QUESTION: Secretary, it’s so good to see you (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is wonderful to see you here in Washington, and I’m delighted that you could come. And also, this interview which will probably air by the time National Day has started. So again, I send my very best wishes and congratulations.
QUESTION: Thank you, but I know you’re so hard-pressed for time, so coming straight to the strategic dialogue --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: -- I just flew in from Islamabad, and a (inaudible) left on the terms of the strategic dialogue, in which – Pakistan strategic dialogue, which so – sounds so good, but it’s all taking place, taking shape in the context of Afghanistan. And once the U.S. meets the goals in Afghanistan, the strategic dialogue or whatever relationship U.S. and Pakistan have is going to start (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is certainly not our plan. Our plan is that we’ve been working this past year to qualitatively change the nature of our relationship between the United States and Pakistan. There are so many issues that are of importance to Pakistan, to the United States, to our people, that we wanted to have the framework of a strategic dialogue, which we have with a number of countries, but it is something that we care deeply about with respect to Pakistan.
As I said when I was visiting in October, we want to take our relationship to a deeper level. We want to have the kind of ongoing consultation and dialogue. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not going to be able to wave a magic wand when we say that our first really ministerial-level strategic dialogue that is starting this week takes place. It is a process, but it’s such an important process, and we very much believe in it.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, a number of issues have united to fight on the agenda, like water, like energy, like economic cooperation, security, education, communication and diplomacy. But people wonder that – where is the interdependence? No enduring strategic relationship can survive without an element of interdependence, and all the relationships that you have, either with UK or (inaudible) in Canada and the new relationship with India has element of interdependence.
Are we expecting any movement towards a free trade agreement with the United States and Pakistan or a potential access for Pakistani textile products into the United States market?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the free trade agenda has been paramount to the Obama Administration. I have personally spoken out about it. I have testified before Congress. The President has spoken out about it. Unfortunately, we came to office in the middle of a global recession, but our commitment to increasing market access for Pakistani goods is at the top of our agenda.
And again, I know that there’s a level of impatience and a sense of anticipation, but we believe that we want to build a very strong foundation, because we don’t want this to be a year or two of strategic dialoguing. We want this to be, along with some of the countries you just mentioned, an enduring part of our relationship and our foreign policy priorities.
QUESTION: When I look at the list (inaudible), things like apart from security, we have economic development, we have agriculture, we have energy, which (inaudible) with me that all these things are very intimate and very closely linked with the issue of the water. And water, in the context of South Asia, between India and Pakistan is increasingly a transnational commodity, a transnational issue. Are we expecting the United States to play a more active and more robust diplomacy between India and Pakistan on the issue of water?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the issues that you mentioned are all interconnected, and you can’t pull one out and say, well, is this now going to become international as opposed to what we can do within the context of our relationship to assist Pakistan.
Agriculture, water – they’re all connected. We think we can bring to the table technology, innovation. I announced a project that we are funding to help farmers in Pakistan update two wells so that they can get better irrigation from the water that is already there. We’re well aware that there is a 50-year-old agreement between Pakistan and India concerning water.
What we want to do is to help Pakistan make better use of the water that you do have. That’s going to have to be the first priority in countries including our own. Let’s see what we do to protect our aquifers. Let’s see what we do to be more efficient in the use of our water. Let’s see what we do to capture more rainwater; how do we actually use less of it to produce more crops? We think we have some ideas with our experts that we want to sit down and talk with your experts about and see where that goes.
QUESTION: Just – if I want to spend 30 seconds more on that, in the sense that what you mentioned is an internal management of the water resources, and I want to remind you that you have recently launched the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative in which you identified that (inaudible) hunger is a strategic part of the U.S. foreign policy. So I wonder that – will you still be persuaded by the Indian argument that Pakistan and India are a bilateral relationship and U.S. cannot play an active mediation between them? Maybe water will change that perspective, that perception?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, usually, where there is an agreement, as there is between India and Pakistan on water, with mediation techniques, arbitration built in, it would seem sensible to look to what already exists to try to resolve any of the bilateral problems between India and Pakistan. But in the course of the strategic dialogue, what we want to do is focus on the problem. If the problem is water or agriculture or energy, without looking externally, as we do in our other strategic dialogues, when we have a strategic dialogue with Russia, it’s between the United States and Russia.
Now, Russia may have trouble with China or with another neighbor in Eastern Europe, but our strategic dialogue is between the two of us. And our strategic dialogue with Pakistan, which we are taking to the ministerial level at the highest level of civilian democratic leadership, is what we want to build and really put on a strong footing for the future.
QUESTION: Secretary, are we expecting on the issue of the energy – you mentioned yourself Pakistan has (inaudible). Are we expecting any, as a result of the strategic dialogue, a civilian nuclear cooperation between the United States and Pakistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have a very broad agenda laid out for this. I don’t want to prejudge or preempt what we are going to talk about because we haven’t held it yet, as we – you and I are being – holding our conversation. We’re going to have many issues, including that one, which the Pakistani delegation wishes to raise. And we’re going to really go deep into all of these.
Now, this is the first meeting, and we have to set up the mechanism for going forward. I look forward to coming back to Pakistan in the future myself to continue this dialogue. I tried to start it in October when I was there. I feel very personally committed. I have many, many Pakistani American friends and now many friends in Pakistan who are really counting on us to have a very thorough examination of all these different issues.
We can’t prejudge it. We don’t know what the path will be. I have been in enough of these dialogues to know that you can have an idea, but it might take years to develop. So we have to sort it out and see, in a prioritized way, how we move forward.
QUESTION: One related question comes to mind, is that Pakistan is a de facto nuclear power since 1998. Are we expecting, at some stage, United States accepting Pakistan as a nuclear power?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, I don’t want to prejudge or preempt. I think part of what we have to do – and we are building the basis of what I hope will be an open, transparent, frank relationship between us. That’s what countries that develop that level of trust and confidence can do with each other. I well remember being in Pakistan in October and being told by many journalists and many others that there was a trust deficit, we did not trust each other. I think the fact that we have come to a point where we’re going to have a serious strategic dialogue at the highest level of government is quite a move.
But I am absolutely convinced we have a long way to go. We can’t just wave that magic wand and say we’ve eliminated the trust deficit, we fully understand each other. This takes time, and we have to build it step by step. But I’m very committed to this process.
QUESTION: Last question. We are expecting you for the second round of the strategic dialogue in Pakistan. The last time you came here, you left such an impact. Are we going to expect you to come and have a discussion to assess the progress we have made in Pakistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. We have strategic dialogues with Russia, with China. We alternate. Our Russian counterparts or Chinese will come here, then approximately – I don’t know how many months, but usually somewhere – eight, 10 months, a year, we go there. We go back and forth because it’s important to hold each of our governments accountable. I mean, I can have an excellent discussion with Foreign Minister Qureshi, but unless our bureaucracy here in the United States and your bureaucracy back in Pakistan actually do the work, we make no progress. So of course, we have to keep the pressure on. So our first meeting will be this week in Washington and then we will have the next meeting in Islamabad.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Pleasure to see you again. Thank you very much.