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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Indian Prime Minister Singh's State Visit and U.S. - India Relations

FPC Briefing
Robert Blake
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
November 18, 2009

Date: 11/18/2009 Location: Washington DC Description: Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs  previews the Indian Prime Minister Singh's state visit and briefs about U.S. policy towards India at the Washington Foreign Press Center on November 18. © State Dept Image


12:00 P.M. EST

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. We’re very pleased today to welcome Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake to our podium. The topic for today’s briefing is U.S.-India relations and Prime Minister Singh’s upcoming visit. After his opening remarks, Mr. Blake will then take your questions. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, thanks a lot, Doris. Appreciate the introduction, and nice to see so many old friends here.

I’m here today to talk about the state visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh next Tuesday. President Obama very much looks forward to welcoming the prime minister to the White House. And let me just say, by way of opening remarks, that India is a rising global power. It will soon become the most populous country in the world. It has a trillion dollar-plus economy. It’s the world’s largest democracy, and it’s also a very powerful, multicultural, and multiethnic example for the rest of the world, and particularly for other emerging democracies.

We think that India has an increasingly significant role to play on virtually all of the major challenges that we face in this century, from global economic dislocation to energy security, climate change, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and violent extremism. And both countries feel that we have a significant opportunity now to take our strategic partnership to the next level.

So what I’d like to do is to talk a little about the window that we now have to make some progress and some of the initiatives that we are putting in place to realize our ambitions to work more closely together.

First of all, just a little bit about the window that I spoke of. As you know, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress Party won, quite handily, recent elections in May, national elections that gave them a very strong mandate to proceed with the prime minister’s agenda. We see now an opposition in India that is divided. And I think recent state elections in Haryana and Maharashtra have shown that there’s still strong support for the Congress Party and for their agenda.

So again, I think we feel that with the relatively new beginning of the Obama Administration and the new beginning of Prime Minister Singh’s tenure, we have a really important window to work together and put in place some quite important policies.

In terms of relations with the United States, post-9/11 our relations have grown increasingly close, driven by our common interests and our common values. I think it’s particularly notable that there is bipartisan support both in India and in the United States for expanding our relations. In the last administration, obviously, the civil nuclear initiative was probably the signature initiative and played an important role in transforming what was the most significant bilateral irritant in our relations into a significant opportunity for us to work together.

And Secretary Clinton took a visit in July in which she announced the new strategic dialogue, which will increase the scope and the breadth of our cooperation across five key pillars. And let me just briefly describe some of the efforts that we have underway in each of those pillars.

The first is in the area of strategic cooperation. On the defense side, we have a very active exercise program that is growing in sophistication and scope. And I think that is reflected in the increasing practical cooperation that our two militaries have, such as the cooperation that we have underway in Somalia, off the coast of Somalia, to combat piracy.

U.S. companies also are very interested in defense sales in India. We’ve had some important recent sales with the C-130Js and the P8 maritime patrol aircraft. But there are significant new sales on the horizon, up to $18 billion worth of contracts, for which American companies are competing. The most notable of those is the multirole combat aircraft in which two American companies are competing for this important $10 billion contract.

During the Secretary’s visit in July, our two governments agreed on an end-use monitoring arrangement that I think will help the process of technology transfer between our two countries, and I think there’s scope for further progress in that area. One thing that I think the Indian Government could do would be to lift the cap on foreign equity in Indian defense firms from 26 percent to 49 percent.

The second area within the strategic cooperation framework is counterterrorism, and there our cooperation has expanded considerably after the terrible attacks in Mumbai of last November. Many of you know that Home Minister Chidambaram paid an important visit to Washington in September in which he met with secretary-level counterparts in a variety of different government agencies to talk about how we might expand our cooperation. And I think we’ll have more to say during the visit about that.

And the third principal area in the strategic cooperation pillar is that of nonproliferation. And again, this is – was for many, many years in the ‘80s and ‘90s an area where we didn’t really see eye to eye. I think there is now much greater cooperation as a result of the civil nuclear deal. And increasingly now, we see India as a partner in global nonproliferation initiatives. And again, I think we’ll have more to say about that during the visit itself.

