1:00 ESTASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Welcome also to our colleagues at the New York Foreign Press Center. We’re very pleased to welcome Assistant Secretary Robert Blake back to the podium. He’s going to talk about his recent trip to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Brussels. He will start out with some opening comments and then take your questions.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, thank you very much. It’s great to be back here at the Foreign Press Center to see so many old friends here. As was just announced, I’ve just come back from a trip to – first to India, then to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and finally, to Brussels for some consultations with the EU. So let me just briefly run through each of those and I’d be glad to take any of your questions after that.
In India, I really had two purposes there. The first was to give a speech before the Asia Society, which was having its big annual conference in Delhi. And I was asked to speak on trade matters. The full text of my speech is on the South and Central Asian Affairs website, so you can look at it there.
But essentially, I talked a lot about the U.S.-India relationship and encouraged the Government of India to continue to open its economy because that will help to attract foreign investments and create jobs, and it’ll also help us to export more to our friends in India.
I also had a number of meetings with my various counterparts in the Ministry of External Affairs, most prominently the Joint Secretary who handles the Americas who is my counterpart with whom we coordinate the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. But I also had meetings with those who handle Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the Central Asia person as well, and those were good consultations.
As you all know, earlier this week, the United States and India announced an agreement on our reprocessing arrangement which we feel is a very important step forward in our civil nuclear process. You’ve heard me say many times that the Obama Administration is strongly committed to fulfilling the civil nuclear deal, and I think this is obviously a very clear sign of that. I’m glad to talk about that more if you’d like.
From India, I went off to Afghanistan. I had been hoping to go up to Kunduz to learn a little bit more about the Central Asia part of Afghanistan, since I also handle Central Asia and a lot of the logistical support for our troops in Afghanistan is made possible by our friends from Central Asia. Unfortunately, the weather was bad in Kunduz, so I wasn’t able to go up there. But I had a lot of good internal meetings with our folks at the Embassy there and also with the – all of the friends working at ISAF. So that was helpful for me.
In Pakistan, I was able to visit both Islamabad as well as our consulates in Karachi and Lahore – the first time that I’ve been able to visit Pakistan while I’ve been Assistant Secretary, and I must say it was a very useful and productive visit. I was able to have meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with Pakistani military, with a lot of the provincial council officials, provincial – I should say – officials, and then a lot of meetings with civil society and the press.
And I basically conveyed to all of those groups two important messages. First, the importance that the United States attaches to broadening and deepening the partnership between the United States and Pakistan, as shown by our decision to initiate the Strategic Dialogue that was led by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Qureshi that you’re all aware of, and as also shown by the significant new assistance that the United States is providing to Pakistan, as symbolized by the Kerry-Lugar legislation.
So I, in all of my stops, talked about how the energy support that the United States is providing to Pakistan, our efforts to help the Pakistani Government to extend health and education services to the people of Afghanistan, to overcome some of the really very important challenges that Pakistan is facing these days.
And my second message was that the United States hopes that India and Pakistan can improve relations between two friends of the United States. I reiterated our longstanding position that the pace, scope, and character of relations and the resumption of relations is up to the governments of India and Pakistan. But again, as a friend of both of those countries, we hope that they can make progress.
I told them that the United States had welcomed the talks that took place between the Foreign Secretaries in Delhi on February 25th and hoped that that progress could be sustained.
In Pakistan, I said that India is really seeking two things: First, the continued prosecution of the suspects who are already in custody for the Mumbai bombings that took place in November of 2008; and secondly, India would like to see progress to curtail cross-border infiltration that is taking place from Pakistan into India. And I reminded them that from 2004 to 2007, both of those countries made quite important progress in their bilateral relations and that that progress was made possible in part by the significant efforts that the Government of Pakistan made at that time to stop cross-border infiltration.
I thanked all of our interlocutors in Pakistan for the very important progress that Pakistan has made to date, first in its campaign in Swat and more recently in South Waziristan, and then the arrest of Taliban leaders that you have all seen. And I urged them to also take action against the Punjab-based groups such as LET because – not only because that’s important to India, but it’s important to the United States. LET has growing ambition and scope in its activities, as shown by the David Headley case, and so we think it’s very much in the interests of Pakistan as well to take action against the LET.
