'Objective reading' of Azhar case ensures support: US diplomat

'Objective reading' of Azhar case ensures support: US diplomat

'Objective reading' of Azhar case ensures support: US diplomat
Any "objective reading" of India's demand to designate Masood Azhar a terrorist by the UN would lead one to support the case, a top US diplomat today said, in a clear message to China which repeatedly blocked India's efforts to get the JeM chief banned by the world body. "We have to understand and work through what these objections are. Any objective reading of the case would lead one to support the designation (of Azhar by the UN Security Council)," US Ambassador to India Richard Verma told PTI in a telephonic interview on his last day in office in New Delhi.

He said the US was disappointed that the issue has not got through the Security Council yet, but refrained from directly speaking on if China was "siding with terrorism" in this case. "We have been very proud with India to get additional designations in the United Nations. We have named additional entities in LeT and JeM to put additional pressure on these groups and actors. We think the right thing to do would be to designate them (Azhar and others) at the UN," he said.

"We are disappointed that we have not been able to do that." Verma was, however, optimistic the Donald Trump administration will coordinate with India on the issues. "I have every reason to believe the new administration will also move in a coordinated fashion (with India). We got to continue to work with all parties including those who have not been supportive of these designations in the past," he said adding, "we have to stay at it and not back off. It is a very important mechanism to hold people to account for their actions."

As a political appointee, Verma's term ends with President Barack Obama and Trump takes over as the 45th US President. In the two years he has been in New Delhi, Verma, the first Indian-American to be appointed to the top US diplomatic position, said these have been best years for bilateral ties. Responding to another question on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Verma said the Barack Obama administration has had a genuine and tough conversation with Pakistan.

"Terrorism is the biggest threat that confronts the US, people of India, and frankly the people of Pakistan and we have to stand together against this scourge. No one nation can solve those problems on its own. We have been united with our friends in India on ending cross-border terrorism," he said. Verma said India and the US have been sharing more intelligence, adding the bilateral ties is on a "solid upward trajectory" and the relationship has demonstrated that it can create jobs in the world's two largest democracies and deliver economic prosperity and security.

"We have been having regular and tough conversations with leadership in Pakistan, to shut down the transit routes to shut down the safe havens and ensure that people who turn to violence are held to account," he said.

This would take continued co-operation of law enforcement, military and also co-operation to counter the extremist message so that the pull and potential of these groups restricts considerably. Verma said India and the US "had significant gains in economic, defence and strategic co-operation, in clean energy and climate, in all areas that we have worked on."

"Both sides have worked very hard to get to this place." He said the two countries now need to work to further strengthen the relationship. For instance, if the goal is to increase the bilateral trade to USD 500 billion per annum "we should aggressively work" to get there.

"If the goal is to improve the ease of doing business in India, we should work with our colleagues to ensure that tax and regulatory matters are resolved, intellectual property, I think, we made so much progress. If the goal is to expanding our co-production and co-development effort in defense, I think there are some really interesting projects that we could explore," he said.

It's for the new administration to decide what priorities it wants to place, he said. "I have laid out a few ideas. They would have to decide what's most importance to them." Describing the list of accomplishments during the past two years, he said "we have broken every record that we keep" in measuring this relationship.

The two-way trade recorded USD 109 billion – a number five times greater than 10 years ago, a record number of Indian students were studying in the US, there has been a record nine meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama and more Americans travelled to India than ever before." The defence sales numbers are the highest ever, he said further buttressing his argument.

"We cleared every major pending defense sale in the last two years. We broke through the barriers on civil nuclear deal. We expanded our co-operation in the Asia Pacific," he said.

At the same time, he acknowledged some of the issues were still pending. "There is a robust potential agenda in front of the next administration. We made great progress. But more to be done." India is now one of the largest US missions in the world, Verma said.

He said one of the great privileges for him was the opportunity to talk about his parents, grandparents and the experiences that he had in Punjab. "So I am not so far removed from the roots. We have been so warmly welcomed across the country," he said adding that he visited all 29 Indian states. "And you can see it and feel it from the North East to South to the North West, all over the country and you can see the incredible discovery and innovations and hard work that people are doing," he said.

Verma said the states will play an important role in making India a world leader by 2030. But he pushed back on the notion that India was not getting latest technology or military hardware from the US. "I think, those are older arguments. When you look at actual records vast majority of business export and technology transfer to India have been license free and to the extent licenses are required, vast majority of licenses are approved," he said.

Major defence partner, which was granted to India by the US last summer, means that for the purpose of technology transfer, "we would treat India as it is our closest ally and partner," he said. "We are now institutionalising something for future administrations," he said.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox