The U.S. and Indian homeland security chiefs met in New Delhi this week to review a long list of law-enforcement challenges facing both countries. A key issue of concern to both countries is the risk of terrorists based in Pakistan.
Janet Napolitano, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, did not want to spend her time in India talking about terrorism threats from Pakistan, but one of her comments was sure to be welcomed by the Indian government and public.
Reflecting on the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed, Napolitano said those who attacked the Indian city were as dangerous a foe as the worldwide al-Qaida terrorist network.
The Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is believed to have planned and carried out the elaborate attack on Mumbai. Napolitano said there is little doubt about the threat posed by LeT:
"In my judgment as the homeland security secretary, LeT ranks right up there with al-Qaida and the al-Qaida-related groups as a terrorist organization," Napolitano noted.
Since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Pakistan Friday for a separate round of high-level meetings, Napolitano declined to speak in greater detail on the subject.
Her Indian counterpart, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, said earlier Friday that India sees the "global epicenter of terrorism" is west of its territory, operating from what he called "safe havens in Pakistan."
Appearing together with Napolitano later, Chidambaran said the raid near Islamabad that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden this month shows that India and the United States cannot afford to let their guard down.
"Once an adversary is gravely affected or wounded, concerns do not lessen. Actually, concerns become even greater," said Chidambaran.
During the Indian and American secretaries' talks this week, court proceedings were under way in the United States against Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani and Canadian national accused of links to the Mumbai attacks. Testimony during the trial in Chicago has indicated a link between Pakistan's intelligence service and terrorist acts aimed at India, such as the bombings and shootings in Mumbai.
The Indian Cabinet official says his nation and the United States are looking at an ambitious range of areas for enhanced cooperation:
"Port, border, and coastal security ... mega-city policing and sharing of information ... illicit finance, illicit smuggling of cash, financial fraud and counterfeiting ... cyber-security and infrastructure protection... capacity building, technology upgradation and modernization," Chidambaran added.
This week's meetings between Napolitano and Chidambaran were aimed at furthering a U.S.-India dialogue on homeland security - a process that President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched during their summit talks last November.
Napolitano said Washington will continue its strategic partnership with India. "That strategic partnership is only going to intensify in the months and years to come," Napolitano explained.
The two secretaries say they will meet again next year in Washington to review progress.