My other message on the Indo-Pak side was, particularly with the business communities, was to urge them to take advantage of the significant and thus far under-exploited opportunities for trade between India and Pakistan. Trade is only about – the volume of bilateral trade and the value of it is about $2.75 billion a year, officially. There is some trade that comes through Dubai and then elsewhere. But the larger point is that that is quite small for countries whose economies are really quite well developed and that such trade would provide significant employment opportunities not only for Pakistan but also for India. And that in itself would have, I think, a stabilizing impact. So that was another very important message throughout my visits.
So let me stop there and allow time for any of your questions on anything. Aziz – sorry.
MODERATOR: Just a reminder, please wait for the microphone on either side, and state your name and organization.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sorry, I’m not allowed to call. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Yes, you are. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Ambassador, good to see you. Aziz Haniffa with India Abroad and Rediff.com. Just about the time you landed coincided with the about-face by Headley and his pleading guilty. And I know it’s a law enforcement issue, but there’s a lot of concern and paranoia that a deal was struck and there is – Headley was sort of an intelligence guy and everything else. And there is now this clamor that Headley be made available in terms of questioning by Indian authorities and there has been some kind of – there have been some people who said yes, he will be made available. Ambassador Roemer made some comments which people were saying does this mean that he won’t be made available right now, et cetera. Could you speak to this issue and how you all at the State Department, even though it’s sort of a law enforcement issue, will try your best to make this person available? Because I’m sure there is a lot of people in India wanting to know what exactly the connections were in terms of the Mumbai bombings.
And a quick follow-up in terms of Nirupama Rao being here and saying there won’t be a resurrection of the Composite Dialogue unless the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan was eliminated, and the Pakistanis saying look here, we are victims of terrorism too and we are trying darn hard to stop it and we would like to get back to the table and talk.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Okay, let me take the first question first on Headley. And let me go back to the statement that Ambassador Roemer made in Delhi, I think last week sometime, in which he said that the United States is committed to full information sharing with the Government of India on this very, very important case. And we understand that there’s a lot of information that Mr. Headley has that is of great interest to India, particularly because he was scouting out some possible sites, and so obviously the Government of India has a great interest in anything to do with that. And we have a great interest in sharing as much information as we can on that.
So again, we are very much committed to full information sharing with the government on that. However, no decision has yet been made on the question of whether they will have direct access to David Headley. And the U.S. Department of Justice is working with the Government of India to discuss the modalities for such cooperation. But again, no decision has been made on that.
With respect to the foreign secretary’s statement, I mean, I think I’ve already addressed that in my opening remarks that the United States also believes it’s important for Pakistan to not allow any terrorist groups to use Pakistan as a base from which to attack India or any other country. And so I made that point not only publicly but privately with our friends in Pakistan.
MODERATOR: Let’s take two questions from here and then we’ll go to New York. Let’s go to APP.
QUESTION: Thank you, Assistant Secretary, for the opportunity. I am Ali Imram for Associated Press of Pakistan.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Nice to see you.
QUESTION: Thank you. You have said that U.S. has good relations with both Pakistan and India. Pakistan is facing an urgent issue, which is water shortage. And you said that U.S. is prepared to help and is already helping Pakistan on energy issues.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Right.
QUESTION: But at the same time, Pakistan is accusing India of stealing its share of water and the talks between the two countries this week remain inconclusive. And the media in Pakistan is portraying it as water terrorism on part of India because it’s a matter of life and death for Pakistani agriculture economy. So in what ways can the U.S. help both of its friends to address this issue so that the attention on Afghan stability and security is not distracted?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: This is a question that came up in virtually every single meeting I had in Pakistan, not only with civil society people, the press, and everywhere. And what I said to everybody there was that if Pakistan believes that India is violating the Indus Water Treaty, then Pakistan should avail itself of the opportunity to submit whatever grievances it has to the independent arbitration panel that has been set up by the Indus Water Treaty. As many of you know, both countries have appealed to that panel many times in the past, most recently with respect to the Baglihar dam. So this is a functioning mechanism that has worked well in the past. And so again, if there are serious issues that Pakistan believes need to be addressed, then that is the address to which it should make its claim.
