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Diplomacy in Action

A Read-out of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

FPC Briefing
Robert Blake Jr.
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
June 7, 2010


Date: 06/07/2010 Location: Washington D.C. Description: Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake Jr. gives a read-out of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue at the Washington Foreign Press Center on Monday, June 7, 2010. - State Dept Image
Video

Moderator: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. We’d also like to welcome our colleagues in New York.

We’re very pleased to have Assistant Secretary Robert Blake with us to talk about the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue meeting. First he will make some opening remarks, and then he’ll take your questions. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you, Doris. It’s nice to be back here at the Foreign Press Center. I see a lot of familiar faces here.

Let me just give you a little bit of a read-out of the Strategic Dialogue, and then I’ll be happy to take your questions.

As many of you know, our relations go back now for many years. Over the last ten years we’ve made a systematic, bipartisan effort to improve relations between the United States and India, probably highlighted by the civil nuclear deal in the last administration.

President Obama and Prime Minister Singh decided they would try to elevate our partnership further by establishing this Strategic Dialogue between the United States and India. It was announced last year during Secretary Clinton’s visit to India that you’re familiar with.

Our meetings on June 2nd and June 3rd marked the inauguration of our first Strategic Dialogue. Those meetings featured a wide range of both plenary sessions and bilateral meetings between the U.S. and Indian delegations. Let me just focus on the plenary session.

Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna led a very wide-ranging two and a half hour discussion that was then followed by a lunch session. I think it was notable because for the first time in our history we had large numbers of cabinet level secretaries on our side and ministers on the Indian side to share ideas and to consider strategic initiatives on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

The Secretary and Minister Krishna asked the delegations to use the opportunity to really conduct a strategic look at how we could focus our future cooperation. Obviously many of the ideas that surfaced will now be worked, but let me just touch briefly on some of the matters that were discussed.

Security and counterterrorism cooperation was a top priority. We discussed collaboration on a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to further improve information sharing and capacity building between our two countries, and we agreed to look at expanding cooperation in cyber security.

Energy cooperation was also a major focus. Charting a clean and lower carbon energy future is obviously very very important both to the United States and to India. The Indian side reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward with putting in place a nuclear liability regime that will open the door for U.S. companies to export civil nuclear technology to India.

We also discussed ways that the United States can help India to ensure that the massive infrastructure investments that will be made over the next two decades in India can benefit from Indo-U.S. cooperation on things like energy efficiency, smart grids, and many, many other new ideas that are being pioneered in both of our countries.

The United States also shared a draft Memorandum of Understanding with India on shale gas cooperation that both sides believe offers great promise in India.

On the economy, we discussed the importance of sustaining momentum in our trade growth which has doubled over the last five years. As you heard the Secretary say in her public remarks, she mentioned the important boost that India could give to trade and investment by raising some of the foreign direct investment caps that exist in areas such as retail, defense and insurance.

Both sides also look forward to receiving the recommendations of our revitalized CEO Forum when U.S. and Indian cabinet secretaries gather again on June 22nd to meet with the CEOs and hear their thoughts on how our two governments can further relax restrictions and improve opportunities for trade and investment.

The delegations also discussed a wide range of steps our two governments can take to ensure that innovation is a source of growth and dynamism for our two knowledge economies.

The United States plans to send a high level delegation of high tech and other innovation entrepreneurs to Delhi in the fall to develop new partnerships and initiatives in this area in advance of President Obama’s visit in November.

Minister Sibal, the Minister of Human Resources Development, also briefed on India’s hope to see passage this year of legislation that would allow foreign universities to establish campuses and offer degrees for the first time in India. We think this would open enormous new opportunities for American institutions of higher learning of all kinds and help drive new science and technology and other kinds of innovation.

One of the areas where we agreed that we will seek closer scientific collaboration is in the area of food security. Both sides agreed to establish working groups to develop concrete proposals for the United States and India to enhance food security in third countries; to strengthen farm to market links and food processing inside India; and also to develop an initiative to expand weather and crop forecasting.

