1:30 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. We’re very pleased to have Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake with us again at the Foreign Press Center. He’s going to give us a readout of Secretary Clinton’s recent trip to India, and without further ado, Assistant Secretary Blake
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, thank you Doris and it’s great, as always, to be back at the Foreign Press Center and nice to see a lot of familiar faces. I thought what I would do today is to give you a readout of the India strategic dialogue. Many of you have seen the joint statements and the various factsheets that we put out, so I’ll just make a sort of short opening statement some of the key things that we want to emphasize, and then, of course, I’ll be glad to take your questions.
I think I’d like to focus on two aspects of the visit, first, the progress in our bilateral relations and then the more strategic level discussions that we had about importance that we place on greater engagement with India in Asia, and first the bilateral piece.
The Secretary indicated in her meetings that she was struck by the breadth and scope of our activities and by the progress that is being made, and I think all of that is reflected in these factsheets and the joint statement that I talked about. I’d like to just focus on four aspects of the bilateral piece of this. First, trade and investment – sorry. First security, then trade and investment, civil nuclear, and then the people to people, so let me just take those each in order.
On the security front, of course, the Secretary extended her sympathies and indeed her outrage over last weeks bombings in Mumbai. She reaffirmed very much the importance that we attach to our counterterrorism cooperation and to our intelligence cooperation. We had both the Director of National Intelligence, General Clapper, and the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Deputy Secretary Lute, on the delegation. I think both of them of course participated in the dialogue itself, but had their own very broad set of meetings. And both of them reported that they had quite a lot of success and progress in moving forward our counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation.
We also announced an agreement on computer emergency response teams, which is part of a wider effort to expand into a new area of cooperation for the United States and India, which is cyber security cooperation. We had a meeting of our cyber dialogue immediately before the strategic dialogue, and again, this is going to be more of a focus as we go forward here.
The other aspect of the security piece was the defense cooperation. We discussed how we, I think, would both like to do more on maritime security, particularly protecting the sea lanes and combating piracy. The Secretary welcomed India’s decision to chair the 2012 Plenary of the Contact Group on Anti-Piracy and she also reaffirmed our very strong interest in India’s growing defense market. We think that will provide not only important export opportunities for U.S. companies, but also allow new ways for our militaries to work more closely together and, of course, to share technology.
On the second piece, that of trade and investment, both sides remarked on the real dynamism now in our trade and investment partnership. It was remarked that trade has gone up by 30 percent just this year alone, and investment also is growing very rapidly. In terms of the deliverables, I think you know we announced that we’ve agreed to resume technical discussions on a bilateral investment treaty in August. And again, I think that’s important because there’s increasing flows of investments not only by the United States into India, but also by Indian companies into the United States.
We were also very pleased to have the heads of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, and the Trade and Development Agency with us as part of this strategic dialogue. And again, all of them have very fast expanding programs in India. OPIC’s exposure, for example, has doubled just since President Obama’s visit last November. It’s now about $750 million, and what’s interesting is that a lot of that new investment is coming in the solar and clean energy spheres, again, underlining a new area of cooperation between the United States and India, the clean energy field.
Likewise, the Export-Import Bank has its largest – the largest Asia program is in India and its second largest overall in the world after Ex-Im’s program in Mexico. So again, I think it just shows the growing importance of the Indian market for American companies.
Third, on the civil nuclear side, the Secretary stressed the importance of completing the civil nuclear deal and resolving the remaining issues so that the United States and Indian companies can reap the benefits from the enormous efforts that we have expended on getting civil nuclear cooperation to move forward. The Secretary reaffirmed our interest in seeing India ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, and we have every indication that India intends to do so.
She also urged India to engage with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, to ensure that India’s nuclear liability regime is conforming fully with the CSC. And again, I think we will – that will be a continuing subject of conversation in the next several months.
Last thing, on the people-to-people side, the Secretary announced with the Indian Minister of Human Resources Development Kapil Sibal that both of them will chair a Higher Education Summit here in Washington on October 13th. They also announced a higher education dialogue, again, that both of them will chair, to carry forward how we can work more closely together to promote higher education investment in both of our countries, but I think particularly in India.
She also announced a new and a very exciting initiative called the Passport to India, which is designed to allow increased opportunities for interns from the United States to have internships in India, ranging anywhere from three weeks to six months, primarily with U.S. companies that are operating in India, but also with NGOs. So we think this is going to be a really exciting opportunity to, again, allow more students in India – sorry – more American students to go to India and provide a little more balance because, as you know, right now, most of the flow is in the other direction – 100,000 Indian students studying here in this country, which, of course, we welcome.
As far as the more strategic level discussions, I think the purpose of the strategic dialogue is really to discuss how and where to take our strategic partnership forward. As the Secretary described in this very important policy speech that she made in Chennai, we see some very important opportunities to work more closely with India, first, to develop a new Silk Road strategy in South and Central Asia to help Afghanistan integrate more fully into its neighborhood, and secondly to work more closely with India in the Asia Pacific. And let me just briefly talk about each one of those.
On the first, with respect to Afghanistan, I would say first that there was quite a good convergence of views on the situation going forward in Afghanistan. The Secretary welcomed the very important visit that Prime Minister Singh recently made to Afghanistan and particularly welcomed the $2 billion that India has now pledged to help with Afghanistan’s development, particularly its infrastructure.
And with respect to the new Silk Road strategy that she’s been talking about we discussed the increasing emphasis that the United States is placing on helping Afghanistan to stand on its own two feet economically. And we want to do that in basically three ways: first by having the United States and other friends and partners invest more in infrastructure to, again, help sort of provide the building blocks to establish a more vigorous private sector in Afghanistan; secondly to support some of these very important regional projects that are underway now, things like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline; and third by encouraging more trade.
As you know the Pakistanis and the Afghans have agreed to implement the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. They’ve also agreed to try to extend it to Central Asia. If it goes, they’re going to be very, very positive steps. And then we hope that with the progress that both India and Pakistan are making in their commerce secretary talks that that will provide sufficient confidence and progress over time, that both countries will be able to see the transit trade agreements extended to India as well.
And again, we talked a lot about this vision of allowing a truck from Kazakhstan to be able to go directly down through Central Asia, to Afghanistan and Pakistan into India, into Bangladesh, perhaps beyond, which would be a real game-changer for the – not only for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but for the entire region. So that’s something, again, that we’re going to be very focused on. And all three of those areas are areas where India can really play quite an important role. And so we were very pleased that India was supportive of this vision.
We also had good discussions on expanding cooperation in Asia. The Secretary said that President Obama very much looks forward to joining Prime Minister Singh at the East Asia Summit later this year, this fall in Indonesia. She said that we want to work closely with India and all of our friends and allies to help build up the East Asia Summit as really the premier forum for dealing with a lot of the political and security issues in Asia and we want to use it to help sort of set a lot of our priorities and lay out a vision for some of these other regional institutions. So at this year’s EAS summit, we want to work with India and others to focus on areas like maritime security, disaster readiness and response and relief, and nonproliferation.
So all and all, I think it was a very business-like and constructive set of talks in New Delhi that really continued the momentum and progress in our partnership – in a partnership that the President has said is going to be one of our defining partnerships in the 21st century.
So let me stop there with my kind of summary remarks. I’d be glad to take questions on anything in Delhi or indeed anything – if you’d like to talk about her trip to Chennai, I’d be glad to talk about that as well.
MODERATOR: Just a reminder before we start, please state your name and your media organization, and we will go ahead and start.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Aziz.
QUESTION: Ambassador, Aziz Haniffa with India Abroad and Rediff.com. The Secretary made no bones about concerns over the nuclear liability law and the fact that civil implementation has moved forward. In fact, she personalized it by saying that when she was a U.S. senator she voted in favor of it and obviously showing concern of U.S. industry business that sort of went out on a limb and went to bat in Congress for it. Is this turning out to be sort of an irritant? Because after all, it’s spoken about as sort of the defining moment in terms of the confirmation of U.S.-India ties.
And secondly, vis a vis the –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me answer that first question first. As to whether it’s an irritant, it’s not yet an irritant, but we want to make sure that it doesn’t become an irritant. We’re getting now to the end game in this whole process. As you know, India’s committed now to ratify the CSC by the end of the year, and it’s also committed to bringing its liability regime into conformance with the CSC. So how it does that is very, very important.
