GENEVA – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's stops in Bangladesh and India come amid increasing concerns about terrorism in both South Asian nations.
After talks on Syria with Russian and U.N. officials, Kerry planned to depart Geneva later Sunday for meetings with Bangladeshi officials, opposition and civic leaders who are coping with a series of extremist attacks. The most recent killed 20 people, including 17 foreigners, at a popular restaurant last month in Dhaka, the capital.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but authorities maintain that a local banned group, Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, was behind it.
Kerry, on his first visit to Bangladesh as secretary of state, planned to discuss counterterrorism cooperation, along with human rights and economic development. On Saturday, police said they had killed three suspected militants, including an alleged mastermind of the cafe attack. Attacks over the past two years have killed atheist bloggers, foreign aid workers and religious minorities.
In India, Kerry is set to attend the seventh meeting of the U.S.-India strategic dialogue. Those discussions are taking place as tensions rise in the disputed region of Kashmir, scene of some of the largest protests against Indian rule in recent years. Since early July, at least 67 civilians have been killed and thousands injured, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotguns at rock-throwing protesters. Two policemen have been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.
India and Pakistan control parts of the Himalayan territory and claim it in its entirety. U.S. officials say Kerry will continue to urge dialogue between India and Pakistan over the dispute, the cause of two of three wars between the nations.
Many Kashmiris want an end to Indian rule and favor independence or a merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.
Kerry, who aims to try to further boost U.S. economic ties with India on his two-day visit, will be accompanied by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and senior officials from 12 U.S. government agencies and institutions.