India defends N Korea, Iran ties
India's foreign minister yesterday defended the country's ties with North Korea and Iran during talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson aimed at building robust relations between the two giant democracies.
Tillerson, who flew in from Pakistan which he called an important US ally in the restive region, said the United States is concerned that extremist groups are threatening the "stability and security" of the Pakistan government.
"Quite frankly my view - and I expressed this to the leadership of Pakistan - is we also are concerned about the stability and security of Pakistan's government as well."
"Terrorist safe havens will not be tolerated," Tillerson said. Pakistan says it is doing all it can to fight the militants.
The Trump administration has launched a new US effort to deepen military and economic ties with India as a way to balance China's assertive posture across Asia.
At the talks with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, both sides pledged to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation and Tillerson said Washington stood ready to provide India with advanced military technology.
"The United States supports India's emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region," Tillerson told a joint news conference with Swaraj.
But the talks also touched on India's diplomatic ties with North Korea.
Swaraj said she told the top US diplomat that some level of diplomatic presence was necessary to keep open channels of communication.
India and North Korea maintain diplomatic offices in each other's capitals, though New Delhi recently banned trade of most goods with the country, except food and medicine. Trade was minimal, Swaraj added.
The focus on North Korea comes as US President Donald Trump heads to China next month, where he is expected to urge President Xi Jinping to make good on his commitments to try to rein in North Korea.
Tillerson also held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is driving closer ties with the United States.
India has also maintained ties with Iran which is being targeted by the Trump administration for its alleged military support of extremist groups in the Middle East and for its ballistic missile programme.
India has long sourced its oil from Iran, but in recent years the two sides have been also collaborating on key infrastructure projects.
New Delhi is pushing hard for the development of Chabahar port on the Iranian coast as a hub for its trade links to the resource-rich countries of central Asia and Afghanistan but the Trump administration's tough stance has raised new concerns over the future of that project.
But Tillerson struck a conciliatory stance on India's ties with Iran, saying it wouldn't come in the way of countries doing legitimate business there. America's disagreements were with the Iranian regime, and in particular the Iran Revolutionary Guard, he said.