And again, I think the Secretary wanted to underline that this is of great interest to us. We want to be sure that having expended so much of our own political capital in getting the civil nuclear deal through beginning in 2005 and getting our own 123 Agreement approved by our Congress and then by the entire NSG, we want to be sure that our companies are going to benefit from this and that Indian companies are going to benefit from this. And I think Indian companies themselves have a lot of concerns now about the liability regime. So she just underlined the importance of working – our companies working closely together and also, again, working closely with IAEA to make sure that whatever measures India does take to bring its liability regime into conformance are really going to have the support of the IAEA and the guidance of the IAEA.
QUESTION: And in terms of the visit to Chennai, before you left you said that obviously the Sri Lanka issue is going to come up. Could you talk about the fact that – did Chief Minister Jayalalithaa bring up the Sri Lanka issue, and if so, what did the Secretary said and where do you – how do you hope to move forward on this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes, they did. They had – they actually had quite a long conversation about Sri Lanka, and I think they both agreed that we have concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka and we want to – we’d like – we hope that there’s going to be greater progress towards reconciliation. The meeting sort of comes in the context of this recent film, the Channel 4 documentary, that’s gotten a lot of attention around the world, including here in the United States.
And just to summarize our position on this, we believe that Sri Lanka must investigate the very troubling incidents that were reported in this documentary and in other documentaries and bring those that may be responsible for those to justice. More broadly, our two leader – well, Secretary and Minister Jayalalithaa talked about how there needs to be greater progress towards reconciliation and that really the government should redouble efforts to reach an agreement in their dialogue with the Tamil National Alliance on all of the key issues of concern to Tamils inside Sri Lanka, and that includes issues like an accounting for those who died at the end of the war, those who may still be in detention or in camps somewhere, because I think that’s probably the number one issue of concern to a lot of these IDPs.
I went up, as you know, to northern Sri Lanka a couple of months ago and met with a lot of them who had returned to their villages, and when I asked what was their top priority, without question it was what has happened to loved ones, where are they, are they alive, are they dead, are they in camps? So I think this accounting is very, very important.
I think a second is to finish the resettlement process. There are approximately 12,000, 13,000 that remain in the camps. So the government’s made very good progress on that. They now have to finish the demining efforts. We’re helping a lot in that regard, so that needs to happen. I think the government needs to make some progress also on the human rights piece of it. That includes things like ending these emergency regulations that have been in place for a long time, disarming some of the paramilitaries that continue to be responsible for human rights violations, and then more broadly just improving the overall human rights situation, particularly addressing things like media freedom.
So the Secretary and the chief minister had a very good discussion about this. This, of course, is of great interest to the Tamils in Tamil Nadu, and I think that was reflected in the interest that the chief minister showed.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today. Two questions quick. One, U.S.-India relations of course growing, and as we go back 10 years or five years, even last year, or when the prime minister and President met, what do we get from this particular trip, compared with the – as far as at the highest level – prime minister and president level, and where do we go from here, what the future of our relations?
And second part, if I may, you saw this case of doctor –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me do this one first.
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I mean, I think people sometimes misunderstand the purpose of the strategic dialogue. The strategic dialogue is really not about deliverables. I saw some mention in some of the press that there haven’t been a lot of deliverables. That’s not really the goal of the strategic dialogue. The goal of the strategic dialogue is to first review progress on the wide, wide range of bilateral dialogues that we have and then chart a way forward on those, and then also, more broadly, to set our strategic engagement for the next year. And so we did that in all of those cases.
We reviewed very much the very important progress we’ve made in all areas of our cooperation, and the Secretary several times remarked that during this two hour plenary that we had, where all of the various dialogue chairs got up and described some of the progress and their ambitions for taking it forward, how much progress has been made. And I think she was really pleasantly surprised by that, so that was good. And again, I think you’ll see that reflected in a lot of these factsheets and the joint statement.
But equally important is this strategic piece of it. And again, the purpose of the Secretary’s speech in Chennai was to lay out this ambitious agenda that we have and that we discussed with our friends in Delhi, and that’s those two pieces that I talked about in particular – working more closely together in the Asia Pacific, because we have so many common interests there, and then secondly working to help Afghanistan become more embedded in its region and helping to enhance regional integration between South and Central Asia and what a positive impact that would have for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and, indeed, the wider region.
Sorry, you got a second question.
