Kerry calls India net security provider, talks of its expanding global role

Kerry arrived in New Delhi on Monday night India time for the second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 31, 2016, 10.24 AM (IST) Ramesh Ramachandran
The US secretary of state Mr John Kerry got to his talk at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi an hour late but he more than made up for it in his speech. He said, among other things Indians would have liked to hear, the US saw India as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean commensurate with its expanding global role. 

Kerry is in India on a three-day visit to take part in the second Indo-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. He was this morning talking to about 200 students at the Indian Institute of Technology, the venue having been chosen because its alumni have gone on to head large enterprises both in the US (Sun Microsystems) and in India (Flipkart and Snapdeal) and the two countries think of entrepreneurship as a significant creator of jobs going into the future.

Coming back to India, Mr Kerry said the country and Bangladesh have been able to resolve their maritime differences because India chose to accept the Hague court's verdict. He added that China and the Philippines will have to do the same when it comes to their conflict over the South China Sea -- that they will have to abide by the Hague's decision which Mr Kerry said was "final and legally binding". 

There is no military solution, he added, to the South China Sea dispute.

He also talked about deepening India and US cooperation. He was referring to the LEMOA agreement (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) signed by India and the US -- the Indian defence minister Mr Manohar Parrikar is in America at the moment -- on Monday which allows the militaries of both countries to use each others bases for resupply and repair purposes. 

And in what the Indians would have liked to hear, he blamed conflict around the world on "non-state actors". 

'Pakistan has work to do'

Mr Kerry said Pakistan has to do more to clear terror sanctuaries on its soil and push harder against "indigenous groups" operating from its territory. They, he said, are affecting ties with India and Afghanistan's peace and stability.

The US secretary of state said that he has discussed with Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif the issue of taking stronger action against groups such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Terror groups like Daesh, Al Qaeda, LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), he said, cannot be fought by a single nation alone.

"We are working on it. I have been working on this issue very hard. I have had many engagements with Nawaz Sharif. We have been talking on the sanctuaries in the western part of the country, how to deal more effectively with the Haqqani network and the LeT.

"It is clear that Pakistan has work to do in order to push harder against its indigenous groups that are engaged in terrorist activities. They must work with us to help clear sanctuary of bad actors who are affecting not only India- Pakistan relationship but also our ability to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan," Kerry said. 
But, Mr Kerry added, Pakistan has fastened the process in recent months. 

Democracy, pluralism & free speech

Mr Kerry talked for about half an hour, which was followed by a question and answer session for about the same length of time. He touched on a number of topics, which included global warming, energy, trade and economy, and culture, under which subhead he talked about democracy and pluralism. 

For example, on globalisation he said: no one can put that genie back in the bottle.

On South Asia, he said: it is the least inter-connected market. 

It was not the most riveting of speeches. Mr Kerry has done better in the past, and it was certainly no match for the speech US President Obama had given in Delhi in early 2015. (In that speech too, Mr Obama had talked about pluralism and how India must not let go of it easily.) 

But the comments by Kerry that made people prick up their ears were: "People should be allowed to protest in peace" and "People should not be jailed for speech or the things they say". 

Mr Kerry's comments are open to interpretation for they could equally be applied to both countries -- India and the US. 

Close to 70 protesters have been shot dead by security forces in the Indian state of Kashmir over the last seven weeks, and sedition charges were filed recently against Amnesty International India after a few Kashmiri members in the audience at a function organised by Amnesty shouted azaadi (freedom) slogans. 

Correspondingly, there have been massive protests in the US after a number of African American men were shot dead by police forces. And the idea of free speech -- or pluralism and democracy -- seems to be at variance with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's current election campaign.

(Written by Parakram Rautela, with inputs from agencies)