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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Suhasini Haidar of CNN IBN

Wendy Sherman
Under Secretary for Political Affairs 
Roosevelt House
New Delhi, India
November 26, 2012


QUESTION: Wendy Sherman, thanks so much for speaking with us on CNN-IBN, now of course you are here on a special day, a day we mark the anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. U.S. citizens were amongst those who died during those three days. I’d like to start by asking about the execution of Ajmal Kasab. Your reaction to it and, in a sense, do you think this is part of the process of justice being done.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Now the United States has been very clear that we all must do whatever we can to bring all of those responsible for this heinous act to justice. It’s sort of ironic for me, even personally, because four years ago, when this happened, I was leading the transition for President Obama and then-to-become Secretary of State Clinton to the State Department. And so the State Department Operations center called me to say we are beginning to get reports of a horrible attack taking place in Mumbai. So, of course, I turned on the television. I had friends who were in the Taj and who were emailing me on that day -- friends from Europe, friends from the United States, who were in the Taj [Mahal Palace Hotel] during that horrible time. So many Indians died, six Americans died. The United States wants to do every single thing we can to bring everyone to justice. As you know, the last time I was here in April, we announced our Rewards for Justice to bring really the organizer, we believe of this attack, [Hafiz Mohammad] Saeed to justice. We in fact in this execution [of Ajmal Kasab] that has just occurred, the United States was very engaged in supporting India: the FBI testified, we helped with forensics, we helped with [reconstruction of] GPS location [devices]. We gave access to David Headley to Indian authorities. I think it is incumbent upon all of us to being everyone to justice, who had anything to do with this terrible ordeal.

QUESTION: You know you mentioned Hafiz Saeed, the man that, in fact, you have been part of announcing the Rewards for Justice program. Despite that announcement so many months ago, Hafiz Saeed remains a free man there in Pakistan. He continues to preach, he even led prayers for Ajmal Kasab. Is the U.S. simply helpless in bringing him to justice?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, Rewards for Justice is one tool, and it’s a tool to say for people to come forward with information that will lead to a conviction, there is a reward to be had. But it’s only one tool. We continue our work together with Indian authorities. We of course raise this issue with Pakistan at every instance that we can. So, this is one tool in many things that we are all doing to try to bring everyone to justice in this situation.

QUESTION: But clearly, it hasn’t worked. Secretary Clinton called him, quote: “the principal architect of 26/11.” India certainly believes he is the mastermind, and yet, as we said, he remains free, so what is the next tool for the U.S.?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: While I think the next tool is to continue to do what we are doing. Eventually, we will prevail. I absolutely believe that. I think the world has seen that when President Obama puts his mind to bringing people to justice it does happen. It may take time, but we do not lose focus on the importance of creating that justice. We, in fact, in U.S. courts, have convicted both Headley and Rana, who we believe have been part of this [LeT terrorist organization]. They are now awaiting sentencing. So, we do not finish until the job is completely done and we won’t in this instance either.

QUESTION: You spoke about President Obama’s will in this matter. Would you consider, for example, bringing him to justice yourself, arresting Hafiz Saeed or any of those other operations as we have seen in the case of Osama bin Laden, against a man like Hafiz Saeed that both the U.S. and India seem to believe is the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I think we have in process the process for bringing him and others to justice. I think we all would like it to happen today, if not yesterday. I understand that, particularly as we all relive this anniversary today. But there is a path to justice here. We will pursue it and we will bring him to justice.

QUESTION: Alright, let’s speak also about David Headley whom you mentioned now, the sentencing in his matter is expected sometime in January, and despite some amount of access given to Indian officials, Indian officials don’t feel they have had the kind of access they would like. The question: Will India get to interrogate David Headley as they would like to as well as get access to his wife and his other associates?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, it is my understanding that Indian authorities have had substantial access to David Headley. I am sure we would continue to work with India, as we have in the past, to ensure that India has whatever it requires in this process. So, I am sure our authorities stay in close touch on this matter and we’ll see what we can do to meet India’s needs but my understanding is there has been unprecedented access for India.

QUESTION: Certainly, but there has been another request from the Indian authorities, given that David Headley is now directly part of a trial there in Mumbai. Can you promise, really, that there will be the kind of access Indian officials are asking for, direct interrogation, for example, of David Headley.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, my understanding is that there has been cross examination by Indian authorities of David Headley. That that has occurred already and that what I can assure you is that our authorities have been very responsive to Indian authorities and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: I ask this because, Ms. Sherman, in India there is a lingering sense of hurt. Certainly, the U.S. and India have cooperated a lot on terror, but when it comes to David Headley, in particular, there is the initial suspicion of the fact that David Headley was in fact a double agent. That he worked undercover not just for the DEA but intelligence agencies as well. The fact that U.S. authorities chose to allow him to get into a plea bargain when this is a man who is quite directly involved in the conspiracy for the Mumbai attacks. And as I said, the lingering demands for more access to David Headley. Are those demands valid concerns for India?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: You know, if I were an Indian citizen, I would want David Headley here and I would want him here tomorrow. I totally understand that sentiment. I would feel the same way as an Indian citizen, but India is also a country of a rule of law as is the United States. And there are processes of justice in both our countries that both of our countries recognize. That is what is being played out with David Headley now. Under all of the laws of the United States, he has been convicted, he is about to face sentencing. He is going to pay for his role in this heinous act and I know that Indians do understand the importance of rule of law, because India is ruled by law as well.