The second pillar that we are going to be focusing on is that of energy and climate change. With the Copenhagen conference now less than a month away, this is obviously a very major focus of the President. And we think it’s very important that India work with us to achieve a successful outcome at Copenhagen. India emits approximately 4 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, making it roughly the world’s fifth largest emitter. And as India’s expansion continues, gas emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, are expected to rise roughly 50 percent over the next 20 years. So it’s very important that India be part of this new agreement. We, again, will have some very important deliverables to announce in the energy, security, and climate change area during the course of the visit.

On the civil nuclear agreement, let me just say that the Obama Administration remains committed to fully implementing the civil nuclear agreement. There are still some important steps to be taken, the most important of which is for the Government of India and for the parliament of India to pass liability legislation. That is extremely important for American companies. But I think we’re making good progress on implementing the civil nuclear agreement. And again, this is an area now of cooperation.

The third major pillar is in – is that of economics and trade and agriculture. The Indian economy has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies over the last several years, largely on the strength of the reforms that were initiated by Manmohan Singh in 1991, when he was the minister of finance. In terms of our trade, it has more than doubled just in the last five years. It now exceeds $43 billion. And we expect that growth to continue into the foreseeable future as India’s middle class continues to grow and as India’s economy continues to open up. U.S. investment also has grown very quickly, and now totals about $18 billion.

And one of the interesting new trends, I think, in our relations is that Indian investment into the United States also is growing very rapidly, not quite at the same level, but again, growing very rapidly. I think I saw a reference by the Indian ambassador that it totaled about $10 billion in the United States last year, so that’s obviously welcome and an important source of new jobs for the United States.

At a time when many of the industrializing and undustrialized countries around the world are beginning to experience declining birthrates and shrinking workforces, India’s workforce is going to grow substantially over the next 20 or 30 years as a result of its very young population. So I think that, again, offers some significant opportunities for American investors and American companies. And you all know that the reforms that have been undertaken in India have made Indian companies leaders in areas such as information technology, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and now increasingly, in manufacturing as well as in clean energy.

I talked a little bit earlier about climate change. Climate change is going to have a quite significant impact on India’s most vulnerable populations, particularly those in the agricultural sector that account for roughly half of India’s workforce, including about 300 million subsistence farmers. So our two leaders will be announcing some new initiatives in the ag area to, again, help enhance food security not only for India, but increasingly how India can help to enhance food security for the rest of the world.

The fourth major pillar of our bilateral dialogue is in the area of education and development. And this is another area where we expect to experience very, very important growth. Right now, India has some 220 million students who are enrolled in primary and secondary schools around the country, and about 10 million who are enrolled in Indian colleges. The very dynamic minister of human resources development, basically the minister of education, Kapil Sibal, was recently in the United States and was touring many of the university campuses here to try to encourage greater investment and interest on the part of American universities. And I think there’s great interest because the Indian Government will be introducing legislation later this year into the Indian parliament to open up the higher education sector to greater foreign investment. This is a very welcome change.

And again, I think universities of all kinds in the United States, be they the Ivy League universities and the state universities, but even community colleges, are very interested in doing more to enhance their collaboration with the Indians, not only in terms of attracting more students to the United States – and I’ll have more to say about that later – but also to provide opportunities for American students to begin to study more in India itself. And so again, both of those trends are very, very welcome.

The last pillar of our cooperation is in the area of science and technology, health and innovation. Secretary Clinton and her counterpart, External Affairs Minister Krishna, signed an agreement during her visit in July creating a $30 million science and technology endowment that will be used for joint research and development and innovation and commercialization. So we’re very excited about that.

In terms of new initiatives for the – for this visit, we think that we’ll have some important things to say on the health front, where, again, we have a lot of cooperation already underway in areas like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, polio. And we think there’s scope to continue to enhance that cooperation.

