Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 22, 2010

QUESTION: Madam Secretary of State, thank you so much for joining us.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It is a pleasure. Thank you.

QUESTION: Pakistan has a lot of expectations from the Strategic Dialogue, and one of the expectations is that they are hoping to get a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one with India. Now, obviously, one of the (inaudible) is going to be proliferation, but your Administration has already vouched that we are no longer doing that. So are we going to restart having a dialogue acknowledging Pakistan’s nuclear program?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me wish everyone a happy National Day because I know that this will air on Pakistan’s National Day. And let me also say how pleased we are to have the first of our Strategic Dialogue meetings here in Washington. We have a really broad agenda – that issue, many others are on it. And what we try to do in these Strategic Dialogues is to begin the hard work of sorting through all the different issues that are raised. I’m sure that that’s going to be raised and we’re going to be considering it, but I can’t prejudge or preempt what the outcome of our discussions will be, except to say that this Strategic Dialogue is at the highest level we’ve ever had between our two countries. We are very committed to it. We know whatever we do will take time. It’s not the kind of commitment that you easily produce overnight or even within a year. But it is important to get started, to sort it out, and to develop the trust and the confidence between us, and between all the people who work in our government, because it’s not just between me and Foreign Minister Qureshi, it’s all the other people who do the work. And we will be moving forward. We’ll have our next session in the future in Islamabad.

QUESTION: The reason I ask the nuclear question is simply because we are having these power riots in Pakistan at the moment and we desperately need that kind of power and that help that was given to India at the same time, and (inaudible) that there’s a sense of unevenness after you signed the nuclear deal.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can’t speak for anyone else’s impressions, but that was the result of many, many years of strategic dialogue. It did not happen easily or quickly. And I think on the energy issue specifically, there are more immediate steps that can be taken that have to help with the grid, have to help with other sources of energy, to upgrade power plants and the like. And we are certainly looking at those and we want to help Pakistan with its immediate and its long-term energy needs.

QUESTION: You had a very good (inaudible) the Kerry-Lugar bill that was passed (inaudible) now. How come the money has been so slow in coming, because we desperately are in need of that money?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the money is in what we call the pipeline. It’s not easily conveyed because there are all these rules we have to follow, but it is being delivered. Money is coming forward. And we’re well aware of Pakistan’s financial challenges. We’re going to do everything we can to expedite the flow of the money that we want to go to work in agriculture, to work in energy, to work in security – the broad range of issues that we have discussed.

QUESTION: Now, earlier President Bush’s Administration had announced a reconstruction opportunity zone for Pakistan’s troubled Northwest. Is your Administration going to pursue that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, absolutely. We are committed to it. We came into office wanting to deepen and broaden our relationship with Pakistan. Unfortunately, we came into office in the middle of a global recession, so President Obama had to really turn his attention to getting the American economy moving again. But trade, and in particular the so-called ROZs, are a very high priority. The President himself has spoken out on behalf of those. And we are working to try to realize the benefits of greater market access for Pakistan.

QUESTION: So perhaps we will have a bilateral investment treaty?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there are many different ways to pursue it, and some of them are more available immediately. But that’s why we’re going to be meeting in the Strategic Dialogue, to really go in-depth. We have Strategic Dialogues with Russia, with China, with other countries. There’s a lot of work that is entailed and it takes time. And we’re just beginning this process with Pakistan. We’re very excited about it, but we have to go through the process, we have to get everything lined up, and then see what steps we can take.

QUESTION: So what are you hoping to achieve at the end of (inaudible)? What is your (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that we would have a strong foundation for these Strategic Dialogues, that we would begin the process of developing an agenda, that we would start putting in place the mechanisms that we will be using. For example, Foreign Minister Qureshi and I can agree this is what we want to do, but he and I don’t do that work. Our bureaucracies do that work. So for --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) implementation part of it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: The implementation. We’ve been working for close to a year on our Russian Strategic Dialogue in this Administration, and we’re still getting working groups going. Some are advanced, some haven’t even met yet. It just takes time to get our bureaucracies all focused and going in the same direction.