The common theme underlying all of these discussions was what Secretary Clinton said in her remarks at the concluding press conference. How can the U.S. and India intensify our already wide cooperation to focus on how to deliver results that will make a difference in the lives of the people of the United States, of India, and of the wider world?

We capped the visit and the day with a very sparkling visit by our President who came over for a rare visit to the State Department to honor External Affairs Minister Krishna and his delegation. President Obama, as you all know, announced that he will visit India in November. And he emphasized that our partnership with India is one of his highest strategic priorities.

In sum, as the President says, the United States sees India as an indispensable partner as we move forward in the 21st Century. The Strategic Dialogue that we initiated last week took U.S.-India relations to unprecedented new levels of cooperation that will be highlighted during the President’s visit in November.

Let me stop there, and I’d be glad to take your questions on any of those subjects.

TV Today Network: Tejinder Singh from TV Today.

You did not mention anything about Headley. Will you like to mention or actually explain where this access stands today and how far it will go on? And what exactly is India being given in this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: General Jones addressed that question in an interview with PTI over the weekend in which he said that India has been granted access to Headley and I think I’ll just leave it there. I’ll leave it to the Department of Justice to offer further comment because they’re the ones that are the lead agency on this. But as Ambassador Roemer and many others have said, our two countries have been engaged intensively on this, and this is another good area of cooperation between the United States and India.

TV Today Network: Just a follow-up. It was one of the subjects that came up during this June 1st to 4th summit. So will you like to expand a little bit on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Actually, it really wasn’t a topic of great conversation. It was not a focus of our discussions.

Indo-Asian News Service: Arun [Kumar] from INS. I just want to follow up on the Headley question. What took you so long to announce access to Headley, and even during the time between last time and this time, Headley has hijacked the Strategic Dialogue for practical purposes. Why did we do it? Why did it take you so long to do it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: First of all, we were not directly involved so I would refer you to the Department of Justice for that question. But I would dispute your assertion that it took a long time. These are very sensitive matters. We wanted to make sure that Mr. Headley would be willing to talk, so a number of things had to be worked out. Let me just leave it at that.

Again, let me say this in no way hijacked the Strategic Dialogue. It didn’t even come up in the Strategic Dialogue, and again, I think I outlined the extensive areas in which we discussed future cooperation.

Indo-Asian News Service: Last time when we met here you mentioned that there would be deliverables from the Strategic Dialogue. From the list that you just mentioned, it seems to be general-- generic terms. What concrete stuff has been delivered?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: During my remarks last week or whenever that was, time flies, I said the focus was really not on deliverables. The focus was really for the first time to have a strategic dialogue in which we would get large numbers of cabinet level secretaries and ministers and their deputies together to think strategically about how to move our partnership ahead in the 21st Century, and that’s exactly what we accomplished. Again, the idea was to have everybody talk to each other and to eliminate some of the stovepipes that exist and to have kind of this cross-fertilization of ideas. That’s why the dialogue went for two and a half hours instead of the scheduled hour and a half. There were a number of good ideas that emerged that we’ll be working on now.

So we think this was a very positive and encouraging first Strategic Dialogue between our two countries.

Moderator: Why don’t we go to New York for our next question, and then come back to Washington?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure.

CNN IBN: Welcome Secretary Blake. This is Indira Kannan from CNN IBN. I have two questions.

The first one is about David Headley. I want to understand if India and the U.S. have any sort of mechanism to verify any information that is being received from David Headley. Is he required to give this information under oath? If so, who is administering that oath?

My second question is, as you’re aware, an Indian court has delivered a verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy, and I understand that an earlier request by the Indian government to extradite Warren Anderson, the former Chairman of Union Carbide, was turned down by the U.S. Would the U.S. now be more receptive to any request for extradition of Warren Anderson or other American officials? And would the U.S. also be willing to exert any pressure on Dow Chemical in terms of compensation in the way that you are intending to do in the case of BP for instance?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’m afraid I’m going to have some disappointing answers for you. First of all, I have nothing further to say about Headley. I’ve said all I need to say about that and I refer you again to the Department of Justice if you want to get any further details.