Lastly, I’d like to just make a point about the private sector. Increasingly, we see that the private sector is going to have a cross-cutting and very influential role in most of the work that we’re doing at the government-to-government level. And that’s why our two governments have agreed to continue and to reshape the CEO Forum to make sure that it reflects the wide scope and breadth of the activities that the United States and India are now undertaking together. So the new CEO Forum will meet on the margins of the summit next week, and I expect that there will be a brief meeting as well with the prime minister and the president.

And going forward, the CEO Forum will not only provide advice to our two governments about how we can provide further opportunities for our two private sectors to prosper and work together, but also to work with us on private-public partnerships of all kinds in many of the areas that I talked about. So again, we’re very encouraged and excited about the opportunity to work more with the private sector both in India but also in the United States.

Let me talk just a little bit about the cooperation on some of the global challenges we face, because I think increasingly that’s going to become more of a focus of our bilateral relations. Indeed, I think one of the marks of the big changes that are taking place in relations between the United States and India is that our bilateral dialogue is less and less about resolving old legacy bilateral problems, and more and more about seizing new opportunities to work together in global areas such as nonproliferation, climate change, food security, and so forth.

Already, we’re working very closely in fora such as the G-20 and the Major Economies Forum, where the President has really appreciated the opportunity to work with Prime Minister Singh and seek his very valuable counsel.

Let me just conclude with a very brief word about people-to-people ties, because I think that’s been a very important factor that has underpinned the bipartisan support that exists in both of our countries, but has also allowed us to take this relationship forward. We’re very proud of the Indian diaspora here in the United States that now numbers about 2.5 million people. They are among our most successful immigrant populations in the United States in terms of their achievements, in terms of per capita income, and increasingly, they’re playing a very important role in our bilateral relations. The Indian American diaspora was very active on the Hill in working on the civil nuclear legislation, and increasingly, we want to try to broaden that engagement to work more with them on the full scope of the work that we have underway between our two countries. And I think they welcome that opportunity as well.

The second kind of key interest group that’s been, I think, a very important part of the expansion of our relations have been the students, particularly the Indian students that have come here to the United States. We passed a very important milestone this year in that for the first time, more than 100,000 Indian students are studying in the United States. They are the most numerous of all foreign student groupings in the United States. And they play an extremely important role in bridging our two societies, and increasingly those students are taking what they learn in the United States – they often are staying for internships or three or four years to work on Wall Street or wherever – and then they’re going back and they’re playing a very, very important role in starting up new ventures in biotechnology, in nanotechnology, and a huge range of sectors. And again, they perform a very, very important bridging function between our two societies, and that’s one of the reasons why we want to try to expand our cooperation because of that bridge that they serve as.

So let me stop there, and I’d be glad to take your questions on anything to do with the visit.

MODERATOR: Just a reminder, please wait for the microphone, and when I call on you, state your name and your news organization.

QUESTION: Thank you. Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily. During your presentation, you mentioned initiatives that might come up next week, yet in the economic pillar, you didn’t mention any initiatives, and I know that high-technology trade between the countries is a big issue. Will there be any initiative in the economic area?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes, there will be a trade announcement about a sort of new framework in trade. But we’re – as you say, this is an area where we’ve been working very hard and made a lot of progress over the last several years, and there’s a lot of ongoing work that we just need to continue. And again, I just think there’s a tremendous amount of progress that’s already been made, but there’s also, frankly, more progress that needs to go, particularly I talked earlier about the need to continue to open the economy. I think, for example, American companies are very interested in seeing investment caps lifted in the insurance sector, in the defense sector, and several other – in banking and retail. And all of those would provide significant new opportunities to further expand our trade and investment.

QUESTION: Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. Welcome here.


QUESTION: There is a concern in India about improving the relationship between India and Pakistan, figuring in the U.S.-China joint statement day before yesterday. How do you address that concern, and what was the need for that India-China figuring in that statement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t think there needs to be any concern in India about what the President said in China. We have very important relations with China, but we have equally important relations with India. And I think that will come out very clearly during the course of the prime minister’s visit next week.

