India lives in most difficult neighbourhood: PC

This is the first high-level meeting between the two nations since US President Obama’s trip to India in November last year.

Last Updated: May 27, 2011, 15:11 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The first US-India Homeland Security dialogue began here on Friday during which Union Home Minister P Chidambaram told his American counterpart Janet Napolitano that Pakistan continues to support terrorism despite growing international pressure on it.

"India lives in the most difficult neighbourhood in the world as terrorism infrastructure in Pakistan has flourished as an instrument of state policy," Chidambaram said in his opening remarks.

Calling for stronger Indo-US ties to combat terrorism and other threats, Chidambaram stressed on the need for a "stable, peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood" for the security of the
people of India.

"It is a truism to say that India lives in perhaps the most difficult neighbourhood in the world. The global epicentre of terrorism is in our immediate western neighbourhood, “ he added.

Terming terrorism as the "principal challenge" for both the countries, the Home Minister advocated the need to deal with a range of other challenges, including counterfeit
currency, narcotics trafficking, threats and risks in cyber space.

"Today, different terrorist groups, operating from the safe havens in Pakistan, are becoming increasingly fused. The society in Pakistan has become increasingly radicalised. Its
economy has weakened and the state structure in Pakistan has become fragile, " he stated.

"Given the complexity of our region, our Government has a comprehensive neighbourhood strategy that is based on political engagement, especially with Pakistan, support for
political stability, assistance for economic development and improved connectivity and market access for our neighbours to the Indian economy," Chidambaram said.

"A stable, peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood is vital for the security of the people of India," he said.
During the talks, Chidambaram maintained, "A strong and effective India-US cooperation in homeland security and
counter-terrorism is indispensable for our strategic partnership."

"One of the key elements of the India-US relationship is our engagement on the issue of terrorism and on counter-terrorism cooperation. Dealing with the challenge of terrorism is a priority for the people of India. There has always been great public and political expectation about India-US cooperation on counter-terrorism, "Chidambaram stressed.

"This is because of our shared values, the growth of strategic partnership between our two countries, US expertise and capabilities, and the perception in India that the United States exercises a strong influence on the country that is the hub of global terror," the Home Minister said.

Chidambaram also appreciated the US efforts to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack, and others associated with it, to justice.

"Our cooperation must cover all aspects of the challenges that we face (by) anticipating and predicting threats, taking preventive or pre-emptive measures, or responding effectively
and quickly to incidents.
"Therefore, we must further deepen our ties in intelligence, information and assessment sharing, cooperation in investigations and forensics, protecting cities, infrastructure, people and trade and developing capabilities," he said.

The Home Minister proposed a meeting between Home Secretary and the US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security after six months to review progress.

During the discussion the two sides deliberated on issues of mutual interest including coastal security, mega city policing, countering illicit financing and trans-national crime, cyber security, accessing and sharing of data relating to terrorism, transfer of counter-terrorism and homeland security equipment to each other.

Chidambaram and Napolitano will later hold a joint press briefing on Friday evening at Hotel Ashoka here.
As the day-long talks coincide with the ongoing trial in Chicago of November 2008 terror strike accused Tahawwur Rana, the two sides are also expected to exchange views on ‘capacity building and mutual assistance in investigations including in the Mumbai attack’.

During the trial in Chicago, Pakistani-born American terrorist David Coleman Headley has linked Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to the Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist group that planned and executed the attack which left 166 people, including six Americans, dead.

(With PTI inputs)