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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With CNN


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: I have with me Robert Blake. He is President Obama’s point person for South Asia and we are going to talk to him about the Obama presidential visit starting two weeks from now.

Mr. Blake, the big question of the moment is, is he or is he not going to [inaudible]? We’ve heard the [chief of police] say he can come, he can wear his baseball cap, [inaudible].

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: It won’t surprise you to hear that I don’t really want to talk about any details of the visit yet. The White House will make its own announcements in due course about the full schedule. But I will say that the President is looking very much forward to his visit here to India. He really sees this as an historic visit that he will make, and I know he’s deeply committed to India’s strategic [inaudible].

QUESTION: Please, can you tell us if he’s open to relooking at the [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to comment at all on the schedule. The White House will make its own announcements when it’s ready to do so.

QUESTION: You talked about it being an historic visit. One way it can be that is by him endorsing support for India in the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member. Do you see that happening?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to get into specifics of what the President is going to announce, but we’ve talked in the past about how we believe that all international institutions need to reflect India’s growing importance in the world. But more broadly, I think what the visit is going to show is that we really believe that India’s going to be one of our defining partnerships in the 21st Century and it’s deeply in our own interests to be working with India. Obviously there was a lot of progress made during the Bush administration with the civil nuclear deal. We now want to take that to the next level.

President Obama made Prime Minister Singh his first state visit. We’re now making this the longest stop that he’s ever made on any international trip. I think the President really sees that as India, as our two leading democracies in the world, with India’s fast-growing economy, its civil society, and all of the opportunities of our two innovation and knowledge economies, there’s just tremendous growth and opportunity to work together to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, to provide opportunities for our people to work on all the important issues of the day together. And that’s really I think what this visit is about.

QUESTION: You can’t speak for the President, you can speak for the State Department, though. Would the State Department like to see them make that announcement --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That’s a good try. No, I don’t want to talk about that either.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about David Headley now. It’s been said that he comes to India pretty defensive. He’s going to [inaudible] [Congress]. The David Headley revelation is embarrassing. The numbers [inaudible]. So he’s going to be battered and bruised when he gets here. Specifically on David Headley, do you think America has learned any lessons on the terrorist cooperation with India?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: First of all, I wouldn’t say that the President is going to be battered and bruised. I think the President has a great deal that he can be proud of in terms of his record over the last year in terms of the very important health care legislation, the financial sector reform. I think those things are really going to be seen and be understood in the United States as far-reaching reforms. It will take a while for the impact of that to be truly felt in the United States. So I don’t think the President is at all battered and bruised.

QUESTION: And with David Headley?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: In terms of David Headley, I’d just like to say that as somebody who’s been working very closely on India for a long time, we have always been very careful to share all of the information that we have, particularly anything of a specific nature. So there really is no daylight between the United States and India on this. We are strongly committed to this counterterrorism partnership that we have with India.

I think the real story over the last three or four years has been this progress that we’ve made in building up that counterterrorism cooperation and I think you're going to see that continue in the course of the next several years.

QUESTION: Over the last 18 months would you say that General Kayani is a more reliable partner or a less reliable partner for America?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’d say that Pakistan has emerged as probably the most important country in this global war on terrorism that we’re confronting now. We all understand that we are not going to be able to succeed and the coalition is not going to be able to succeed in Afghanistan without the help of Pakistan. That’s why we put a particular emphasis on increasing civilian assistance to Pakistan through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation, $7.5 billion over five years. But we’ve also increased our military assistance too, to give the Pakistani military the wherewithal to fight a counterinsurgency campaign, particularly in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So to the extent that we’re providing new military assistance, it’s for that purpose. It will not in any way alter the military balance. There are very strict provisions in there on end uses to make sure that those weapons really are used for the purposes they were provided.

QUESTION: So briefly, India shouldn’t be worried about misuse of funds?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: They should not be worried about it. This is something that’s very much on our minds and very much on the minds of our Congress. Again, this does not pose a threat to India.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you.

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