We welcome China’s interest in helping to stabilize the Afghanistan and Pakistan region. We believe that China has important equities, particularly in Afghanistan where they have very significant investments. And so again, as with most of the other countries in the world, we welcome China’s participation in helping to stabilize that very important part of the region.

QUESTION: Do you see any role for China in improving Indo-U.S. and Indo-Pakistan relationship?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think as we’ve always said, in terms of Indo-Pakistan relations, that’s really up to India and Pakistan to decide how and when and the scope of that. As friends to both of those countries, we have always encouraged both countries to meet and to try to narrow their differences. In this case, I think the priority is for Pakistan to take action against the Mumbai suspects that it has in custody and to – again, just to make sure that there is not cross-border infiltration and that Pakistan is not used as a platform for terrorists to attack either India or other neighboring countries. And I think Pakistan wants to do that, and they have consistently said that they want to make sure that Pakistan’s territory is not used as a platform.

So those are the kind of areas where we do have some – we can play a role. But by and large, on the bilateral issues that are facing their two countries, it’s up to India and Pakistan to resolve this.

MODERATOR: Let’s go to Sarah , in the red.

QUESTION: Hello, I’m Sarah with New Delhi Television. You said India and the U.S. are cooperating on counterterrorism. What is the latest you are hearing on the case of Rana and Headley, the two Chicago-based businessmen accused of plotting a terror attack in India? And what exactly is the cooperation the U.S. and Indian intelligence officers are doing on this front?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: It won’t surprise you to hear that I’m not going to be able to answer that question, because it’s an ongoing law enforcement and very important law enforcement action. And so I don’t want to get into the details of something that is, again, a very high priority for all of our countries.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Now there’s an opinion in Washington – does this strengthen the connection between Pakistan and terror in India, or no?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: This particular case?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, that’s – that gets into the details of what – about the investigation itself, and I’d rather not comment on it.


MODERATOR: We’ll go right here.

QUESTION: Nikarika Acharya with the Voice of America. To get back to the China issues, you’ve spoken about how India and Pakistan are best suited in solving their bilateral issues. So are you of the opinion that China cannot really play a role in improving the bilateral relations between these two countries?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, that’s up to those three countries to sort out. I mean, it’s not really for me to try to make pronouncements about that. So I think I’ll just leave it at that.

MODERATOR: Why don’t we take a question from New York, and then we’ll come back to Washington. Go ahead, New York.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Indira Kannan with CNN-IBN. The Obama Administration has often spoken about its nonproliferation agenda and especially wants all countries to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Is this something that President Obama will be bringing up with Prime Minister Singh, the nonproliferation, as well as the signing of the CTBT?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yeah. I think nonproliferation will be a very important part of our dialogue. The President is – as you know, had a – gave a very important speech in Prague in March in which he laid out his vision for a nuclear weapons-free world. And I think Prime Minister Singh has endorsed that vision. And we’ve already seen good cooperation on issues like the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. And I think the ratification of the CTBT is going to be a very high priority for our Administration. So there’s a whole range of issues on nonproliferation that we’d like to get India’s cooperation on, because we think that India really is an important leader in this area and can really be an important ally in helping to advance these globally.

MODERATOR: Let’s go here and then here.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you. Iftikhar Hussain from Voice of America Pashto Service. What role is the U.S. is seeking from India in Afghanistan, particularly after the new strategy? And second, on Pakistan-Indo relation front --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just answer that one first. On Afghanistan, let me just say that we welcome the very important role that India has played in Afghanistan. India has provided $1.2 billion in assistance for – primarily for infrastructure development for roads and electricity lines and things like that, but also a lot in much more localized development projects, which I think are equally important and match a lot of the things that we are doing as well around the country. So we very much welcome that, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with India on the stabilization of Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on that?