QUESTION: Another concern is that there’s a proxy war going on between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan and it’s found another arena to take this conflict to. Now, this is obviously not good for international security; and in the beginning, President Obama’s Administration had promised a regional strategy. Now, how come so little has been done on that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there is a regional strategy, but of course, there’s an immediate need to try to deal with the violence in Afghanistan, to try to take back areas that had been overrun by the Taliban, which is what the military campaign is about. It’s also important to put the Afghan Government on a stronger foundation so that they can deliver services. But clearly, Pakistan is very much involved in assisting us, in counseling and advising us about what will or won’t work in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) do want center stage if there are going to be negotiations with the Taliban. Now, if there are negotiations with the Taliban, where does Pakistan fit into the picture?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s one of the things that we’ll be discussing in the Strategic Dialogue, because clearly, Pakistan has a very important role to play. And the actions that Pakistan has taken against the Taliban extremists inside Pakistan, I think have been extremely important and very well done to demonstrate that you cannot allow terrorists to operate inside your own country. And now, we want to get Pakistan’s advice about how best to move forward in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Including the arrest of Mullah Baradar, one of the top Taliban leaders? Do you welcome that? And – because there is lot of controversy surrounding it. Of course, the UN’s special envoy to Afghanistan, former UN special envoy, has very clearly said and criticized Pakistan for arresting the Taliban leadership, saying that they’ve tried to destruct negotiations with --

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s not how I see it. I don’t want --

QUESTION: How do you see it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t want to contradict anyone, but the way I see it is that it was an example of cooperation between Pakistan and the United States. Both sides have said that they shared intelligence. These people pose threats to both of our countries, and so I think that arresting those who are posing those threats or have conducted or condoned terrorist attacks in the past is in both the interests of the United States and Pakistan.

QUESTION: So the UN is obviously not on the same page as (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to speak for anyone else because they may have a different perspective. But our opinion is that that was an important example of cooperation.

QUESTION: Are you going to start talking to the Taliban leadership anytime soon? I know you are talking to the low-level commanders, but are you going to start talking to the Taliban leadership?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is not really anything that the United States is doing. That is what Afghanistan is doing, President Karzai is doing. We have said we will support his efforts. But we’re still at the very early stages of any kind of political reconciliation process.

QUESTION: One of the things I remember you saying and writing is that in democracy, women’s voices must be heard. Now, in your attempt to reintegrate the Taliban, how far are you going to go and how much are you going to compromise (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Not at all, I hope. Because what we have said very clearly is that in order for someone to be reintegrated into Afghan society, they must renounce violence, they must lay down their arms, they must respect the Afghan constitution and the laws of Afghanistan which now protect women’s rights and roles. So my view is that we have to protect what now has become the legal and constitutional framework. Now, will there be problems? Of course, there will be. There are in any society where people don’t abide by what they have said they will do. But I don’t think the United States or Pakistan, with a history of women’s involvement in politics, in business, in academia – I don’t think we want to be party to turning the clock back on the women of Afghanistan. So those Taliban who wish to be accepted back into Afghan society must abide by the rules now that exist.

QUESTION: Are you going to let President Karzai’s government know this, because there are Taliban leadership that perhaps the women’s rights activists have been criticizing, and they don’t want that part of the Taliban leadership to be talking to the Karzai government?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that they have every reason to be concerned. But if whoever is in the leadership abides by the conditions that are set, then the job will be to hold them to those conditions. But it won’t necessarily be to tell them they can’t stop fighting, that is a threat to women and men, that if they are willing to stop fighting, here are the rules they must abide by. Now, we know that anytime you’re in a conflict situation and you’re trying to bring about a political solution, there are risks. We know that. But at the same time, we think pursuing this very carefully is worth doing. We’re just at the beginning. We haven’t tested it. We don’t know how far it will go. And that’s one of the reasons we’re consulting with our Pakistan partners.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for speaking to us.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

PRN: 2010/343