Kamala Harris slams Pakistan on terror in meeting with Narendra Modi
US Vice-President Kamala Harris on Thursday called upon Pakistan to act against terrorist groups operating from its soil to ensure they do not threaten the security of both the United States and India and underscored the need to closely monitor Islamabad’s support for terrorism.
Kamala Harris’s remarks came during her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that lasted over an hour and “reflected warmth and cordiality”. She also accepted Narendra Modi’s invitation to visit India and said she had wanted to “go back”, reminiscing about her earlier visits and the time she spent there.
The meeting with Kamala Harris was politically important for the Indian prime minister because Kamala Harris, a leading progressive in the Democratic party, had been severely critical of the Modi government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 guaranteeing special status of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir and the enactment of the Citizenship Act that speeds up Indian citizenship for Hindus seeking refuge in India from repressive regimes.
Other progressives who had been critical of these measures were Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Additionally, the vice-president’s niece Meena Harris brought the Modi government further grief by endorsing celebrities who came out in support of farmers protesting a legislation that they feared would strip them of government protection. Kamala Harris did not bring up any of these issues at the talks, according to all available indications.
Kamala Harris and Narendra Modi had made initial remarks before their bilateral meeting, in which they had reiterated the importance of the relationship between the two countries and had stressed shared concerns and priorities such as climate change and Covid-19 and the need to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The two leaders had a short one-on-one interaction without aides and officials, before starting the bilateral, during which time Vice-President Kamala Harris, whose late mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris was born and raised in India, reminisced about her visits to India and the time she spent with her grandfather, said people familiar with the conversation. She expressed the desire to “go back”, it was said.
She has accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to her and first gentleman Douglas Emhoff to visit India, but there was no word on the timing.
PAKISTAN AND TERRORISM
Pakistan came up at the bilateral meeting when the two sides were discussing terrorism. “The vice-president, suo moto (on her own, unprompted) referred to Pakistan’s role in that regard,” Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters at a news briefing.
The vice-president further said that there were terror groups that were working there. “She asked Pakistan to take action so that these groups do not impact on our security and that of India,” the foreign secretary said further, adding, “She agreed with the prime minister’s briefing on the fact of cross-border terrorism, and the fact that India had been a victim of terrorism for several decades now; and on the need to rein in and closely monitor Pakistan’s support for such terrorist groups.”
Kamala Harris’s ringing rebuke of Pakistan’s continued support for terrorism came shortly after another senior member of the Biden administration, secretary of state Antony Blinken expressed US appreciation of Pakistan’s role in continuing diplomatic engagement over Afghanistan and help in evacuating people, to his Pakistan counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in New York.
The United States appreciates “the work that Pakistan has done to facilitate the departure of American citizens who wish to leave as well as others”, Antony Blinken said ahead of their meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
He added, “but a lot to talk about there as well as our own bilateral relationship, including the economic relationship between our countries and working in the region as a whole”.
US-Pakistan ties have been extremely troubled in recent years and have not shown any sign of recovering despite Islamabad’s help in ending the war in Afghanistan, and the evacuation of Americans there. US President Joe Biden, for instance, has still not spoken to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
INDIAN PM MEETS AUSTRALIAN, JAPANESE COUNTERPARTS
The bilateral with the Indian-descent US vice-president was among three the prime minister held on his first day of this US visit. The others were with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga, key Indo-Pacific partners. These were Modi’s first in-person meetings with these leaders and they will all join US President Joe Biden on Friday for the first in-person summit of the Quad.
The meeting with Morrison started early - because the Australian leader arrived way early - and lasted longer than scheduled, which, both Indian and Australian officials said, was a “good thing”. Briefing reporters at the end of the day, foreign secretary Shringla said, “They discussed a broad range of issues, which covered bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual interest. They noted with satisfaction the high level engagement between the two countries.”
This was their first in-person meeting. Scott Morrison was scheduled to visit India in January 2020 but cancelled in view of devastating forest fires and then cancelled his March visit the same year because of Covid-19.
“Outstanding,” Morrison said when asked about the meeting when he was leaving.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his Japanese counterpart went off extremely well also, helped in no small measure by the fact they are staying in the same hotel, although a few floors apart. They are staying at Willard Hotel, just across the street from the White House, whose lobby now defines the practice of lobbying - people intending to meet and influence White House officials would typically hang out in Willard’s lobby.
“They discussed a broad range of issues, which covered bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual interest,” Shringla said of the Narendra Modi’s bilateral with Yoshihide Suga. “They noted with satisfaction the high level engagement between the two countries.”