I also said that it is our view that the real issue is that both India and Pakistan have rapidly expanding populations and rapidly expanding economies, and therefore, of course, water use is growing very rapidly in both of these countries. And so the real challenge is how to make better use, more efficient use, of the water that they now have. And in Pakistan, I think there’s a particular urgency to looking at the agricultural sector, which accounts for more than half of water usage. And there are a great many practices that are inefficient; for example, the practice of flood irrigation that, if modified, would make a significant difference to the amount of water that is used in Pakistan. So I think that’s the kind of thing that we are working with Pakistan on. One of the things that we’re doing now in Pakistan – I think it’s noteworthy – is we have a tube well initiative where we’re helping to make 10,000 tube wells more efficient by replacing the engines on them. And that’s just one of many. And that’s both an electricity but also a water issue. So I think that’s where the real focus should be is to try to figure out how to improve water storage, but also water management and water efficiency. And so I think our Embassy is looking at ways to do that with our friends in the Government of Pakistan.
MODERATOR: We’ll go to Chida.
QUESTION: Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India. Secretary, you said the –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Oh, sorry – how are you?
QUESTION: I’m good, thanks. You said the United States is asking Pakistan to cease cross-border infiltration or terrorism, or however you want to phrase it. But right at the time the Pakistani team, high-level team was here talking to Washington, a banned terrorist organization holds a public meeting in Pakistan, quite openly, and it’s widely reported.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’m sorry, which one are you referring to?
QUESTION: The Jama'at-ud Dawa and LET.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: (Inaudible) in particular?
QUESTION: That’s right. On March 23rd, right a day before the talks here. So it seems to me that either the United States doesn't have the leverage or it’s being poked in the eye. So – and there doesn't seem to be any effect of – any salutary effect of your warnings. I wanted to comment on that.
And secondly, when you were in Delhi, did you sense a growing anti-American mood in India? Because a lot of commentators have written very stringent commentary literally accusing U.S. of turning a blind eye to terrorism and a lot of commentaries related to the Headley case. And does it seem to you that the Obama Administration is kind of (inaudible) a goodwill which took almost a decade to sort of generate?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, let me take that second question first, which is I think I would disagree that there’s a strong, growing anti-American feeling. I mean, I didn’t – I certainly didn’t detect that at all, and I had a wide range of meetings in Delhi, including with civil society and think tanks and so forth. So that didn’t really come up. Nor did the counterterrorism. And on the contrary, we think that counterterrorism is a growing and important area of cooperation for the United States. The home minister, Mr. Chidambaram, had a very successful visit here last fall to Washington, not only for meetings with all of his – Secretary-level, that is, cabinet-level counterparts here in the United States, but then also a journey to New York to learn more about mega city policing and how a big city like New York, who coordinates all the different law enforcement and intelligence agencies both at the federal level and the local level, so that perhaps some lessons could be learned for big mega cities like Mumbai.
So we feel there’s a lot of very good, practical cooperation taking place. And the most recent example of that is the Headley case, where, again, we’ve been in very close touch at high levels on the Headley case. And I think our Indian friends would say the same.
Sorry, what was your first question? I’ve already forgotten.
QUESTION: About the Jama’at-ud meeting in Pakistan right on the eve of talks, and why the U.S. doesn't seem to be doing anything about it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, I think we have already expressed our concerns and I’ve said just as much as now. And I guess I’d go back to what I said earlier, which is I think I’d dispute the premise of your question that nothing is happening. An enormous amount has happened on the part of the Government of Pakistan, as I said, first in Swat, then in South Waziristan, then with the most recent arrest of some of the senior Taliban leaders. So I think that one could argue there’s a lot of important progress that has been made. But as I said in my opening remarks, we think there also needs to be progress against these Punjab-based groups, many of which, by the way, are targeting Pakistan as well. Groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad have been responsible for attacks in Lahore. They are responsible for the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. So again, I think there should – there’s a compelling reason for the government to take action against those groups.
MODERATOR: We’ll go to New York. Go ahead, New York.
QUESTION: Ambassador Blake, Anirudh Bhattacharyya. I represent the Indian news organizations (inaudible) Hindustan Times. I have a couple of questions. First, of course, David Coleman Headley and the LET (inaudible). When you were in Pakistan, did you have any discussions about India wanting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed prosecuted for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai? Did that come up at all?
And secondly, given the plea bargain agreement –
Didn’t come up in my talks. But again, I’m only responsible for the India-Pakistan part of it.