On the matter of Bhopal and the announcement that was made today by the Indian courts, that is an internal matter to India. So if you have any questions about that I’d just refer you to the courts themselves about that decision.

The question of extradition: as a matter of policy we never discuss extradition, so I can’t comment on that.

Times of India: Thank you. Chidanand Rajghatta from Times of India.

Let me ask you about Daood Gilani, since nobody’s asked you. [Laughter]. Seriously, Ambassador, why is there such lack of clarity about this issue? And lack of candor. And do you realize that it leads to immense suspicion --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: -- Rahim or what?

Times of India: No, Headley, who is also known as Daood Gilani.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Okay.

Times of India: Why is there such lack of clarity and candor? And do you realize that it leads to all kinds of suspicions in India? If you look at the kind of feedback that stories on this get, that the U.S. is protecting him, that you’re shielding him, that he’s a double agent, triple agent, and so on. And in fact since India mentioned Warren Anderson, for those of us who covered Bhopal and its aftermath, it actually reminds us of the kind of cooperation or non-cooperation that the U.S. administration offered when the terms were made to get at Mr. Anderson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just say that there’s been a great deal of transparency and close cooperation between our two governments. For obvious law enforcement reasons there are many things that we can’t share with the press, but again, I think we’ve had very good and close cooperation on this particular issue, and I think our Indian friends would confirm that.

Times of India: If I can follow-up, Ambassador. There are 172 families who lost members of families here, so I really wonder why is it necessary to hide it from the press or keep this from the press?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well it’s because the case is still going on. It’s much better not to comment on these things while such cases are ongoing. So again, there’s cooperation taking place that’s very constructive between our two governments that we can’t necessarily describe to the press.

Washington Trade Daily: Thank you. Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily.

One item that was high in the Indian agenda for these talks anyway was easing of U.S. export controls as a follow-on to the nuclear agreement and the calls for high technology and so on. But the U.S., the administration is in the midst of reforming its controls as well as Congress. Were there any discussions of how India might be treated in a new export controls regime? Or is it just too early?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well as you say, there are two separate processes going on here. One is a wider review on the part of the administration of the overall export control regime. I think you’ve heard Secretary Gates and others have made some quite detailed statements about that.

The second is the India-specific review that also is underway and in fact we will probably split off from the wide review. As you all know, we have made a great deal of progress over the last six years or so in reducing the export controls that apply to India. Now less than one-half of one percent of all exports require any sort of a license at all, and most of those are presumed to be approved. So again, there’s been a lot of progress, but there still are some controls and so there’s a reciprocal process underway now to seek the necessary assurances from the Indians about the strengthening of their own export control regime that would enable us to relax our restrictions.

So I anticipate that there is going to be further good progress on this and we had a good exchange during the Strategic Dialogue in which we shared ideas about how we could achieve that good progress. So I expect there will be some positive announcements to be made before the President’s visit, hopefully well before.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let’s go to New York so we don’t ignore them.

Sustainable Development Media: I’m Pincas Jawetz from Sustainable Development Media.

I understand that you personally were ambassador to the Maldives before this position, and you had discussions with President Gayoom on renewable energy and our energy global problems.

Now India was part of the group with Brazil and South Africa and China and President Obama that saved somehow the Copenhagen meeting so it was not the disaster of the way how it was described, but actually there was some kind of a road map that came out of there.

But my question is now, those with the Maldives that were very prominent in Copenhagen, and India, what has actually happened since Copenhagen? And if this past week you had any discussions with India here in Washington?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you for that question. As you say, I was accredited for the Maldives while I was ambassador in Sri Lanka and we had a number of good areas of cooperation with the Maldives that we started during that time, particularly in the solar and wind area. And we’re going to build on that cooperation with the Maldives going forward because President Nasheed and his team have really made climate change a very high strategic priority for their country because of the threats that they face from climate change if the current trends continue. I think all of us have been very grateful to the leadership that President Nasheed has shown, in addition to the leadership that Prime Minister Singh has shown.

