New Delhi: National Security Adviser Ajit Doval will leave for a four-day tour to Washington this week to discuss the stability of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in the backdrop of a Taliban resurgence and rise of the Islamic State in Nangarhar province as well as to share notes on developments in China and West Asia.
Doval will be away from Tuesday to Sunday, with Thursday and Friday scheduled for official engagements. South Block officials said Doval will meet his US counterpart HR McMaster for the first time as well as defense secretary James Mattis, with a possibility of President Donald Trump dropping by during official meetings at the White House. The NSA’s visit and meeting with his US counterpart were fixed when foreign secretary S Jaishankar visited Washington earlier this month.
After Doval, minister for defense and finance Arun Jaitley is expected to attend the IMF-World Bank spring meetings in Washington from April 21 to 23. US secretary of state Rex Tilerson will be in India for a bilateral strategic and commercial dialogue along with other ministers from the Trump administration.
Dates are being discussed for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with President Trump in Washington. Modi will meet Trump at a G20 meeting in Hamburg on July 7-8, after which he will embark on his maiden two-day visit to Israel.
South Block sources said Doval will call for the US to enhance its military presence in Afghanistan, with China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran foreseeing a larger role for the Taliban to take on the rise of the Islamic State. Last month, Afghanistan and India were at odds with the China-led group as both felt the Taliban was detrimental to the stability of the regime in Kabul.
New Delhi feels the Islamic State of Wilayat Khorasan is being propped up by Pakistan and Iran’s agencies to accord credibility to the Taliban. Other West Asian nations are worried about Iran’s role in the region and in Afghanistan, a fact conveyed to Doval by his counterparts during a visit to Kuwait last week.
With both Mattis and McMaster having battlefield experience in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Doval will discuss the recent spate of terrorist attacks in the region, with Pakistan’s Punjab emerging as the new theater of terror. India is worried about Islamabad, with terror groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan taking on the Pakistani Army and hitting at soft targets in Punjab and Sindh.
The role of China in pushing for an economic corridor to the Gwadar port as well as its ever-expanding interests in South Asia, particularly Sri Lanka and Maldives, will also be in sharp focus during the meetings.