history of science, we must recognise that today the science of climate change is screaming at us for action,” Kerry said. He said India need not worry that US advocacy would hurt its economy, instead he pointed out that clean energy market could be the biggest economic opportunity for both nations.