As you correctly noted, the President welcomed the very important role that Prime Minister Singh played in the Copenhagen negotiations, to help bring those to a successful conclusion, and since then our two governments have been working very closely together, and India has formally now associated itself with that accord. India wants to work very closely with the United States and other countries to achieve a successful outcome in Mexico City.

So we had a conversation about this. Our climate change negotiator, Todd Stern, made a presentation during the Strategic Dialogue. Minister Jairam Ramesh was not, unfortunately, here for those talks. But he and Todd Stern remain in very close touch and I’d say that this is one of the many areas in which the United States and India are cooperating productively and closely on global issues.

India Globe and Asia Today: Thank you, Mr. Blake. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today.

Mr. Ambassador, this was a very high level meet between the two countries, largest and oldest democracies, and many call it a big drama in Washington. But what I’m asking you, my question is that there is a triangle -- India, Pakistan and the United States. Many people are concerned in India as there is terrorism across the border into India from Pakistan. What they are saying is that until, unless that is solved, they feel that U.S. may be a little soft as far as dealing with the terrorism against India is concerned. People in India live in fear, and people in the United States live under the fear of terrorism.

Where do we go from here? Because this is the most important issue for both countries. And I think around the globe for everybody.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: First of all let me say that the United States will never be soft on terrorism. This is our highest priority and this is the area that we have probably made the greatest progress in terms of our cooperation with India in terms of not only law enforcement cooperation, but also intelligence cooperation.

We take extremely seriously the threats against both of our countries because we believe that there is increasingly a syndicate that is operating in countries like Pakistan that threatens both of our countries. It also threatens Pakistan itself, and that’s a point that I’ve made frequently not only here but during my recent trip to Pakistan.

So we feel it’s in the interest of all three countries to address this very critical problem, to work together. So we have been in the forefront of countries urging Pakistan to not only continue the progress it has been making in Swat and South Waziristan, but also to address the problem in the Punjab, namely the Punjab based groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba that are operating against India, that have also targeted the United States in the Mumbai bombings and elsewhere.

Again, this will remain a very very high priority for us and you should not doubt the sincerity of that statement.

India Globe and Asia Today: May I have one more, Mr. Ambassador?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure.

India Globe and Asia Today: As far as the presidential announcement to India is concerned, this will be President Obama’s first official visit to India and he was looking forward even before he was senator. This announcement was taken very seriously and with joy toward India. They are looking forward to welcome him.

What I am asking, Mr. Ambassador, what is the outcome from this visit? Because President Clinton opened the doors between U.S. and India relations and President Bush widely opened the doors by this signing the civil nuclear agreement with India. What do we expect anything new from President Obama’s visit to India?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, that’s exactly what we’re starting to work on right now is the details of what the President’s visit will entail, what will be the key areas of strategic focus, where will he visit, and all of these many important questions. But I can tell you that the President himself is looking forward to ambitious results, and again, sees our relations with India as one of the most consequential and indispensable of our partnerships in the world of the 21st Century. So we are going to develop a schedule and a series of results to match that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let’s see. Who haven’t I called on?

Press Trust of India: Thank you, Ambassador. It’s Lalit Jha, Press Trust of India.

As you’ve planed to expand your relationship with India, can you give us a sense of expanding U.S. presence in India in terms of sending more Foreign Service officers or FBI/CIA officials over there in terms of terrorism cooperation, or opening more consulates over there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We have no immediate plans to open any new consulates, but we’ve had a steady growth in our staff over the last four or five years. Even when I was there we had a very large growth. That growth has continued as our cooperation has continued to expand. So I would anticipate that we’ll continue to see very strong growth in our relations and in our staff and probably here as well on the part of the Indian embassy.

Business Times: My name is Hasmukh Shah from Business Times.

