The future of US-India counterterrorism cooperation in the Trump administration
© Greg Nash/The Hill

As President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Modi have in a few hours their first phone conversation since President Trump assumed office last week, the counterterrorism cooperation dimension of the relationship may be one of the important themes to be discussed.

President Trump’s inaugural speech and his presidential campaign leading up to it very strongly emphasized winning the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. While most construe it to mean extirpating ISIS and Al-Qaeda from the face of the planet, the Indian perception relating to radical Islamic terrorism covers in addition all Al-Qaeda’s South Asia affiliates like Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, HuM, the Haqqani Network, HuJI, the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen all of whom have cost both the U.S. and India precious blood and treasure.

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Prime Minster Modi may draw President Trump’s attention to the fact that the South Asia terrorist groups threatening India and Afghanistan have been in fact are a serious threat to the U.S. as witnessed by the growth of the Al-Qaeda-Taliban in Afghanistan that led to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. And despite the US-led coalition’s valiant efforts in this regard, the terrorism threat from these groups refuses to go away; rather thanks to the growth of ISIS in the aforementioned terrorist mix, this threat is a more deadly and vicious than ever before.

President Trump also mentioned the need for the U.S. to stitch alliances against radical Islamic terrorism. For India, the world’s largest democracy, and the U.S. as the world’s first democracy, allying with each other in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism as the common enemy seems natural. This can manifest itself in enhanced counterterrorism cooperation including intelligence sharing, law enforcement cooperation, etc.

President Trump’s national security team comprising Secretary of Defense Mattis, National Security Advisor Flynn, and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly have all dedicated their military lives in the mission of eliminating radical Islamic terrorism. Also, Secretary of State designate Tillerson has spent many years of his corporate life negotiating and fashioning alliances with nation-states. One can rightly expect a counterterrorism alliance with India as a pivotal U.S. policy to combat radical Islamic terrorism. In his first message to the civilian and military leadership of the Pentagon, Secretary Mattis indicated that the Department of Defense will work closely with the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of State to develop close alliances for the war against radical Islamic terrorism.

Secretary Mattis also indicated in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that one of the key global security challenges facing the U.S. was the islands of instability in Asia under attack by non-state actors and nations that mistakenly see their security in the insecurity of others. The Indians may construe from the secretary’s remarks that the non-state actors and the nations that prop them up in India’s immediate vicinity could also be a potential security challenge to both the U.S. and India, and necessitate the need for ever greater and more effective U.S.-India Counterterrorism Cooperation.

In short, the first conversation between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi may touch upon common terrorist threats facing both countries, and the need for urgent joint action to combat such threats. This may well be a harbinger for greater U.S.-India Counterterrorism Cooperation in the future.

Dr. Amit Kumar is the President of U.S. based AAA International Security Consultants LLC and previously worked with the Al-Qaeda Taliban Sanctions Regime at the United Nations. 


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.