QUESTION: And second – thank you. Second one is you have seen this case of Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, who, according to the FBI and (inaudible) documents, he was working for Pakistan in the name of Kashmir, but his message was anti-India in Kashmir, only part of Kashmir. My question is here that community, Pakistani community divided into two pieces now. One side, they are supporting Dr. Fai, that he was working for Kashmir. Second community is the Kashmiri community. What they are saying is that Kashmir and Kashmiris were used by ISI and Pakistan and Dr. Fai in the name of Kashmir, and they were making millions and billions of dollars in the name of Kashmir. So where do we go from here? I mean, Pakistan is saying officially now for the first time that they have no knowledge of this, again the same thing just like they had no knowledge of Usama bin Ladin. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, obviously, I can’t speak for Dr. Fai. I can only speak to the facts of the case, and the facts of the case are that the Department of Justice has announced charges against two individuals, one of whom is Dr. Fai for their participation in a long-term conspiracy to hide the fact that they were working as – for the Government of Pakistan.
And as you know, under American law, it is illegal for foreign individuals to make campaign contributions to people in federal office, and they also – people that are working on behalf of foreign governments are also under obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. And so Dr. Fai didn’t do that either, so that’s why he’s been arrested.
As far as where we go from here, that’s obviously up to the Department of Justice, and you’ll have to talk to them.
QUESTION: Just quick one. Did you get any –
MODERATOR: Wait for the microphone, please.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Thanks very much. Did you get any kind of protest from the – official protest from the Government of Pakistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don't know. I’ve just gotten in on a plane this morning from India, so I went home and took a shower, and now I’m here to give you this briefing, so I haven’t – I’m not really sure.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes, sir. Sorry. Come back to you.
MODERATOR: Oh, sorry.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That’s okay.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hi.
QUESTION: Chidanand Rajghatta of the Times of India.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Nice to see you.
QUESTION: Nice to see you too, Secretary Blake. I hope jet lag hasn’t hit you yet. (Laughter.) What is – with regard to the remarks that the Secretary made in Chennai about wanting India to be more assertive in Asia, was this with reference to a particular country, which since you guys didn’t name I’ll not name either? And also, what is your sense of India’s response to this exhortation to be more assertive?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, first of all, I don't want to imply any kind of criticism here. It’s just we want to work more closely with India, not just around the world but particularly in Asia because we feel that we have, again, many, many common interests. As all of you know, a growing proportion of the world trade now is moving through these waters, from the gulf and elsewhere, through the Straits of Malacca and into the Asia Pacific region.
And really the center of gravity of all of our foreign policy is shifting to Asia, so it’s extremely important that the United States and India, the two – the world’s two largest democracies, two of the world’s largest market economies, and two of the countries with, again, these converging values and interests, work extremely closely together on a lot of what are going to be quite important issues in the Asia Pacific region, things like maritime security and anti-piracy and so forth.
And the Secretary’s going to be discussing a lot of this right now in Bali at the ASEAN Regional Forum, so I don't want to get too far out in front of her on these. But again, I think we want to work as closely as possible with India on the full range of challenges and opportunities in the Asia Pacific region.
QUESTION: (Off mike.) My question was: Was this exhortation a broad sort of exhortation or was it country specific? Did you have any –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: It’s a broad exhortation. If you’re referring to China – if you read this – the – if you read the – her speech closely, she actually talks about China and she talks about how the United States and India and China should think about ways to cooperate trilaterally, and that maybe one area in which we might start is in the counterterrorist area, where we have common interests. So I’d refer you to that.
And so – and the underlying point there, I think, is that neither we nor India see our growing relationship as coming at the expense of China. We want to work – both of us want to work closely with China. We have important interests. Obviously, we have differences as well, but we have – we feel that it’s very important to engage China. And again, there may be some opportunities to do so at a trilateral level.
Sorry. This gentleman was cut off before, so let me give him a chance. Yeah, right here.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. This is Tejinder Singh from Headlines Today, India Today Group.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Welcome.
QUESTION: I just have one follow up and then a couple of questions. The follow-up is that – (laughter) –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: One question only, please, so I give everybody a chance.
QUESTION: -- did Sri Lanka war crimes, this thing that came into discussion in Chennai – but Chennai is a state government. What about the discussion with Delhi, with the Indian Government? Are you happy, unhappy with India’s role? What are the next steps U.S. is contemplating?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think I laid out all of the issues that we think are important, and I would say, yes, we’re very happy with the coordination and cooperation that we have with India on this. I think our views are very closely in alignment.
