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Diplomacy in Action

Interview with Sahara Samay


Interview
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
New Delhi, India
September 15, 2011

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Sahara: Sir, in 2005 America denied visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Now the recent U.S. CRS Report speaks highly of him. What’s that?

Assistant Secretary Blake: First of all the CRS report is a report that’s done by the Congressional Research Service. It’s part of the Congress, so it’s an independent research service. It has nothing to do with the federal government. In terms of any kind of a visa matter, we don’t comment on visa matters.

Sahara: Will you welcome Mr. Modi again in your country?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Again, I don’t want to speculate on when he might apply and how we might respond to that. But obviously we have a lot of interest in Gujarat. There are a lot of American companies that are there. It’s been quite a successful state.

Sahara: U.S. is also really interested in Bihar. You have been in Bihar also? What really impressed you?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Well, I think there’s been a real transformation in Bihar in recent years, I think largely because of the new management under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and I was impressed to see his emphasis on governance and reducing corruption and again, trying to bring new opportunities to the people of Bihar. I think he’s enjoyed a great deal of success. So we’d like to see what more we can do with that state.

Sahara: How are the U.S. and India cooperating on counter-terrorism? Did the U.S. provide any prior info about the recent Delhi High Court blast? And what’s the status of intelligence sharing between U.S. and India following this blast?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I don’t want to comment on this specific blast. I refer all questions about that to the Indian authorities who will be in the best position to answer questions about that. But let me just say as a general matter that our cooperation is very good. It’s one of the real highlights of our bilateral cooperation is our work to counter terrorism in India and more broadly to share information wherever we can and whenever we can about potential threats.

Sahara: Did India seek any U.S. help on this blast?

Assistant Secretary Blake: No. They have not. So far this has all been done by the Indian authorities. But of course we are always willing to provide information and we’re always willing to provide whatever cooperation they request.

Sahara: Both U.S. and India are facing provocations by China. How would you express your support for the territorial integrity of India?

Assistant Secretary Blake: We have unquestioned support for the territorial integrity of India. I think both of our countries are making a great effort to reach out to China, to engage China. I think we have both been clear that our strong bilateral relationship is not going to come at the expense of China, but we also always need to be clear with China when we have concerns.

Sahara: Thank you Sir.

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