Against the backdrop of terror strikes in Jammu, India’s concerns over continued activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba emanating from Pakistan and freedom to Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed are expected to figure in the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama on Friday.
Giving this indication, Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao today said India will articulate its concerns over continued cross-border terrorism, particularly since LeT is now a part of global terror network and endangers more than one country.
“We haven’t let this matter go off the radar This issue concerning Lashkar-e-Taiba and activities of Hafiz Saeed are very much on the agenda of discussions that we have with the US at every given opportunity,” she said in her pre-meeting briefing to reporters.
She was responding when asked whether the activities of LeT and Hafiz Saeed would be raised by the Prime Minister during the talks with Obama considering that the US had declared a reward of USD 10 million for him and the meeting is taking place against the backdrop of yesterday’s twin terror strikes in Jammu.
Denying any dilution of its stand on LeT and Hafiz Saeed, Rao said, “The issue of cross-border terrorism and the threat we continue to face in our homeland on this issue is a very great concern.”
The former Foreign Secretary said she believed that the US is aware of the “depth” of India’s concerns.
“The fact is that LeT is not confined in its activities to the sub-continent. They have become virtually global terrorist group combine now and their activities are felt and endanger security in more than one country. I think the US is aware of that and is concerned,” she said.
To a question about Obama going to host Nawaz Sharif later this month, Rao said there was no need for unnecessary concern over it as the US has its own relations with Pakistan and its democratically-elected Prime Minister. Indias relations with the US stand on their own, she said.
Singh and Obama will discuss, among various things, cooperation in the field of homeland security, maritime security, defence cooperation and situation in Afghanistan and other parts of the region.
Speaking in the context of trade and investment ties, the Ambassador said the issue of proposed changes in the US immigration laws will be raised amid India’s concerns over it.
“Trade grew rapidly in the recent years, touching USD 100 billion. Services is the engine of growth. This is why the ongoing discussion Comprehensive Immigration Reforms Bill and that aspect of the reforms that touches the skilled IT professionals from India has been receiving our close attention. So this will be flagged,” she said.
Rao said, “Probably, the US side also has some issues that it has raised from time to time, related to investments and economic reforms process in India.”
The Ambassador said India has sought to address US’ concerns in “a candid manner, open and transparent manner.
“We would like US to understand the development challenges that India faces, the situation in which we live in terms of the environment around us.”
Earlier on his arrival, the Prime Minister said the US is one of the most important strategic partner of India.
“And during President Obama’s regime, we have taken several steps to widen and deepen this partnership in diverse fields,” he said.
“And during the present visit, we will review the progress that has been made and also what further can be done to give added meaning and content to this partnership,” Singh told reporters immediately after landing at the Andrews Air Force Base.
“The United States is one of India’s most important trading partners, important provider of investment and technology support for India’s development and we need the United States on our side as we move to give new added trust to our development programmes,” he said.
“We will also review the international situation particularly with reference to international economic situation and other important areas like South East Asia, Middle East and West Asia,” Singh said.
The Obama-Singh meeting would not only review the progress made in the relationship but also set the pace and scope of the ties between the two largest democracies of the world and help accelerate the momentum of the co-operation, Rao said.
With regard to the proposed changes in the non-immigrant visa rules that would affect H1B visas, Nirupama Rao said though the issue is “still work in progress”, the Indian side has voiced concern with US lawmakers.
She said if these restrictions become a reality, then the Indian IT professionals will be affected considering the kind of business module Indian companies have. “We have been candid. Our concern is understood by our interlocutors but don’t know what will happen We don’t know what the final shape will be,” she said.