QUESTION: Okay. And just coming back to Mumbai attacks, you see Mumbai has been attacked three times in last ten years. New York has not been, although attempts have been made. So do you think there is any kind of help, cooperation that U.S. is offering to India? Is India asking for help?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yeah. I mean, again, I think there’s a tremendous scope for future cooperation. That’s the whole purpose of our homeland security dialogue; that’s the whole purpose of our cyber security dialogue. And these are common threats. That’s what I’d like to emphasize. A lot of the people that are targeting India are also targeting the United States, so we have very much a common interest in exchanging information, in exchanging intelligence on these groups.
But also we have a very deep interest in helping to secure India as well. It is not in our interest to see an attack on Indian soil that might precipitate sort of wider regional violence. We want the focus very much to remain what we see as the core problems, which are addressing terrorism in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, stabilizing Afghanistan, supporting the transition process, and all of the other issues that you’re familiar with.
QUESTION: Just going back to the Sri Lankan issue again, yesterday, one of the committees in – at the Hill passed resolutions saying that they are going to stop aid from – for Sri Lanka except the humanitarian. So do you have any comments on that? How far – are we going to see any of this aid being stopped?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, I don't want. That’s still pending legislation, so I – it’s – we don’t – we care not to talk about that yet. But it’s amendment to a law that has not yet passed, so we don’t comment on pending legislation.
QUESTION: Hi. Priscilla Huff with Times Now. A follow up on Syed Fai.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure.
QUESTION: There are folks – one of the questions that’s come up is this sort of like is this the straw that’s about to break the much battered camel that carries the Islamabad-Washington relationship. What does this tell you that apparently the ISI spent $4 million on the Kashmiri American Council?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, I don't want to speculate too much about what Pakistan’s motivations are. We all understand very much that we have some challenges sometimes with Pakistan, and it’s not always an easy relationship. But as the Secretary and many, many others have stressed many, many times, it’s very much in America’s interest, and indeed in India’s interest, to work with Pakistan. Pakistan is facing many challenges now, economic challenges, energy challenges, security challenges, and it’s very much in our interest to help Pakistan to deal with those challenges, and that’s why we want to move forward. So I don't think this is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Do we – sorry. Do we have somebody from New York as well or not?
MODERATOR: Not yet.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Okay. Sorry. I don’t want to exclude them.
QUESTION: Seema Sirohi, analyst for Gateway House, a think tank. I wanted to ask just about the trilateral announced with Japan, U.S., and India. What would be the ambit of this? And China has already been on record as criticizing this idea, this very idea. And my next question is on Afghanistan. What’s the --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’m sorry, let me do that. I can never remember more than one at a time.
First of all, with respect to this trilateral that we have announced, we don’t yet have a date for that. We’re hoping that that will take place sometime this fall. And again, I think it just makes eminent strategic sense. We are three important democracies that have very important interests in the Asia Pacific region, and indeed in the wider region. So we’re – we think this makes great sense to do this, and this’ll be the sort of first of our trilateral dialogues. We might, as I said earlier, move on and try to work trilaterally with other countries as well. But we thought it made sense to start with Japan.
QUESTION: Could you address China’s criticism, please?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, this is not something that’s coming at the expense of China. We’re talking about three countries that have a lot of common interests, and we’ll see how we can use these – our common interests to advance our common interests around the region.
QUESTION: One quick question on Afghanistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Please.
QUESTION: Was there any forward movement in the U.S. position on India training the Afghan security forces? There’s more sort of growing voices in India demanding that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That really wasn’t a topic of discussion. We were talking much more about, as I said, this new Silk Road strategy that we’re embarked on now, but also the general process of leading up to Bonn later this year and then also the process of reconciliation. Those were really the focus of discussion.
QUESTION: Hi. Yashwant, Hindustan Times. One major issue for India has been the H1B visa story, and I didn’t see any mention of it anywhere in the joint statement, and I’m sure India brought that up at the talks.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: The external affairs minister mentioned it in his opening statement at the joint press availability with the Secretary. So yes, it – this is obviously an important priority for India. I would just say that India remains, by far, the largest beneficiary of H1B visas. I did a little research on this before the trip. In 2010, India received – Indians received 65 percent of the global quota for H1B visas, so an overwhelming percent, almost two-thirds of all issued – all H1Bs issued last year were issued to Indians.