Last week there were a lot of conferences held on Strategic Dialogue. One of the important points made by Secretary General of FICCI Dr. Amit Mitra. He emphasized that there is a big synergy between U.S. technology and Indian entrepreneurship, specifically the SMEs. And many U.S. SMEs, small and medium enterprises, they believe that if the technology codes are relaxed there is a tremendous opportunity for promoting U.S. exports which would help give more jobs in America and help President Obama’s objective of tripling, doubling our exports in the next five years to 3 billion -- trillion dollars a year.

Can you give us some idea of what kind of relaxations are the thought on this subject? Technology exports.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, there is a broad effort underway to look at the whole export control regime because it’s in many cases outdated. But in the case of India we’re taking a particularly close look at the entities list. Many entities, as you know, have already come off it over the last several years, but now there’s a focus on entities like ISRO and DRDO, the Indian Space Research Organization, the Defense Research and Development Organization.

So again, we think that there are enormous opportunities for American companies to do more and work more with their colleagues in the space area and also in the defense area, so these are steps that would serve both of our countries. Again, we’ve shared ideas about how we could make progress on that and we hope to see progress on that in the fairly near future.

On your question about small and medium sized enterprises, you’re right. They are really the core of America’s growth and so that is, as you know, we have a special Department of Commerce office at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, and their mandate is really to help small and medium sized enterprise. Mostly the larger enterprises already have a large staff and don’t really need as much assistance in developing export and market opportunities overseas.

So this will continue to be a very strong focus of ours, and I’m sure that as you say, a lot of the Indian-American students that have come back from the United States to India have really made a difference in terms of starting up new ventures in areas like nano-technology and bio-technology. So I would expect that the President’s visit will help to highlight a lot of those very important ties that are taking place, and really the great promise for much greater growth in that area.

India Abroad News Service: Aziz Haniffa, India Abroad.

You spoke about a high level innovation delegation preceding
President Obama’s trip to India. Is this going to be sort of a private/public partnership kind of delegation? And Foreign Minister Krishna on his first stop spoke about innovation in terms of his keynote speech at the USIBC.

What exactly are you looking for in terms of the innovation that you are talking about? In terms of this high-level delegation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to get into too much detail because this is really up to them to decide, but the idea is to bring together mostly private sector entrepreneurs and to have them take a fairly wide look at where they see the big opportunities as we’ve done with the CEO Forum and other kinds of groups that we have. And for them to then make recommendations to the two governments, but also to our two private sectors about how we can further develop innovation partnerships between, mostly between our private sectors. But if there are steps that the governments can take to kind of nurture that and help that we certainly welcome those suggestions as well.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: First to New York.

News X: Ambassador Blake, Anirudh Bhattacharyya. I represent a couple of Indian news organizations, News X and the Sun Times. I have two questions. Unfortunately, the second one is about Headley, but I’ll come to the first one. It’s about Bhopal.

You know, this is a follow-up to a previous question. You’ve been putting pressure on BP in terms of the Gulf oil spill. Will there be pressure put on Dow in terms of reparations with regard to the Bhopal disaster? Is that going to happen from the U.S. side at this point in time?

The second question about Headley is, there have been a lot of reports in the Indian media about how he may not have been cooperating fully with the Indian investigators. My question is indirect. My question is basically, if he doesn’t cooperate fully, doesn’t that invalidate the terms of the plea bargain agreement itself? That says that he needs to cooperate fully with investigators.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I’m not going to comment on Headley. I’m neither a lawyer nor a Department of Justice expert, so anything I say will probably not be well placed.

With respect to Bhopal, obviously that was one of the greatest industrial tragedies and industrial accidents in human history. Let me just say that we hope this verdict today helps bring some closure to the victims and their families. But I don’t expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary we hope this is going to help bring closure.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sir, in the orange shirt.

VOA Pashto/Urdu: Thank you very much. Iftikhar Hussain for Voice of America Pakistan, Afghanistan, border region service.

