Nikki Haley in India: US envoy to UN talks up bilateral relations, names Iran as 'next North Korea'

In an address in New Delhi on Thursday, US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Nikki Haley said Pakistan was providing a safe haven to terrorists and dubbed Iran as the "next North Korea".

In her address on advancing India-US relations organised by the Observer Research Foundation in the National Capital, the US envoy said that Washington and New Delhi must become global leaders in the fight against terrorism. She said neither of the two nations can afford to turn a blind eye to the regimes that produce, harbour, and support terrorists, and in this context, the US is approaching its "relationship with Pakistan differently than in the past".

'Won't tolerate Pakistan providing safe haven to terrorists'

Haley said that though in many instances Pakistan had been a partner of the US, it cannot tolerate the Pakistani government, or any other government, giving a safe haven to terrorists.

"We won't tolerate it. We are communicating this message to Pakistan more strongly than in the past and we hope to see changes," the 46-year-old Indian-American said at the event.

 Nikki Haley in India: US envoy to UN talks up bilateral relations, names Iran as next North Korea

US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley speaks to the members of an Indian think-tank in New Delhi. AP

Noting that the US and India have experienced the pain of terrorism, she said both the countries share a commitment to defeat terrorists and the hate ideology that motivates them.

"We share an urgent interest in eliminating the terrorist networks that threaten us, and to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists and their sponsors. Both our nations lost citizens in the horrific Mumbai attacks a decade ago. As fellow democracies, the United States and India must be global leaders in the fight against terrorism," Haley said.

The senior Trump administration official said the US and India have expanded their counter-terrorism cooperation in the past decade. However, she asserted, "we can and we must do more".

Iran 'next North Korea'

Calling Iran  a "threat" and "the next North Korea", Haley said her country will encourage India to rethink its relationship with Iran and decide whether it wants to continue doing business with it.

Her remarks assumed significance as they came after the US told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to "zero" by 4 November or face sanctions, making it clear that there would be no waivers to anyone.

Haley, in India on her first visit after becoming the US Ambassador to the UN, said in the address that Iran is a "theocratic dictatorship" that abuses its people, funds terrorism, and spreads conflict throughout the West Asia.

"The Tehran regime is the hidden, and sometimes not-so-hidden, force behind most of the conflict in the region," she said.

Replying to questions after her speech, she said she had discussed the issue of India's business with Iran with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"All of us have to rethink who we choose to do business with. I think as a friend India should also decide, is this a country they want to continue doing business with. So, yes I had that conversation with Modi. It was a constructive conversation," she said

"I think for the future of India, future of resources, we would encourage them to rethink their relationship with Iran," Haley said.

Haley also said the US would continue to try and work with its partners and allies to make sure that Iran was being pushed to be a good, accountable international neighbour. "The US wants to be cautious but wants the international community to make sure they are paying attention to the violations. And what we are going to continue to do is to keep the pressure on them and we hope that other countries will join us because in our eyes Iran is the next North Korea," she said.

Haley said the US strongly believes that Iran is a "threat" and it cannot take its eyes off the country.

"We don't believe this because of some ideas but we believe because there is proof that in spite of the Iran (nuclear) deal, still with all of those incentives, they continue to violate resolution after resolution. Just because countries came to have deal (with Iran), doesn't mean we should be blind to these violations," she said.

US president Donald Trump last month announced that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration in 2015 under which Tehran had agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Donald Trump administration wants to take India-US ties to 'next level'

Haley said that Trump shared Modi's vision of nations pursuing growth "free and fearless in their choices" in the Indo-Pacific region, asserting that the US wanted to take bilateral ties to the next level. She exuded confidence that the two countries will stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" in confronting regional and global challenges.

She said India and the US enjoyed a "natural friendship" that is based on "their shared values and interests".

"The Trump administration seeks to take the India-US relationship to the next level; to build a strategic partnership rooted in our common values and directed toward our common interests," she said.

Nikki Haley at Jama Masjid in New Delhi. AP

Nikki Haley at Jama Masjid in New Delhi. AP

Haley said India was a state with advanced nuclear technologies widely accepted around the world because it is a democracy and continues to be a responsible leader.

Noting that in the last couple of years, India joined three major nonproliferation groupings, she said the US also fully supported India's membership bid for the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

"India continues to demonstrate it is a responsible steward of its nuclear technology," she said.

Asserting that there was also great opportunity for the US to help meet India's energy needs, Haley said there was room for progress on civil nuclear cooperation.

Noting that the India-US military partnership was deepening, she said America had significantly upgraded its security cooperation with India, which was now Washington's major defence partner.

Underlining the importance of the Indo-Pacific which is home to many of the world's fastest-growing economies, Haley said it was essential to use every tool to foster continued prosperity, peace, and security throughout the region.

She said India and a strengthened India-US partnership were at the centre of the notion of seeking for every country the ability and opportunity to interact as a sovereign and equal nation. "Perhaps no other partnership has as much potential for global peace and prosperity over the next 10, 20, or 50 years," Haley said.

'No signs of rift'

Haley's visit coincided with revelations that a long-anticipated meeting between US and Indian defence and foreign ministers, known as a 2+2, had been delayed for a second time.

The UN ambassador played down rumours of a rift, saying the meeting would be rescheduled "very soon" and was "an important sign of how much our security and defence cooperation has grown in recent years".

'China doesn't share US' commitment to democracy'

Haley said China was also an important country in the region, but, unlike India, it did not share the US' commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental freedoms. Her comments assume significance as Washington has put new emphasis on its military ties to New Delhi and its regional role as a counter to China's rise.

"This makes China's expansion of loans and investments in countries in the region a matter of concern for many of us. China's failure to respect the rights of its people and the rule of law will limit its own ability to grow and prosper over the long term. And unlike with India, this will limit the United States' relationship with China," she said.

Immigration in US

Responding to a question, the US envoy also talked about the contentious issue of immigration amid an uproar over detention of scores of people in the US, including Indians, for illegally entering the country.

"America is a country of immigrants, but it cannot allow illegal immigration in the wake of the challenge of terrorism," Haley said. She added that the US was trying to find a way to know exactly who was coming into the country to properly secure its people.

Her remarks come amid the issue of a group of 52 Indians, mostly Sikhs, being held at a detention centre in the US State of Oregon for being part of a large contingent of illegal immigrants seeking asylum.

India, US can only be held together by 'true tolerance'

Stressing on freedom of religion, Haley said nations as diverse as India and the US can only be held together by "true tolerance".

The Indian-American also referred to her "fascinating and inspiring" inter-faith tour of Old Delhi on Thursday morning. "It reminded me that, of all the things America and India share, freedom of religion is one of the most important. Nations as diverse as ours can only be held together by true tolerance and respect," Haley said.

Haley, who was in India on a two-day visit, met Modi on Wednesday and discussed ways to enhance the India-US cooperation in various fields, including counter-terrorism. She also met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and discussed ways to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership.

Haley had visited India in late 2014 when she was the South Carolina governor. She is the first Indian-American to serve in a Cabinet-level position in any US presidential administration.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jun 29, 2018 08:27:06 IST