So I think India’s been a very large beneficiary, obviously, of this program. There were some companies that were engaged in abuse of the program, and so there were some denials, of course, because of that abuse. But overall, again, I would stress that India has been a huge beneficiary of this program, and has – if any country should be, I think, praising the program and benefitting from the program, it’s India.
QUESTION: Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hi, Lalit.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Office of Inspector General in the State Department brought out a report saying that in the South and Central Asia Bureau, the India desks would be elevated at the India office, what --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’m sorry, what was the question? India what?
QUESTION: India desks would be elevated at the India office because you are focusing more on improving relationship with India.
QUESTION: More money, more (inaudible).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Oh, I see. (Laughter.) Well, the India desk already has increased quite substantially since I took office. We only had a small number of people when I first came, and I decided that we needed to significantly ramp up the number of people. So we’ve had a very large increase in our staff. We’re studying now the recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General, which of course we take very, very seriously and we appreciate. Whether we actually create a whole separate office for it or not, I don’t know, but I do know that we are now getting towards sufficient staffing.
As our relationship continues to grow, we always – we might need even more staff. It’s sort of like our staffing at our Embassy in New Delhi. Just when we think we have enough staff, then more and more interesting new areas of cooperation come open and we have to hire more people. So it’s a continuing dynamic and we’ll continue to work very closely with the Office of the Inspector General on this.
QUESTION: So you will have nothing to do with comping the Inspector General?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: (Laughter.) What a shocking question.
QUESTION: Hi. Betty Lin of the World Journal. On extending the cooperation in East Asia, you mentioned that – well, you would like to focus on the maritime security at EAS. And I’d like to know what kind of role India can play in the East Asia maritime security.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, I think India can play quite an important role. I recall even right after 9/11, Indian and American naval vessels were patrolling the Malacca Straits to stop piracy at that time. So I think there’s scope for that kind of cooperation. The point is we need to talk about it. We haven’t really ever had a discussion about how we might do more of that kind of thing. So that’s really the purpose of raising this. And again, we’d like to have this discussion to talk first with the Indians about this in more detail but then with many of our other friends, many of our other common friends, in the region.
QUESTION: Maybe outside of Malacca?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Possibly. Again, I don’t want to speculate. We have to first talk among ourselves.
QUESTION: Just a quick one.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sorry. Just let me just make sure I have – everybody else has a chance.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Who else hasn’t had a chance already?
QUESTION: Yes. There is a – Rajagopalan from the Pioneer newspaper.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hi.
QUESTION: So there is a brief reference from the Indian side about the totalization agreement, which has been pending for a very long time. Has there been any sort of forward movement on this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: No. I must say that didn’t really come up in the dialogue at all. I mean, I think India knows what our – very well what our position is on this. And we’re just not – right now, what we’ve – we’ve agreed to consider this at some point in the future, at the appropriate time. And what that means is that right now, there’s a great imbalance in – between the number of Indians that are working in the United States and the number of Americans that are working in India. And one of the criterion for our beginning talks on totalization agreements with other countries is that there’s got to be some relative balance in those numbers, and right now there isn’t that balance. But over time, as I say, more and more American companies are establishing operations in India. More and more Americans will probably be working there. More and more Americans will be studying there. And again – so over time, there probably will be more balance, and at that point we’ll be able to do that.
But in the meantime, I think there will be other opportunities to discuss some of India’s concerns, because they – we certainly take those seriously. We’re starting up a consular dialogue in the very near future, and so we could talk about some of those issues perhaps there as well. But – so there are other dialogues in which this could perhaps be discussed. But this is, again, something that’s – that will be a longer-term thing for us, just because that’s the way our laws work, where we’re – by law, we have to – there has to be some balance in this before we can begin to have talks with other countries on the subject.
QUESTION: Sorry. What does the --
MODERATOR: Wait for the microphone, please.
QUESTION: Let me bring up the elephant in the room. What was the flavor of discussions on Pakistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I’d just go back to what I said earlier. I mean, I think both of us obviously have concerns. We – you know very well what India’s concerns are. India wants to be sure that there’s progress in the trials of the Mumbai suspects. They want to be sure that the camps on the Pakistani side of the border are dismantled, and more broadly, that Pakistan does not allow the various terrorist groups that are operating inside Pakistan to use Pakistani territory as a platform from which to attack India or other countries like the United States. And we have very similar interests.