QUESTION: On the front of Pak-India relation and particularly Pakistan has concern of Indian influence in Afghanistan in the same, Pak-India talks have come to a standstill. How the U.S. is reflecting all the developments to achieve its goal in the region?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, I don’t think I have anything more to add beyond what I already said. And I think, again, we appreciate the role that India is playing, and that’s what we – we will continue to coordinate closely with India.

MODERATOR: Let’s go to Chidu.

QUESTION: Chidanand Rajghatta with the Times of India. Ambassador, when the prime minister is going to be here, it’s going to be one year since the Mumbai carnage. What is your sense of the progress Pakistan has made into prosecuting those who are responsible for that crime? Are there any markers? Because from everything we read, the court hearings keep getting postponed and Pakistan does not have a good record of prosecuting terrorists.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, as you say, I think there’s been some progress in that a number of the perpetrators have been arrested. Court cases have been initiated against them. But now it’s important to finish the task, to complete those judicial proceedings. And also, I think another important issue for Pakistan to look at is the question of Hafiz Saeed, because Hafiz Saeed is the subject of international sanctions, UN sanctions, as well as bilateral American sanctions.

And then lastly, I think, is the issue of cross-border infiltration and just making sure that that also is addressed. Because as the Secretary has spoken to many times during the course of her visit to Pakistan and elsewhere, we see that all of these violent extremist groups are working together increasingly. So it’s very much in Pakistan’s own interests to address this problem of violent extremism. And Pakistan has made a lot of progress. They’ve undertaken the important initiatives in the Swat Valley and now in South Waziristan. And we hope that they’re going to continue that to – again, to confront the violent extremists that threaten not only Pakistan but other countries such as India and the United States.

MODERATOR: Let’s go to New York, and then we’ll come back to Washington.

QUESTION: Hi. This is Raj Rangarajan from the South Asian Times, New York. You said – you mentioned something about India opening up defense, banking, and insurance. Is there a timeframe on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That’s what we’d like to know. (Laughter.) I don’t – you’ll have to ask the Indian Government. We – these are things that we’ve been talking about for many years. And again, I think our companies – we – I don’t just announce this kind of stuff randomly. We have a very detailed dialogue with the U.S.-India Business Council, which, in turn, works closely with Indian companies in India. And I think the U.S.-India Business Council and other American businesses have identified these as priorities.

QUESTION: Thank you. Goyal Raghubir, India Globe and Asia Today. Assistant Secretary, what will be the new thing in doing this visit? Because we have a reelected prime minister in India and the new Administration here. Last time Prime Minister Singh was at the White House during the Bush Administration. And you think there will be now something new as far as some trust-building between India and the U.S., or where the India-U.S. relations will go from here under this Administration?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, as I said earlier, I think there’s already been a great deal of trust-building that has occurred over the last eight years, and there is bipartisan support now on – in both countries to move these relations forward.

So building on the support – on the progress in the civ-nuke side, we want to take it into these new areas that I talked about, not only the bilateral areas on things like education and energy – clean energy, but also increasingly into the multilateral area, where traditionally the United States and India have not worked terribly productively together. And now, we feel for the first time that we have a significant opportunity to make progress and to have India really be part of the solution on things like global trade talks and climate change and nonproliferation.


QUESTION: K.P. Nayar from The Telegraph. You mentioned in answer to a question here that you welcome India’s role, what India is doing in Afghanistan at the moment.


QUESTION: This week, Ambassador Holbrooke, if my memory serves right, went to Berlin, Paris, Munich, Moscow. He was already in Islamabad with Secretary Clinton, and State Department has already announced that he will go to Afghanistan on a date as yet unspecified.

Now, from this itinerary, it’s obvious that India is a singular exception to Ambassador Holbrooke’s travels. Now, since it’s one of New Delhi’s open secrets that there is no love lost between Mr. Holbrooke and his Indian interlocutors, what is one to make out of this exclusion of India among the major capitals in his current itinerary?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I would make nothing whatsoever out of that. First of all, I dispute that there’s any kind of tension between Ambassador Holbrooke and – he has very good relations and – with all of his interlocutors in Delhi.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: He’s not in Delhi – including Karzai.

