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Diplomacy in Action

U.S.-India Relations

Press Conference
William J. Burns
Under Secretary for Political Affairs 
New Delhi, India
October 16, 2009


Under Secretary Burns: Good evening everyone. Thanks for your patience, and thank you all for coming. It’s a great pleasure for me to be back in India. Let me start by wishing all of you a Happy Divali, as President Obama did a couple of nights ago at a special event at the White House.

The main purpose of my trip is to help prepare for Prime Minister Singh’s state visit to Washington next month, which is the first state visit to the White House in the Obama administration. This is not only a reflection of the President’s personal respect for Prime Minister Singh, but also of the high priority that the administration attaches to our growing partnership with India.

Secretary Clinton underscored our commitment to broadening and deepening U.S.-Indian relations during her visit in July during which she and Minister Krishna launched an ambitious strategic dialogue between our two countries. That dialogue is already moving forward, focused on practical cooperation in a wide range of areas.

I was pleased to have the opportunity during my visit to take stock of progress and to plan ahead with Minister Krishna and Foreign Secretary Rao and a number of other senior Indian officials.

Among the many items on the rich agenda before us, we discussed how to build on the successful results of Minister Chidambaram’s September visit to Washington, and to strengthen in tangible ways our cooperation on law enforcement and counterterrorism.

We discussed Minister Sibal’s upcoming trip to the United States and continued expansion of education cooperation including through Fulbright-Nehru scholarships and exchanges and university partnerships.

We discussed the renewal of the CEO Forum and the essential role of the private sector in the growth of our partnership.

We discussed the considerable potential for expanding cooperation in health.

We discussed progress in implementation of last year’s historic civilian nuclear agreement to which the Obama administration remains firmly committed.

And we discussed the many ways in which we can work together to develop clean and renewable energy and enhanced food security which are critical components for a new green revolution in which U.S.-Indian leadership can play a crucial role.

We also obviously discussed a number of other pressing global and regional concerns including the situation in Afghanistan and our shared interest in fighting violent extremists in this region.

I reiterated our condolences for the terrorist attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul last week and our appreciation for India’s continuing and significant contributions to our common effort in Afghanistan.

The United States will continue to urge Pakistan to act firmly and quickly against extremists who threaten its own interests as well as the interests of all of us committed to stability in the region.

So once again, I’m delighted to have the chance to return to India and to help prepare for what I am certain will be a very successful state visit to Washington by Prime Minister Singh in November.

So thank you, and I’d be delighted to respond to a few of your questions.

Question: My name is Dini Basser, I work with CNN-IBN.

The Kerry/Lugar bill, how will the U.S. government ensure that the Pakistani government doesn’t use that money in developing its military defenses against India? Is the bill binding on Pakistan?

Under Secretary Burns: The President signed this bill yesterday, and we’ve made very clear that there are not conditions attached to that legislation, but as with any piece of legislation in which the United States is providing assistance, in this case for development in Pakistan, we’re very much focused on ensuring that the monies are used for the purposes intended. So there are measures built in to ensure that that takes place.

Question: This is [inaudible] from DNA.

There is an [inaudible] here that the new policy of the Obama administration with regard to NPT might affect the [civil nuclear agreement] of [inaudible] that may not go forward. Are these [tensions] going to be laid to rest during Mr. Singh’s visit?

Under Secretary Burns: As I made clear already, the Obama administration remains firmly committed to implementation of the civilian nuclear agreement. We believe it’s an historic step which benefits both of our countries. I would note that Prime Minister Singh as recently as a couple of weeks ago made clear publicly his support for the broad objectives that President Obama laid out in his speech in Prague last spring, and also his support and interest in the Global Summit on Nuclear Security that President Obama has proposed for next spring in Washington.

So I think we have before us an opportunity to cooperate on that wide range of issues, but there should be no question about this administration’s full support for the civilian nuclear agreement.

Question: Steve Herman, Voice of America.

I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the discussions you’ve had with Indian leaders, how they compare to previous discussions regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan? Whether you’re noting a rising sense of apprehension in wake of the attack on the embassy in Kabul? The Israelis just issued a new warning today about further attacks on India and the threats being made by a Taliban leader today to take the fight to the border with India. I’m wondering, should we be a little bit more apprehensive than we have been previously about what’s going on as we seem to detect from the Indians?

Under Secretary Burns: First let me reiterate our condolences for the terrorist attack that took place against the Indian embassy in Kabul a week ago. As I said before, we continue to appreciate the significant contributions which India has made to our common effort in Afghanistan.

I think all of us are concerned about the situation in Afghanistan, as well as rising violence in Pakistan, and I think that simply underscores the importance of our collective effort to support Afghan authorities in a fight against violent extremists who have in the past done great damage to many of us and who threaten all of us in the future. I think the same is true with regard to the support that we provide to the Pakistani leadership to take on firmly and vigorously the challenge posed by violent extremists inside Pakistan.

Question: Sir, [inaudible] from Times Now.

Sir, the Indian High Commissioner in the U.S., Meera Shankar, wrote a letter a few days back where she said that there are a couple of Indian government servants who were bribed by U.S. companies. There is an investigation going here in India, but how is the U.S. administration taking this? Have you carried out some investigation to find out who these people were and who were those companies that bribed these officials?

Under Secretary Burns: I’m not familiar, to be honest with you, with the details of the particular concern that you raised. All I would say is that the United States government is firmly committed to fairness and transparency in the conduct of commerce overseas. That’s in all of our interests, because having fair and transparent practices is the best way to encourage a growth in investment. So we will certainly pursue any concerns that are raised with us seriously, but I’m not familiar with those particular ones.

Thank you all very much.

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