QUESTION: Certainly, given that process of law is there any chance at all that India could see either David Headley or Tahawwur Rana extradited to India?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, that extradition request is in front of the U.S. now and I expect that there will be a ruling on it so I can’t speak for the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Amongst the other topics that you are discussing here Ms. UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: has been India’s role in Afghanistan and certainly the way forward given the 2014 pullout. The question is: What is the U.S.’ expectation from India?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: : Well, you know I think that India is really the hub for so much that is going on in Asia, certainly in Central and South Asia, but really throughout the world. And so when we think about Afghanistan and the transition that is going to take place in 2014, it is really a transition so that the Government of Afghanistan can ensure its own security and create a viable economic future for its people. India is part of that future. India has always had a relationship with Afghanistan. India is engaged in economic development in Afghanistan now, doing a small training project of Afghan security forces. All of these are crucial elements to creating not only a strong bilateral relationship between India and Afghanistan, which has always existed, but a regional organization, a New Silk Road, really a heart-of-Asia process that creates robust investment throughout the region. I have started this trip in India because India is the hub, India really is the leader. But I am going on to Afghanistan and on to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan because this is really an issue of regional integration, regional economic development and regional security. And India is key to all of it.

QUESTION: I ask specifically about troops because President Karzai in a recent visit to India spoke to us. He, in fact, gave us an interview, in which he said he would like to see India training more Afghan troops inside India perhaps with logistical equipment and other kinds as part of their strategic partnership. But that is something Pakistan has always been against. In fact, Pakistani leaders often saying that India is in the process of creating an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan. Given those concerns, do you think India should be stepping up its training of Afghan troops?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: : Well, I think India’s training project is very important to the overall picture of a coordinated effort to give Afghan security forces the capacity they need. We have encouraged India to make sure that is well-coordinated with NATO so there isn’t a duplication of effort. So that it is all part of a large plan that is supported by the Afghan Government, that can be Afghan-led, an Afghan process of taking charge of their own security. We are moving along that path in a very positive way, and we think it is important for India to play its role in that coordinated effort.

QUESTION: In Cambodia last week, President Obama reportedly said India is a big part of his plans in his second term. Does that include Afghanistan?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, there is no way India couldn’t be a big part of any president’s plans for the future. India is going to be the world’s largest country -- ever -- it is certainly the world’s largest democracy today. And India has a vibrant economy that is growing. I know that India would like to grow at an even faster pace and hopefully we will take care of our fiscal cliff. Europe will take care of its economic problems. The entire world’s economy will grow, India’s along with it. And so we think India is very crucial to everything that we do in the world. I am delighted that Secretary Clinton asked me to come here so soon after the President’s re-election, following on the President’s comments in Cambodia. Because India is very, very important to the future, not only of the United States, but of the world.

QUESTION: And his promise that he would in fact help India get that seat on the Security Council, where does that go?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: He has been very clear about that. That once we get to a place where the Security Council takes the reforms that is necessary, that we look forward to India as a permanent member.

QUESTION: I would like to end this as we started, Ms. UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: , India and the U.S. cooperating on many aspects of fighting terror. But really what is the next step when it comes to bringing those behind the Mumbai attacks to justice? What is that next step?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think the next step is for no one to lose their focus, for each of us to take every opportunity we can to bring them to justice, to continue our very close cooperation with each other, and also to work broadly on counter-terrorism. We want to make sure that a Mumbai attack doesn’t happen again. So we have to share intelligence with each other. We have to share capacity with each other. We have to work regionally as well. It is part of why a secure Afghanistan is so very important. You know, India is involved in the economic development in Afghanistan; India is involved in making sure that women have a role in the future of Afghanistan. All of this is important for a vibrant, strong regional economy, a vibrant, strong, secure region that will decrease the likelihood of terrorism. So, we have to share capabilities, we have to share information and we have to build a strong region to ensure that Mumbai does not happen again.

QUESTION: I know I said last question but the real question I was looking at is what is next step? Do you see more international cooperation? For example, in the last few months we have seen Saudi Arabia render to India a wanted terrorist who was in fact a Pakistani national according to his original papers. (A) Does the U.S. have a role in that? Will the U.S. help India get terrorists from other parts of the world?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: : Absolutely, and, in fact, Secretary Clinton co-chairs and will co-host on December 14 another meeting of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF). This is a broad international forum to look at counter-terrorism. We are very glad to see what Saudi Arabia has recently done, this is a very important step forward. We need to build all the partnerships we can around the world to fight terrorism. We know India will be a vibrant partner in the GCTF and it’s these kinds of international efforts where we share capabilities and information that we can end the scourge of terrorism for all of us.

QUESTION: Thank you Ms. Sherman.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you very much.

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