Special Briefing
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Teleconference Briefing
New York City , New York
September 27, 2010


OPERATOR: At this time, we’d like to thank all participants for holding and let you know you’ll be on a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of today’s conference call. Also, the call is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time.

I’d now like to turn the call over to Mr. Michael Tran. Thank you, sir.

MR. TRAN: Good afternoon. We’re pleased today to have Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, who will provide a readout of the Secretary’s meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna and also some of his perspectives on his meetings at this year’s UN General Assembly.

I know everybody is on tight schedules, so what we’ll do here is we’ll have Assistant Secretary Blake provide some of his opening remarks and then we’ll turn it over to callers to ask their questions. If you please will state your name and media organization clearly, that would be very helpful.

Without further ado, we’ll turn it over to Assistant Secretary Blake.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you very much. The meeting between Secretary Clinton and External Affairs Minister Krishna began with a discussion of President Obama’s trip to India in early November. Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna agreed that the President’s visit will be a defining moment in the history of our bilateral relations. The Secretary and the minister then discussed substantive preparations for the visit. Secretary Clinton told the minister she also looks forward to seeing Indian Defense Minister Antony and then later Indian National Security Adviser Menon – all of them this week in Washington.

The Secretary and Minister Krishna discussed our shared commitment to Afghanistan. Secretary Clinton thanked the minister for the extensive development assistance India has provided Afghanistan, and she expressed U.S. desire to continue to work closely in that important country.

The Secretary took the opportunity to thank Minister Krishna for India’s $25 million contribution to flood relief for Pakistan. She told Minister Krishna that the United States is encouraged by the impact that the sanctions are having on Iran and stressed the need for the international community to remain united in encouraging Iran to come back to the negotiating table.

Finally, the Secretary and Minister Krishna had a good discussion on the need for the United States and India to continue to work closely together on climate change in order to achieve progress at the upcoming meetings in Cancun.

And that was it. So altogether, a very friendly and useful meeting that took about 30 minutes. So let me stop there and I’ll be glad to take your questions.

MR. TRAN: Operator, do we have any questions?

OPERATOR: If you would like to introduce a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone, *1 for a question. Please record your name slowly and clearly. I will announce you by name. You may then introduce your question. Please state your name and your affiliation.

Our first question comes from Shaun Tandon. Go ahead, Shaun Tandon, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this call. I just wanted to ask you about the developments in Kashmir in the past week. I just wanted to see whether that was something that factored in in any way during the talks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thanks for that question. Actually, it didn’t come up at all in the course of this conversation.

Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Connie (inaudible). Connie, please state your name and your organization.

QUESTION: Hello?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hello, yes.

QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible) from LeMonde newspaper. My question was about the UN reform at the Security Council (inaudible) of India. Has this been mentioned during the talks? And it’s – what’s the position of the U.S. before the President’s visit in November?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes – no, actually, that was not a subject of conversation, but that is something that is under discussion as we prepare for the President’s important visit. I don’t have anything to report at this stage, but again, this is under discussion.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Lalit Jha. Go ahead, Lalit, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Blake, for briefing us on this important meeting.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hi, Lalit.

QUESTION: On this – on – in your opening remarks, you referred to the defining moment, the (inaudible). What will be the defining moment? Can you give us a little more sense what happen in the coming months?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, President Obama and all of our senior American leaders have emphasized the important stake that the United States has in India’s emergence as a global power. As you know, President Obama made Prime Minister Singh our first state visitor of the Obama Administration last November. We have established a Strategic Dialogue that is being led by Secretary Clinton and External Affairs Minister Krishna, their first meeting of which took place in June.

And so the next step is really for the President to make this reciprocal visit to India, and again, to take the progress in our relations forward. So we expect this to be a very momentous and consequential visit that will emphasize the importance of India, our common values, and our desire to work ever more closely with this important friend of ours.

Next question?

OPERATOR: Yes, our next question comes from Aziz Haniffa. Go ahead, Aziz.

QUESTION: Hi, Ambassador.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Hi, Aziz.

QUESTION: Ambassador, you spoke about the fact about it being consequential, defining, and all that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Right.

QUESTION: And I believe that President Obama also wants it to be a very transformational visit like that of President Clinton in March of 2000.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Certainly.