What’s your second question?QUESTION:
Yeah, again, in the – it’s part of my first question. I’ll come to the second question. Again, in plea bargain agreement, there was supposed to be five or six handlers for David Coleman Headley from the LET and there have been multiple media reports that they were actually serving officers of the Pakistan army. What is your – do you have a comment on this critical issue?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
No, I don’t want to comment on that, because that might be part of continuing judicial proceedings. So I don’t want to comment on that particular aspect of it.MODERATOR:
Okay. We’ll go right here. QUESTION:
Thank you very much. I’m Iftikhar Hussain . I work for VOA Pashto to the border region service of Pakistan and Afghanistan. And my first question is the Karzai administration is reaching out to the insurgent groups in Afghanistan for reconciliation talks and they have invited a jirga. How the United States is seeing this development?
And the second question is –ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Let me just answer that first, because I can never remember the questions when you do that.
On the question of reconciliation, the United States believes that this should be a process that is led by the Afghans. And so this jirga that you referred to, I think, is going to mark an important step in that regard. But again, this is something that the Afghans themselves will lead, not the United States or any other country.QUESTION:
Okay. And President Karzai is coming to Washington. In the backdrop, what the United States is hearing from the Karzai administration to deal with the corruption issues, which is quite important for the credibility of his government but also for the benchmarks to be achieved till the withdrawal?
And secondly, how do you see the tribal areas operation by the Pakistan military and what actions are you expecting from Pakistan in the Punjab-based groups? Thank you very much.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Sorry, what was the first part of the question. about --QUESTION:
Yeah, like what the United States is hearing from the Karzai administration to deal with the corruption.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Well, on the corruption issue, let me just say that President Obama made this important visit to Afghanistan last weekend, and corruption was a major focus of his talks, as he said to the press afterwards. So this remains an extremely important issue not only for us, but also for the Government of Afghanistan, as you said, because this is an important – one of the grievances that people have against the Government of Afghanistan. So if we’re really going to make a dent and make sure that the people of Afghanistan really support the government, it’s important that they – the Government of Afghanistan – address this concern and address our concern as well. So this remains a very high issue on our agenda.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
And the third one was?QUESTION:
(Inaudible.)ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
That’s why I don’t like multi-part questions. (Laughter.) I can never remember them.QUESTION:
How do you see the tribal areas operation which is now being conducted in Orakzai Agency? And what are you expecting from Pakistan, specific action in in Punjab – against Punjab-based groups?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Well, I don’t want to use the word “expecting.” I mean, this is up to – and the Government of Pakistan is a friend of ours and they will determine when to take action on these things. They’ve already taken a number of important steps, as I said. So they’ll make the decision about when to take these actions.
But I’d just reiterate that we think it’s in Pakistan’s own interest to take these actions. But it has to figure out where it needs to deploy its soldiers. They have to have – they have to keep a certain number of soldiers to hold what they’ve already gained in places like South Waziristan and Swat, and then figure out where next to take the fight to the militants in the border areas while maintaining those holds. So those are judgments that the Pakistani military will have to take.MODERATOR:
We’ll go here and then in the back.QUESTION:
You were in Afghanistan. President Karzai – Ravi Kharme of VOA. President Karzai recently has been trying to forge closer relations with Iran and China. Do you see – does it matter to America that they can also depend on those two countries regional (inaudible), or do you think it’s a genuine effort of Karzai to improve its regional image?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Well, I don’t want to speak for President Karzai. I mean, you’ll have to ask him what he’s – the motivation behind it. I think there’s certainly some – it’s understandable that he would want to consult with Iran. Iran is on the border. Iran has major equities in Afghanistan, particularly the quite serious drug flows that come through Iran and out, and there’s been, I gather, a quite significant drug abuse problem in Iran as a result. So I don’t think we read any particular message into the fact that he’s consulting with the Iranians.
