Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Thimpu, Bhutan
April 27, 2010

BBS: Why did the United States choose to become an observer [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We’ve been an observer since 2007. We asked to be observers because we have very important relations with all of the SAARC countries. I must say that those have increased over time. As you know, some of our highest priorities are in India but also in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So it’s very much in our interest to try to promote greater integration between all of the South Asian countries, so we’re very happy to be here.

BBS: Your comment on the relevance of the timing of this year’s summit theme which is climate change?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think it’s a very very important theme right now. In the aftermath of the Copenhagen meetings that took place there’s I think heightened global attention and focus on climate change. Bhutan, of course, is a country that is very much affected by climate change so I think it’s very appropriate that His Majesty chose this to be one of the key focuses of the summit. And I’m very glad that there’s greater attention to this because there’s still a lot of work to be done on both the global but also at the South Asian regional level on climate change.

BBS: Coming back to the environment, it evolved as a mission of imbalances, one of the main pillars of development [inaudible]. Do you think a small nation like Bhutan can make a difference globally?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Certainly. I think your country already is known for its attention and its leadership n conservation and environment. Certainly in the United States everybody knows very well about the role that you have played. So I think that you really have a lot that you can show to the rest of the world in terms of, for example, forest management, which has been one of the real leadership areas for Bhutan. But there are many other areas as well.

BBS: So your short views on how the SAARC regional grouping has fared so far. Your observation on that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think it mostly has been a forum for dialogue so far. I think there probably hasn’t been as much progress on concrete things like trade as many of its members would like. Intra-regional trade within SARC is really quite small still. It represents only about five percent of total trade.

I think that as all the SAARC countries, for example, seek to provide employment for their young populations, trade is a very good way to provide that. So I think it’s in every country’s interest to do more on that front.

BBS: The very last question. Do you think that Gross National Happiness could serve as a new development model?


BBS: In what ways?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Everybody can benefit from the way that Bhutan has developed itself in I think a steady but always cautious way to ensure that everybody in Bhutan is benefiting from development, and I think again, that’s a lesson for all of the countries. I congratulate you.

BBS: Thank you so much, sir.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.