So in terms of our own dialogue, we’ve had some – I think, some progress since the Abbottabad raid. We’ve made a lot of other suggestions about progress where we think – or areas where we think more progress is needed. And again, I think the Secretary and many, many others have repeatedly reaffirmed that it’s very much in our interest to engage Pakistan, to help it with many of these challenges that I described earlier.
PARTICIPANT: Stick with the –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sorry. Let me give this gentleman here, who hasn’t had a chance.
QUESTION: My name is Keiichi Shirato with the Mainichi newspaper in Japan. And let me ask about the – that the U.S. Administration had – recently had decided to freeze the certain amount of military aid to the Pakistanis. Was that a topic in the meeting, if was it so? So what was the Indians’ reaction?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: It wasn’t a topic in the meeting.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: It wasn’t a topic in the meeting.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Secretary, I want to come back to the Fai issue. On your long plane journey, did you have a chance to read the 45-page affidavit – FBI affidavit?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I did not.
QUESTION: It actually – it’s very explicit in allege – in making allegations against the Pakistani Government and the ISI. The explicit charges about the money trail and how Dr. Fai was funded through the Hawala route.
My question is: Are there criminal culpability issues here or does this become a diplomatic issue at this point? In the charge sheet or in the affidavit, is the Justice Department obliged, since they are named for ISI officials? Will there be charges against them? Shouldn’t there be charges against them? Would there be extradition issues here? Where does it go from here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yeah. You’re going to have to address all those questions to the Department of Justice because they’re the ones that have the lead on this.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, I’ve just come back. I’ve been in India this whole time, so I’m not really up to speed fully on this. All I saw was the press release on this. I haven’t had a chance to read all the details of this, so I don’t really want to start speculating from the podium about that.
QUESTION: This is on your trip to India. Was there any mention of the Tri-Valley University students’ fate? Because recently three more universities have been mentioned in a newspaper report from the West Coast when a student died again thousands of miles from where he was supposed to be. So from your trip, was there a mention, was there a discussion on that? And back home here, is the State Department going to do something about it? Because the FBI, the DHS, has repeatedly told us that finally it will be the State Department which has to take care of the visas that are being generated and criminal acts.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: The short answer is yes, it did come up. And we had a discussion about this. And again, I think the Indian side described that quite a lot of progress has been made. Many of the students have been able to transfer to other universities, but some are still in the process. And so I think more work needs to be done. So that’s, I think, one of the follow-ups for us now as we come back after the dialogue is to talk with the Department of Homeland Security and determine what additional work needs to be done – of course, work very closely with the Indian Embassy here.
QUESTION: Is there a procedure availed, being formulated, so that in future these gullible students are not brought here for nothing?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, again, I – it’s hard to say. These are – these were people who, in some cases, deceived these Indian students. And obviously, we prosecute those kind of people for that kind of action. It wasn’t – it was – it had nothing to do with the American Government. But now we do want to – we do have an interest in helping to help those innocent Indian students who were caught up in this to find new educational institutions where they can resume their education, so we’ll certainly be doing all we can before the next semester starts in the fall.
MODERATOR: We only have time for one more question, so I think the gentleman in the back who hasn’t had a chance to ask.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hasn’t had a question, that’s right.
QUESTION: Thank you. Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hi.
QUESTION: I have a question on the Bilateral Investment Treaty. A review – interagency review of the treaty, model treaty, started about two years ago was completed or nearly completed about a year ago and it’s been in deep freeze for the past year. How do you even begin technical discussions with India on a BIT and – beyond saying we can’t really start negotiations?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, I think that you’re right. The negotiations on the model BIT are continuing, but we hope to conclude those in the relatively near future. In the meantime, there are many provisions that are really not going to be changed under the new model BIT, and so I think we can have a lot of discussions just on that and agree at least on those provisions of it. Now these BIT negotiations sometimes take quite a long time, so it’s good to start now, and both of us agreed that that would be a worthwhile endeavor. So that’s why we’re starting. When the model BIT actually is approved and some of these new environmental and other provisions come into force, the tail end of the discussions can then focus on those. So it makes every – makes good sense to, again, start as quickly as possible so we can get this done expeditiously.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I want to thank you all for coming. Thank you for your continued interest in our partnership. And of course, we’re always availa
ble to – if you have specific questions. Thanks a lot.
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