The same with the Chinese. The Chinese have a significant stake in Afghanistan in the copper mine and elsewhere. They’re doing a lot of infrastructure and development there. So – and they also have concerns about whether the situation in Afghanistan were to deteriorate, whether it would have security implications for its own western border. So again, China has very important equities in Afghanistan and it certainly should be consulting very closely with the Government of Afghanistan.MODERATOR:
We’re going to go to Geo TV in the back and then we’ll come up here.QUESTION:
I’m Sami Abraham. I work for Geo TV of Pakistan.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Pakistan has recently signed a contract with Iran about a gas pipeline.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
So during your visit to Pakistan, did this issue come up in discussions?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
It came up in more – in the kind of public discussions that I had with civil society and people like that. And what I said was that, first of all, people have been talking about this pipeline for a long time. But I think there continue to be many challenges to actually building the pipeline. So nonetheless, we have encouraged our friends in the Government of Pakistan to try to seek alternatives. Our concerns about the Government of Iran are very well-known. And given its current unwillingness to address its international obligations and international concerns about its nuclear program, we don’t think that this is the time for such transactions to be taking place with Iran.MODERATOR:
Okay, the gentleman there.QUESTION:
Thank you. I’m Shaun Tandon. I’m with AFP.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
I just wanted to get back to Afghanistan --ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
-- with President Karzai. He made some relatively sharp remarks recently about the – what transpired in the election, talking about fraud and saying that fraud was actually the work of foreigners, specifically talking about the UN, the EU. Are those – is that an assessment that’s shared by you or shared by the U.S,. and do you think these comments are helpful, just a couple days after the President’s trip to Kabul?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Sorry, I didn’t – I have to be clear. I’m not working directly on Afghanistan and Pakistan, so I’m not – I didn’t see those remarks. But – so I don’t – I’d prefer not to comment on something I didn’t see.MODERATOR:
Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. I also write for Pajhwok Afghan News. Welcome back here.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Can you explain to us what’s your role in Afghanistan and Pakistan and what’s Ambassador Holbrooke’s role there, because there have been – isn’t it overlapping of – and I have two other questions –ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
No, there’s no overlap, believe me. Ambassador Holbrooke is responsible for Afghanistan and Pakistan, period. I’m responsible for India. There is some overlap with respect to India-Pakistan relations, so on that we work very, very closely together and consult frequently.
On the Central Asia side, as I said, I’m responsible for all of our relations with the countries of Central Asia. We have made recent efforts to try to improve our relations across the board with all of the Central Asian countries. Part of that is to continue our very close and good cooperation with almost all of them on Afghanistan. All of them, of course, have a very important interest in stabilizing Afghanistan. And for that reason, many of them have been happy to work with the United States and other ISAF partners to facilitate the movement of various kinds of goods through what’s called the “northern distribution network” through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and some of the other countries into Afghanistan. So I’m primarily the one responsible for all of those arrangements and negotiating those.QUESTION:
And then, my second question is your trip to India and Pakistan was primarily, I believe, to how to build up relations between – relations between the two countries, and there’s no talks between the two countries without the issue of Kashmir. Did this – how prominent was it when it came to both India and New Delhi and Islamabad?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
It’s like water; Kashmir always comes up in everything. (Laughter.) So it’s very prominent. But again, that’s something that the two countries are going to have to work out. And I think, as I said earlier, both countries have made quite a lot of progress in the period between 2004 and 2007. So sometimes the premise of people’s question is that it’s impossible for India and Pakistan to make progress, and that’s simply not true. Both of your countries have made significant progress during that period. And in fact, there’s the blueprint for some sort of agreement on Kashmir if they choose to endorse that.
