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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With DD News

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


QUESTION: We have with us Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Mr. Robert Blake. Mr. Blake, many thanks for speaking to us.


QUESTION: Let me begin by asking you on Pakistan, India is concerned for a very very long time that Lashkar-e-Taiba has been aided by elements in Pakistan, both state and non-state. That has been a major concern. Do you see that as a concern, and are you bringing that up with Pakistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: LET is very much a concern for the United States. I would say after al-Qaida itself, LET is probably the most significant global threat that we face. So this is very high on our own bilateral agenda with Pakistan, and I know it’s obviously a concern to India.

QUESTION: So have you brought it up with Pakistan? Has Pakistan given you some kind of assurances that it is trying to reign in the elements there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Pakistan has taken I think some important steps in the terrorism area. They undertook this campaign in Swat, in South Waziristan, but we now think they need to continue those operations and go into places like North Waziristan and also to address groups like LET. These groups, again, pose a threat not only to your country but to ours.

QUESTION: There are reports that on David Coleman Headley your agencies had inputs given by his former spouses that he could attack targets in India and he was actively involved with elements both [states], serving army officers in Pakistan. But India believes those reports were not shared with India.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t want to talk about specific intelligence reports because obviously that’s very sensitive, but let me just reassure you and reassure your viewers that whenever we have any kind of specific intelligence information that suggests there may be an attack anywhere, that we immediately share that with the law enforcement and intelligence authorities of that country. That’s particularly so with India where our counterterrorism cooperation has grown tremendously over the last several years and I think will continue to grow. That’s going to be I think one of the areas where during the President’s visit we’ll talk about some of the ways that we’re cooperating.

QUESTION: The Pakistani army general is in the United States and so is the foreign minister of Pakistan. We understand that $2 billion aid has been given to Pakistan to be announced over the weekend. That’s a major concern for India because the kind of armament they want to buy could be utilized against India and in the past they have utilized certain aids against, to direct terror against India.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We believe that we are not going to be able to succeed in our objectives and in the coalition’s objectives to root out and dismantle the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan unless we have the support of Pakistan. Because many of these groups are based in the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

So it is very much in our interest to help Pakistan, to give it the equipment and to give it the training that it needs to root out those terrorists. I think Pakistan has made some efforts in South Waziristan and in Swat, but again, more is needed. I think that will be one of the messages that comes out from the meetings that are occurring right now in Washington.

In terms of the assistance itself, I think the most important change is not on the military side. It’s that the Obama administration has made a significant effort to significantly ramp up civilian assistance. To help with the energy problems, to help with health and education. That’s assistance that I think your government supports because it’s obviously in India’s interest to have a stable Pakistan.

So we’ll continue to emphasize that part of it, but it is important to provide them the training to deal with this counterinsurgency threat that they face because it’s in all of our interest for them to do that. But we’ll make sure that the assistance that we do provide is carefully monitored so that it is used for the purposes that it’s provided and not against India. And we’ll also make sure that it does not in any way alter the military balance between India and Pakistan.

QUESTION: Mr. Blake, we know that the United States has been for a while talking about the reform of the United Nations. Could we expect an assurance on President Obama’s visit to India for a permanent position of India on the United Nations Security Council?

QUESTION: Well it won’t surprise you to hear that I don’t want to try to preempt what the President might announce during the course of his visit. So I don’t really want to comment on anything specific.

But we have said in the past that we believe that global institutions should reflect India’s rise, and I think we very much believe that. In terms of what the President will say, I don’t really want to preempt that.

QUESTION: One last question. Is the President visiting [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to talk about the specific schedule. The President and the White House will announce that in due course. I know there’s a lot of speculation about whether he’s going to go here or there. Obviously the advance team goes to many many different sites to scope out what might be best. But let’s wait and see what the White House --

QUESTION: There are reports that it’s got to do something with the [head scarf]? Is that true?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to comment on anything specific about the schedule.

QUESTION: All right. Many thanks for speaking to QUESTION.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure.

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