By Arul Louis
New York: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump pledged to strengthen security and economic cooperation and build on the Indo-Pacific partnership during a wide-ranging phone conversation, according to the White House.
While discussing the cooperation between their democracies on Thursday, they looked forward to the “2+2 Meeting” of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in April, a White House statement said.
“The leaders pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said, adding “Affirming President Trump’s South Asia strategy, they reiterated their commitment to supporting Afghanistan’s security and stability.”
In their review of the South Asia and Indo-Pacific regions, the statement said: “Both leaders expressed concern about the political crisis in Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law.”
On Afghanistan, which was the keystone of the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017, they reiterated their commitment to support efforts to support the violence-wracked nation’s security and stability.
Closer to India, they discussed ways to address the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and the situation in that country, the statement said.
On North Korea, an issue at the top of US foreign policy priorities, the two leaders discussed further steps to denuclearise Pyongyang.
While China is working on forging close links with the nation of Indian Ocean atolls and backing Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, New Delhi and Washington share a common perspective and want a return to democracy and an end to the state of emergency declared by Yameen on Monday.
After the Supreme Court overturned the terrorism conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed as well as the convictions of eight other politicians on several charges, Yameen clamped down the emergency.
Two of the five Supreme Court judges were arrested by government forces and the other three overturned their unanimous ruling ordering the release of the nine politicians.
As part of his South Asia strategy, Trump wanted India to provide more aid to Afghanistan.
He also put Islamabad on notice for harbouring terrorists, and followed it up last month by withholding security assistance to Pakistan estimated at over $1 billion.
In the Indo-Pacific region, Trump is promoting cooperation between the four democracies – Indian, US, Japan and Australia – to be a countervailing force to China.