First of all the Strategic Dialogue of the United States with India was in broader terms, but India is indispensable partner. Pakistan is a strategic ally. Was there any concern from India in respect to relations with Pakistan in the current situation? Or in some way it is hindering the U.S. efforts in the region? Did it come up during talks with the United States officials?

And secondly, we have been listing in media reports last week about the Shazad, the New York failed plot accused. Did any take on the U.S. [inaudible] was traced back to Pakistani soil? And there is an option if Pakistan in a sense doesn’t cooperate fully on that. So what we are hearing on that front from Pakistan to cooperate with the United States. And I’m not sure if you can tell us on.

On the third question, the jirga, consultative peace jirga three-day, which is held in Kabul, in Afghanistan, and just ended and issued a statement demanding peace and also talks with the Taliban. So how the United States is looking to the developments in the region?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just stick to the topic at hand which is the Strategic Dialogue. Let me say there was a discussion that was chaired by our Under Secretary Burns and Foreign Secretary Rao in which they touched briefly on Pakistan, but again, this is an area that really, as you know, our longstanding position is that this is something that needs to be resolved by India and Pakistan, and the pace and scope and character of that dialogue between your two countries is really up to your two countries to decide.

I said earlier that we’ve taken a strong position on terrorism that is emanating from Pakistan soil. That remains our very strong conviction, that it’s in Pakistan’s own interest to address that and we’ll continue to encourage our Pakistani friends to do that.

But really in terms of the Strategic Dialogue, there was much more time spent on issues like Afghanistan where, again, I think our two countries are working very productively together not only to help with the civilian reconstruction of Afghanistan and to help build the Afghan economy and provide capacity building, but also to discuss the very important reconciliation process that is now beginning.

I think we had a very good conversation in which the Indian side I think had many of their questions answered. Obviously I’ll let them speak for their own concerns, but again, I think it was a good and productive discussion.

The Hindu: Hi Ambassador, it’s nice to see you here.

My question is on a remark that the Secretary made during the course of the dialogue at one of the briefings, I think, where she said that doubts still remain on both sides regarding some aspects of the relationship. Just looking at the U.S. side of things, she did say that doubts remain on the U.S. side about whether India was ready to take up a certain position in the world and in this relationship, and specifically she mentioned loosening regulations in a wide range of areas. The economy, for example, but I would see that as applying also to the nuclear liability question, possibly the education sector.

So how serious are these doubts which the Secretary very clearly enunciated? And how do you see them being dispelled over the course of the next few months or this year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think the Secretary made reference to those doubts because there are doubters within our strategic community about the whole relationship. We’ve heard those doubts before.

I think the dialogue really helped to dispel many of those doubts. As I said earlier, the External Affairs Minister and his delegation reaffirmed their intention to seek passage of the Nuclear Liability Law this year. The same with the education bill that I referred to that would open India up to foreign investment by foreign universities. So I think those were helpful.

But obviously India is a democracy, and often a complicated one, so they’re going to have to wrestle with many of these issues. But from our side I have to say, just speaking as a government representative, a senior government representative, we don’t have any doubts that India’s going to be one of our most important partners in the 21st Century and already there’s been tremendous progress in our relations just in the last ten years. We expect that progress to continue as the Indian economy grows, as more and more Indians come to the United States to study here, as more and more Americans hopefully go to India to study, as the Indian-American community here continues to grow in importance and in size.

So we feel we have these common values and common interests that unlike almost any other country in the world we will really be able to use and benefit to help the peoples of our two countries and also increasingly the peoples of the world. So that’s a quite profound statement that you heard from the Secretary and from the President himself. That’s why I think we have mostly optimism about the future course of our relations. Certainly there are these short term obstacles that we’ve got to overcome, but again, I think there’s great and substantial optimism about the future.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Who haven’t I asked yet? Sir.

VOA Afghanistan: Thank you. This is Ashiqullah, Voice of American Afghanistan Services. Thank you, sir.

