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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Times Now


Interview
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
New York City
November 10, 2009

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QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Blake, when it comes now to the Indian Prime Minister's upcoming visit what will be the U.S. message on the India-Pakistan relationship?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think the main message is just that we are friends with both countries and we want to see relations between India and Pakistan prosper. We think first it's very important that Pakistan takes steps to address some of the counter-terrorism issues, some of the counter-terrorism concerns that are on India's mind. But longer term we see tremendous possibilities between your two countries. For example - trade, where really I think the trade opportunities are very under exploited at this time. And there are great opportunities to significantly expand trade that would benefit both countries quite a lot

QUESTION: When it comes to India's uncertainties about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and how to keep it secure despite all the threats of terrorism, does the U.S. have any message on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, as Secretary Clinton and the President have said – we are confident in the Pakistan government and military's ability to maintain security over its nuclear arsenal

QUESTION: Again on the uncertainties in that region and also the fact that Pakistan talks have been stalled now, at least the larger talks because of the terrorism threat, what can the U.S. tell India and Pakistan again when it comes to renewing those talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well really this is an issue for India and Pakistan to resolve bilaterally as we've always said. If you look at the history of what happened between 2004 and 2007 both countries made a lot of progress in their bilateral dialogue, not only in the composite dialogue between the foreign ministries, but also in the more sensitive backchannel negotiations. So I think that provides a very powerful example of what the two countries are capable of. And it's a matter now of resolving some of the shorter term differences that still exist particularly with respect to the prosecution of the Mumbai suspects and stopping the cross-border infiltration. Once that happens I think again there are quite significant opportunities to move relations forward. I think both the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Singh, but also President Zardari are committed to that.

QUESTION: There was a recent plot that was uncovered by the FBI involving Tahawur Rana and David Headley, who were reportedly planning an attack in Denmark and India. Investigators from India came down to the U.S. with the hope of also interrogating Headley because he has purported ties with the LeT. There were not allowed a chance to interview him. But will there be more cooperation going ahead between India and the U.S. when it comes to investigating this plot?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think that groups like the LeT now have a global reach and it shows that they are operating in the U.S., plotting against India. I think it underlies the common challenges that the United States and India face, it underlies the importance of our two countries working together to confront terrorism, just as we are joined with Pakistan to confront terrorism there. I really must commend the Pakistani government for the steps they've taken not only in the Swat valley but more recently in South Waziristan. I think there's been a lot of encouraging progress in that area. We hope that that will be sustained

QUESTION: But on the specific plot, do you think will there be more cooperation between India and the U.S.?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don't really want to comment further because this is an ongoing law enforcement investigation, so I think it's important for those investigations to continue and play out and we'll see what comes ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you for your time.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you.



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