But also, I have to say in Ambassador Holbrooke’s defense, every time he goes to the region, he contacts our friends in India to try to seek an appointment to come and talk to them and to debrief them about what he’s doing and to get their advice about what we are doing. So most of the time, it’s just been a question of many of the interlocutors not being available because they themselves are traveling in other parts of the world, and so forth. So there is a very deep desire on the part of Ambassador Holbrooke to coordinate very closely with India. And we – I’m sure that Afghanistan and Pakistan will be a very important part of our discussions next week as well. And we very much value not only the contributions that India is making in Afghanistan, but also the advice that they can give us about this.

MODERATOR: Let’s go back to New York.

QUESTION: Hi, Laura Trevelyan from the BBC. You talked about how the Indian diaspora is amongst the most successful of all the immigrant populations. I wondered if you could just expand on that and perhaps say why you think it is. And also, you talked about the diaspora becoming more active in legislation. Do you have any more examples other than the civil nuclear deal?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, let me take the last question first. I wasn’t really referring so much to the legislation. I was saying that we hoped that the diaspora will become more active in partnering with us on a lot of these initiatives that we talked about, be it in education or in clean energy or in any of the other areas.

And again, most of the diaspora are highly successful leaders in all of their fields. And so they have a real important role to play and they understand so well the Indian system, and so they’re in a wonderful position to help bridge and, again, establish these public-private partnerships that I talked about earlier. So that’s more the direction that we’d like to take that.

I don’t have any real statistics to – but this is – on the success of the diaspora, but I can say that the census and others have consistently shown that the Indian American community is, I think, the most – in terms of per capita income, the most successful of our immigrant communities. But I can’t tell you who the next three or four are, but we could certainly try to find that out for you.

QUESTION: Anwar Iqbal from Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. You clearly denied that there is any role for China in improving India-Pakistan relations. But if you look at the joint statement that was issued after the talks yesterday, clearly it mentions that role and also says that you expect China to play a role in preventing Afghanistan and Pakistan from becoming a base for terrorism.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, I’d like to correct you. I didn’t deny it. I said that China has a very important role to play and that they have important equities, and like many of the other countries that we’re seeking – that we’re consulting with, we think that it’s important to get the views of China on this very, very important question. And as I say, they have major investments in Afghanistan, and we value their advice. And they also have important stakes in the stability of Afghanistan. So it’s only natural that we would consult them about what’s going on there.

QUESTION: Can you clarify, are you talking about Afghanistan or --

MODERATOR: Wait for the microphone, please.

QUESTION: We need a clarification here. China’s role in Afghanistan or China’s role in India-Pakistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, both. I mean, we want to get their views on both of the countries and, again, solicit their advice, just as we would with friends like India.

QUESTION: My name is Javed Soomro. I’m from BBC’s South Asian services. Just revisiting your previous answer, where are the U.S. and India on the civilian nuclear deal? I mean, what is the stumbling block, if there is any?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I wouldn’t say there’s any stumbling blocks. It’s just a matter of continuing to implement the agreement. The most recent step that was taken was that the Indian Government announced two nuclear reactor park sites in October that will be dedicated to American investors in Andhra Pradesh and in Gujarat. That was certainly a very welcome step. And I think the last major obstacle that still needs to be overcome, or the last major step that perhaps needs to be taken is the liability – passage of the liability legislation that I mentioned earlier, because that will be, I think, a very important prerequisite for American investments in the nuclear sector.

MODERATOR: Let’s go back to New York.

QUESTION: Hi, this is Indira Kannan again from CNN-IBN. Sorry, I just wanted to follow up on my previous question just one more time. Can you tell me if – specifically whether President Obama will bring up the NPT in his discussions with the prime minister, and whether he will ask for India to sign on?