QUESTION: But there are hiccups and irritants that have cropped up – the visa issue in terms of India’s angst, the liability – nuclear liability question in terms of U.S. angst. Were these raised, and how are you all going to alleviate it and have something big when these issues have cropped up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, in a relationship as large and as wide-ranging and as complicated as ours, there are always going to be these irritants. But I think what unites us is the fact that there is so much good and so much superb cooperation that is taking place, so I think that that good – those good – that good common cooperation will help carry us through a lot of these irritants, as you say. And there is, I think, goodwill on both sides to resolve all of those irritants, including things like the liabilities legislation and the visa issue and other things that you mentioned. So I’m confident that we’re going to be able to work our way through these.

QUESTION: And were these brought up, Ambassador, during the conversation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yeah. I mean, I think there was sort of a general conversation about many of those issues, but I don’t want to get into the details of those because, obviously, we want to try to resolve these in private and not in public.

QUESTION: Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Ashish Sen. Go ahead, Ashish, your line is open

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this call. I was – I just wanted to follow up on Aziz’s question, actually.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure.

QUESTION: The liability question. Do you perceive this as being an irritant in the U.S.-India relationship, and what are some of the solutions that are being looked at in trying to get around this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, I don’t want to say it’s an irritant. It’s just – it is an important priority for the United States. We continue to encourage the Indian Government to provide domestic and international suppliers, including, of course, American suppliers, the opportunity to help India to meet its ambitious nuclear power generation goals.

We’ve taken note of some of the concerns that industry representatives have raised about some of the provisions of the liability bill and that the bill may possibly be inconsistent with international standards. So again, we look forward to working with the Indian Government to work our way through this and arrive at a solution where American industry can contribute to India’s ambitious civil nuclear energy needs.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thanks.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Foster Klug. Go ahead, Foster. Foster, your line is open.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you hear me?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure.

QUESTION: Hey, I’m not even sure if this is a – this is still one of those irritants that Aziz was talking about, but has – did the Headley – access to Mr. Headley come up? And if not, is that even still an irritant between the sides? I remember when last the Indians came to Washington, there was talk about this being arranged – some arrangement being come to –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Right.

QUESTION: -- but the details weren’t there and there was some talk in the Indian press that there might be some dissatisfaction still with the level of access to him.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That didn’t come up at all today and it hasn’t come up, frankly, in the last several weeks. So I think as far as we’re concerned, this matter is closed. And again, we continue to be very pleased with the very strong counterterrorism cooperation that we have with India.

QUESTION: Can you talk about what the arrangements that weren’t discussed before, what they are? What is the Indian --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t want to get back into that now. I mean, again, I think the Indian team got access and I think they left satisfied with the access that they received. And so we consider that particular chapter closed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thanks.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Yashwant Raj. Go ahead, Yashwant, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. The question is about export controls. Foreign secretary was here last week and the defense minister was here and they both talked about export controls and how India would like to see the export controls go. Was this discussed at the meeting with Secretary Clinton today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yeah, I think export controls is one of many issues that was discussed. And again, I think we’re looking to find a positive way forward here, but we’re not quite there yet, and so we need to continue to work on that. But again, I’m confident of a positive outcome.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Michelle Nichols. Go ahead, Michelle. Your line is open.

QUESTION: It’s actually been asked, so I’ll pass. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’m sorry, I missed.

QUESTION: Sorry, my question’s been asked.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: So-- Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: No problem.

OPERATOR: If you’d like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. It’s *1 to ask a question. Please record your name slowly. I’ll introduce you by name when your line is open. It’s *1 to introduce a question. If you would like to withdraw your question, it’s *2. We’ll give it a moment or two for our next question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I actually have to go catch a plane, so if there are no more questions, I might actually try to go catch that plane.

OPERATOR: We do have one question if you’d like to take it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure, I’ll take one more question.

OPERATOR: Okay, our last question comes from Lalit Jha. Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: Ambassador, there have been a couple of high-profile visitors from India this week at the State Department, at the UN. Do you expect similar visits from here going to India before the presidential trip? And who would be there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes, I think – I expect that Under Secretary Burns and I will probably go later in October, but I don’t have exact dates yet to announce for that. But that will be, again, to try to clean up any last-minute issues that might still exist, and to make sure that everything is ready for the President’s very important visit.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: So thank you very much, and I appreciate all of your interest and we look forward to continuing to closely brief you on all the progress that we’re making. Thanks a lot.





PRN: 2010/1355