x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Kerry tries to allay Indian concerns over Afghanistan security

Talks with US cover areas such as space exploration, education and health services. Samanth Subramanian reports

NEW DELHI // The United States secretary of state, John Kerry, tried to allay Indian concerns about security in Afghanistan yesterday.

Mr Kerry said he was committed to taking his country's relationship with India to "new heights".

During a speech earlier, Mr Kerry highlighted India's role in helping Afghanistan build democracy ahead of elections next year.

"The world's largest democracy can play a central role in helping the government of Afghanistan improve its electoral system and create a credible and independent framework for resolving disputes," he said.

The US-led coalition is scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan next year, and India hassaid it fears that the country would quickly become a base for terrorists.

Mr Kerry attempted to put these fears to rest, saying: "Afghanistan cannot again become a safe haven for international terrorism."

The US and the Taliban are exploring peace talks in a fresh effort to end Afghanistan's 12-year war. India, which jockeys for influence with its rival, Pakistan, in Afghanistan, last week warned that any reconciliation should not confer legitimacy on insurgent groups.

Mr Kerry also said the US vice president, Joe Biden, would visit India next month to continue the fourth series of meetings under the India-US Strategic Dialogue, launched in 2009 to develop cooperation on a range of issues.

Mr Kerry's talks yesterday with India's external affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, covered technology and cooperation in space exploration, defence, education, agriculture, and health services.

Mr Khurshid professed himself to be "very satisfied" with the pace of the dialogue and said further talks would be initiated over the next few months on the subjects of energy and business.

"Secretary Kerry and I seem to have struck the right chemistry," he said.

ssubramanian@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Reuters

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