And I have a second question on a slightly curious comment –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We’ll give the President a rich menu of things to talk about, and he’ll decide what he wants to talk about. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And you mentioned in your opening remarks about how there was strong support for the Congress agenda in India, and also that the opposition in India was divided. I’m just curious. I found that slightly unusual. Do you think that it might be seen as the U.S. interfering in India’s internal political situation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Pretty much whatever I say is going to be cast by someone as interfering in something. But no, I think it’s just a fact that – and I’m not trying to make any judgments about it. I’m just saying that I think – the point I was trying to make was that I think the Congress Party now is in a very strong position to carry forward its own agenda, which includes strengthening relations with the United States. In the previous government, there were members of the Congress Party coalition that opposed strengthening relations, particularly the nuclear deal and some other things.

And so I think now that they have – now that the Congress Party has a stronger mandate of its own, they don’t need to rely on these sometimes unhelpful coalition partners and are freer to pursue that agenda.

MODERATOR: Is there anyone who hasn’t asked a question? Let’s go to APP.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think we’ll take two more questions and then I’ve got to go.

QUESTION: Thank you. This is Ali Imran from Associated Press of Pakistan. How should Islamabad see this visit by the Indian prime minister, and particularly the defense deals you have mentioned between U.S. and India? And how is U.S. going to maintain ties with both South Asian countries, Pakistan and India? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t think Islamabad should in any way feel threatened by the steps that we’re taking with India. We very much value our partnership with Pakistan and with India. It’s ironic that in the beginning of this Administration, everybody in India was saying that we were focusing exclusively on Pakistan and Afghanistan to the exclusion of India. So – and there was a good reason for that, partly because Pakistan and Afghanistan are extremely important, but also because the Indian Government had not yet had its elections, so we were not in a position to know who the new government would be and then begin to articulate what our new – the outlines of what our new partnership would be.

So now we are in such a position. And Secretary Clinton, as I mentioned, went out in July and conveyed this invitation on behalf of the President for Manmohan Singh to be the first state visitor of the Obama Administration, which we were very pleased, of course, that he accepted.

So in terms of the – what you mentioned about the defense sales, let me be clear: None of those are going to be announced. These are longer-term sales that are in the planning stages still and will be – I think there will tenders underway in each of those areas, but nothing will be announced during the course of this visit.


QUESTION: Ambassador, Ashish Sen with Outlook Magazine. Following the Mumbai attacks last year, there was a military buildup along the India-Pakistan border, and concern here in Washington that the Pakistani army might be distracted with what’s happening on its eastern border rather than focusing on the west. Do you believe that sufficient steps have been taken to reverse this situation to change it, and is the Pakistani army more focused now on what’s happening on the west rather than on the Indian border?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think that the steps that Pakistan has taken in Swat and in South Waziristan show that they are taking the extremist threat within Pakistan seriously, and let me just leave it at that. I mean, I think there has been progress and Pakistan has deployed troops away from the Indian border. But I think there’s still room for further progress on that, obviously. They – there are still some in Pakistan who believe that India is their primary threat and not the extreme militant organizations that we spoke of.

QUESTION: And do you believe that India needs to do more to reassure the Pakistanis about what’s happening on the eastern border?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, that’s something for India and Pakistan to work out together, and I don’t want to start getting in the middle of telling one country or the other what they should be doing.

MODERATOR: One more? Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. How the United States see the Waziristan operation by the Pakistan military? And is it contributing on the ground to the U.S. troops combat against Taliban in Afghanistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: As I said earlier, the United States has welcomed the progress that the Pakistani military has been making in South Waziristan, and we hope that that will be sustained, not just in South Waziristan, but in other parts of Pakistan.

MODERATOR: We’ll have to end there. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yeah. I’m so sorry, everybody. I’ve got to run off to another event. But thank you so much for your interest, and if there’s sufficient interest, we might try to – I’m sure the White House will be having an event to announce the results of the visit, but I’m always happy to get together with you later if there’s an interest in further information. So thank you again for your time.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

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