So – but again, I’d just go back to what I said earlier, that it’s really up to India and Pakistan to decide how to move forward on that.MODERATOR:
We’ll go to Dawn and then we’ll go to New York.QUESTION:
Hi, I’m Anwar Iqbal from Dawn newspaper.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
How are you? Nice to see you again.QUESTION:
Fine, thank you. Going back to the water issue, as you said, it is always present. So do you see any U.S. role at all in easing tension between India and Pakistan on this particular issue?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Again, we’re not going to get involved in bilateral issues related to water, because I think the World Bank is the best mechanism for that. But I do believe that, if asked, that the United States could help both sides with respect to water supply and, again, how to make better use of the existing water supply, how to make it more – more efficient use of it, how to increase water storage, rainwater harvesting – a lot of those kind of techniques. So that’s where we and other friends of both countries might be able to have a role.MODERATOR:
New York, go ahead, please.QUESTION:
Ambassador Blake, one more question. This is a question that was asked earlier about the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. You know, after three years, India has decided to start talking to Iran again about the pipeline and participating in the process. You and India just now – did you discuss this issue at all? Is it a disappointment that India is planning to go ahead with discussions on this issue?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
I don’t really have anything more to say than what I already said, which is that we – this is a very sensitive time in negotiations with Iran and we would prefer that all countries not conduct such transactions with Iran at this time, for the reasons that I already outlined. MODERATOR:
We only have time for two more questions. We’ll go here and then here. QUESTION:
Narayan Lakshman from the Hindu. Nice to see you again.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
How are you?QUESTION:
First question on the upcoming discussion on nuclear liability. There is a sense that the U.S. and India may be heading for a bit of a clash there because India – the mood in India is not to agree to full compliance with CSC-type liability, particularly regarding equipment suppliers who would be liable for gross negligence. But I think the suppliers in the U.S. have kind of indicated already that that would not be acceptable. So do you see that getting – being a sticking point over there?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
I don’t see that as a sticking point. I mean, in all of our conversations with the Indian Government, they have consistently said that they remain committed to fulfilling this commitment under the civil nuclear deal to pass civil liability legislation. As you say, I think the opposition in India has recently expressed its objections to aspects of that legislation, so it’ll be up to the Government of India to figure out how to move forward on this. But again, they’ve always said to us that they remain committed to moving that legislation.QUESTION:
Just a quick follow-up. What’s happening with progressing on the individuals who were indicted or charged for the Mumbai attacks? Is there any sense of progress with that? Did you speak at all about that in Pakistan?ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
I think there has been progress over time. I can’t say that there’s been any very recent progress. But again, I think the Government of Pakistan does remain committed to prosecuting these individuals. And the only point I made was just the importance of just continuing that process, because that’s an important confidence-building measure for the Indians – and for the United States, I might add, since there were six Americans killed in those attacks.QUESTION:
Andrey Surzhanskiy, ITAR-TASS News Agency of Russia.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
How are you?QUESTION:
Thank you for spending your time with us.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
My question is non-related subject. The United States have recently announced the plans to build anti-terrorism training center – counterterrorism training center in Kyrgyzstan in the southern part of this country, and that raised some concerns in neighboring countries who saw it as a threat to their stability. And they are talking about – they say that the United States is building another military base in this region. And my question is this: What is this center for? Is it going to be a strictly training facility, or it will be transformed into something bigger at some point? Thank you.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Let me just answer that very simply by saying we have very important counterterrorism cooperation with Kyrgyzstan and a number of other countries in that – in Central Asia, and we do not intend to build a base. We have temporary – an agreement with the Government of Kyrgyzstan regarding the use of the Manas transit center. We very much appreciate the Government of Kyrgyzstan’s support. But again, we do not have an intention of establishing long-term bases anywhere in Central Asia.QUESTION:
So it’s going to be just a – ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Training center.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Final question.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
I’m afraid I have to only take one more question because I’ve got to run off to another meeting. But – sir.QUESTION:
Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Raghubir Goyal for India Globe and Asia Today.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Nice to see you.QUESTION:
Thank you, sir. I guess you have done a great job answering all the questions already, but I have a simple two questions. One is that Ambassador Holbrooke – ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Sorry, you only get one question. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
One, okay. Two-part question. Ambassador Holbrooke made many trips to Pakistan and he had been talking to them about terrorism and the great job that Pakistan is doing. Then now you made the trip to India and Pakistan. My question is that India is now really Indians in India, and including the prime minister of India, they are now at the final stage that Pakistan must stop cross-border and terrorizing India.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
And now they have no time. Second, and at the same time, Pakistan, if it’s a victim, they are the one who trained these people on their soil and they are still doing it and sending them across the border to India. So what was the really final action and reaction from Pakistan to you that now India, I think, will not wait?
And second, as far as this – ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Sorry, let me just answer that question. I mean, again, I don’t – I’m not sure I understand the premise of your question. I think I’d just go back to what I said earlier. We think that Pakistan has made very important progress in the fight on terrorism in all the areas that I outlined, but that there’s still some things that need to be done. And I think I already talked about that.
I’m really sorry, but I’ve got to be at the White House in ten minutes so -- QUESTION:
A quick one – ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
No, I can’t. MODERATOR:
We’re going to have to end. Thank you all for coming.ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE:
Thank you all so much. Nice to see you. Thanks a lot.
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