My question is particularly about the proxy war that there have been reports of proxy war going on in Afghanistan, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. A couple of places have been attacked in Afghanistan for which Pakistan was accused, and the same thing happened in Pakistan for which India was accused. And we understand that Afghanistan being on the top priority of foreign policy of the United States and the United States has always asked the support of regional countries, of which India is one, and the neighboring countries, Pakistan is one. And this burden cannot be taken by the U.S. alone. It has to be shared by the regional countries and also the international community.

The proxy war of India and Pakistan is undermining U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan. Was this issue in any way discussed in the Strategic Dialogue between the U.S. and India, or on the sidelines of the Strategic Dialogue? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I wouldn’t say it was a major focus of what we talked about. Again, we were much more focused on the future of Afghanistan and how the training effort is going and the reconciliation process and the whole process of rebuilding the economy and so forth. But in the past we have talked about it. The United States has expressed its condolences to India for the losses that it suffered in the attacks on the guest house that you mentioned and also the attacks on its own emabassy that have taken place. But we also have reaffirmed our support for the very important work that India has undertaken there and our determination to see if we can find ways to work together more in Afghanistan. Because we do believe that India is playing a constructive role. So that may be a new area of cooperation for us.

Q Can I have a follow-up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sorry. Let me get the gentleman in the back there, who’s raised his hand about 50 times.

AFP: Shaun Tanden with AFP.

I know this isn’t the topic at hand, but I was wondering if you had any perspectives on developments in Nepal. There was --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me stick to India, but I’d be happy to talk about Nepal another time, or we can have a separate interview about that if you want to.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Ma’am. And then we’ll go to New York afterwards.

India This Week & Express India: Geeta Goindi with India This Week and Express India.

You just mentioned a lot of reasons, you just praised India a lot. Given its phenomenal progress and it’s the largest democracy with over a billion people. It’s difficult to comprehend why it doesn’t have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. I want to ask you, given that the U.S. is supporting India’s rights and being so vocal about that, shouldn’t it be more vocal about India’s seat on the council?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think Under Secretary Burns addressed that question in the very important speech that he gave last Monday, a week ago now, at the Council on Foreign Relations in which he said that India’s expanding global influence will naturally make it an important part of any future consideration of UN Security Council reform. And that’s I think the most forward leaning statement we’ve made so far about this. But it does reflect, again, our growing confidence in India’s positive influence in the world.

But we’ve also made clear that there’s an ongoing process within our government about the whole question of UN Security Council reform and how to expand the council while at the same time maintaining the effectiveness of the council. And that’s really where the debate is now focused within our own government.

Moderator: We have time for two more questions. We’ll go to New York and take our last question here in Washington.

Sustainable Development Media: This is a different kind of strategic question. India has strong financial relationships in the Gulf area, especially with Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Even in renewable energy. Now is there any chance for a triangular relationship between the United States, Emirates, maybe Qatar and India in these areas? My question is really on energy.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We haven’t really discussed that yet, but that’s not a bad idea. What we have done, I’d say we have common interests in talking to the countries of the Gulf because many of those countries, not the governments themselves but elements within those countries, are providing support for the Taliban and for LET and for other groups like that. So I think we have a very important common interest in working together to address that financial threat. Again, indeed, that is a great focus in what we’re doing already with respect to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But I think there is scope for greater cooperation in that area.

Moderator: Last question

VOA Pashto/Urdu: What kind of role the United States is seeking from India in Afghanistan? Particularly in training, you said the discussion has also come up in the Strategic Dialogue. India is comparable with the reconciliation process, has a question or some concerns on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, I’ll let India speak for itself about any concerns that it has, but I’ll just say that we have welcomed the very important role India has played so far. It’s really up to India to decide where it wants to take its cooperation from here. But again, we commend the steps they’ve taken so far. We had a discussion about ways in which we might be able to cooperate together, and so I don’t have anything to announce at this stage, but again, that could be a promising new area of cooperation. Again, it reflects the confidence we have in the partnership that we have with India and also the constructive role that it’s playing in Afghanistan.

Again, thank you so much for all of your interest and your time, and I look forward to continuing our conversation. Thanks a lot.

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