Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday pushed for deeper ties with the US, describing it as an “indispensable partner”, even as he called for isolating countries that harbour and sponsor terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Islamic State.
During his address to a joint sitting of the US Congress, Modi made no mention of Pakistan but it was clear who he was referring to. While specifically naming Pakistan-based LeT, Modi said the policy to counter terror must delink religion from the menace and make no distinction between “good” and “bad” terrorists.
Modi addressed members of the House of Representatives and the Senate a day after his meeting with President Barack Obama, who backed India’s candidature for the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group. The two sides also agreed on the building of six nuclear reactors in India and measures to ratify the Paris climate accord.
“In every sector of India’s forward march, I see the US as an indispensable partner,” said Modi, whose remarks were repeatedly applauded by the lawmakers.
“Many of you also believe that a stronger and prosperous India is in America’s strategic interest. Let us work together to convert shared ideals into practical cooperation.”
The Prime Minister described terrorism as the biggest threat “not just in Afghanistan, but elsewhere in South Asia, and globally”.
“In the territory stretching from west of India’s border to Africa, it may go by different names, from Laskhar-e-Taiba, to Taliban to ISIS. But its philosophy is common: of hate, murder and violence,” said Modi, who was clad in a white kurta-pyjama and grey waistcoat with a handkerchief in the colours of the national flag tucked in his pocket.
Though the shadow of terrorism is spreading across the world, “it is incubated in India’s neighbourhood”, he said.
Without naming Pakistan, he commended members of the US Congress for sending a clear message to “those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains”.
“Refusing to reward them is the first step towards holding them accountable for their actions,” he added.
His remarks were an apparent reference to the blocking of a US subsidy for the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan by American lawmakers. Several leading lawmakers have recently questioned Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and accused it of duplicity.
Modi said the fight against terrorism must be based on a policy “that isolates those who harbour, support and sponsor terrorists; that does not distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists; and that delinks religion from terrorism”.
“Also, for us to succeed, those who believe in humanity must come together to fight for it as one, and speak against this menace in one voice. Terrorism must be delegitimised,” he said.
Terrorism, he said, has to be fought at many levels and the traditional tools of military, intelligence or diplomacy will not be able to win this fight, he said while calling for deeper security cooperation with the US.
Both nations stand to “gain in great measure” while advancing their relationship, Modi said.
“As the US businesses search for new areas of economic growth, markets for their goods, a pool of skilled resources, and global locations to produce and manufacture, India could be their ideal partner,” he said.
India’s strong economy and growth rate of 7.6% per annum is creating new opportunities for mutual prosperity, while transformative American technologies in India and growing investment by Indian companies in the US have a positive impact on the lives of the people, he added.
“Today, for their global research and development centres, India is the destination of choice for the US companies. Looking eastward from India, across the Pacific, the innovation strength of our two countries comes together in California,” Modi said.