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Interview by With NewsX


Interview
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
New Delhi, India
October 22, 2010

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QUESTION: My first question to you will be [inaudible]. [Inaudible]. They don’t [inaudible] problems [inaudible].

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t want to talk in detail about any of the so-called deliverables for the President’s visit. This is one of many things that we’re working very hard on with our Indian friends now as we prepare for what the President anticipates will be a really historic visit to India.

QUESTION: President Obama will be visiting, the first state visit [inaudible]. There are pleas and requests coming in from the state government of Punjab [inaudible]. Will you [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again I don’t want to talk about the specific schedule. The White House will announce in due course the full schedule. But I will say with respect to the Punjab that advance teams go to a lot of different places for every single visit that the President makes. So until the President and the White House actually announce where they’re going, no one really knows what the schedule is going to be.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] has been a very important [inaudible] India has believed in the past and in the near future as well. In terms of the Headley investigation there are conflicting [inaudible] from the U.S. and India and [inaudible] given before 26/11 [inaudible]. [Inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just say in general that whenever the United States gets specific information about a terrorist attack against any of our friends we immediately act to share that information with the country that is affected. That is certainly the case with India where we have a deep interest in ensuring that there is not another attack such as the terrible one that occurred at Mumbai. If there is anything that has really improved dramatically over the last three or four years it’s been our counterterrorism cooperation. Even before the Mumbai attacks we were doing a lot of exchanges of information about specific threats against India. Since Mumbai, that’s improved even more.

So I don’t think really there should be any daylight between the United States and India on this.

QUESTION: If the United States is so serious about counterterrorism and counterterror operations, then how can they [inaudible] declare a terrorist act? How much would you say are state actors involved in Pakistan in abetting terrorism?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think Pakistan is a very important partner now for us in getting at this important terrorism issue. The President and others have said that we are not going to be able to succeed and the coalition is not going to be able to succeed in Afghanistan unless we have Pakistan’s full support. So stabilizing Pakistan and giving it the wherewithal to be able to meet its many internal challenges, but also to meet some of these important terrorism challenges is extremely important for us. That’s why we passed this very important Kerry/Lugar/Berman bill that provides $7.5 billion in civilian assistance over the next five years, but have also provided additional military assistance to help with their counterinsurgency capabilities in the border areas.

QUESTION: How [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, this is all part of a larger strategy that has to take place now and a larger push that has to take place.

The government of Pakistan I think has made progress in Swat, in South Waziristan. But I think the President, the Secretary of State, and many others have been very clear that they now must finish the job. They must continue that campaign into North Waziristan, continue the campaign against LET and other groups that are attacking not only India, but also threatening the United States. So this is a very important interest for the United States as well, and one again where I think we’re united.

QUESTION: My last question to you would be on Kashmir. Is the United States [inaudible] that Kashmir is in need of bilateral [issues], then why do we see U.S. officials meeting separatists in [inaudible] which happened two weeks atgo?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’m not aware of the specific incident that you're talking about. Obviously our embassy officials have to meet a wide range of officials to report accurately the situation on the ground. But we’ve always said that Kashmir is a bilateral issue to be sorted out between India and Pakistan, and the pace and scope of those talks will be something for those two countries to determine.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you so much.

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