Interview
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
New Delhi, India
October 22, 2010


QUESTION: President Barack Obama is coming to India next month. What is on the agenda, and what is he going to do when he gets here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: The President looks forward to really what I think is going to be an historic visit to India. This is going to be the longest trip that he’s made overseas to any single country and I think that reflects the importance that the President attaches to our relations with India. He has said that this is going to be a defining partnership for the 21st Century. Because India and the United States are the two world’s leading democracies, we have our two knowledge and innovation economies, we have active civil societies, and we’re countries that are working increasingly closely together not just at the bilateral level, but at the regional and global level. So we see enormous promise for this relationship. I think that this visit will be about defining that promise and the ways in which we’re going to cooperate.

QUESTION: There are reports that the U.S. is going to give $2 billion military aid to Pakistan this weekend. So what is the significance of that military aid? Because as everybody knows, Pakistan is not using that aid against terrorism. It is being used to make purchases for war ships, for aircraft. All this [inaudible]. What do you think? How do you keep an eye on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We have come to understand that we are not going to be able to succeed in Afghanistan without the help, without the success of Pakistan. So it is very much in our interest, and I think in the interests of all countries, to try to help Pakistan, particularly when it comes to dealing with some of the many challenges that it faces.

I’d say that, contrary to your question, the most important things we’ve been doing and the biggest changes in American assistance to Pakistan over the last year have been on the civilian side where we’ve significantly ramped up civilian assistance to Pakistan to help deal with energy problems, health, education, a lot of those kinds of things.

We also are providing new counterterrorism assistance, particularly to help beef up their counterinsurgency capabilities because as you rightly say, they’ve been focused on India for many years. But that assistance will come with very careful end use restrictions to be sure that will be used for the purposes that has been provided for and not be used against India. It will not in any way affect the military balance between your two countries. And again, it’s something that will give the Pakistanis the capabilities to go after these groups that all of us care about. The groups that are still in North Waziristan and groups like LET that are targeting the United States and targeting India.

QUESTION: So they are [inaudible] Obama’s [inaudible]. Just after the Mumbai attacks, a couple of months later, [inaudible], that [inaudible] element of ISI was involved in the Mumbai attacks. What does U.S. intelligence believe? Was the [inaudible] element or the ISI [inaudible]?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to get into the specific intelligence reports. I’d just go back to what I said earlier which is that we believe now that Pakistan has made some progress in SWAT, in South Waziristan, but it’s very important now that Pakistan complete the task of rooting out terrorism in Pakistan, and that it abide by its own words. It has promised that it will not allow any kind of terrorists to operate from its soil. So we really want to give them the capabilities to make that so. It remains a very important part of our agenda for them, particularly on the LET side. I know that’s a great concern for you and it’s a great concern for us too. After al-Qaida I would say that LET is probably the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world now, and it’s a terrorist organization that’s increasingly threatening America and targeting America. So this is deeply in our strategic interest as well.

QUESTION: What do you think about the Chinese military growth? [Inaudible] this year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think like India, the United States wants a cooperative and positive relationship with China. We have a very intensive dialogue with them, a strategic dialogue as we have with our Indian friends. And both of us see it as very much in our interest to continue to work with China, to engage them, and to understand better, particularly on the military side, what their objectives are. We’d like to see I think a little more transparency from the Chinese about exactly what those military objectives are, how they see things going forward.

We’re trying to increase our military cooperation with China, but frankly, we don’t have nearly the same level of cooperation as we have with India. India is one of our most important defense partners now. We have a very large number of bilateral exercises and we’re working very cooperatively in the Indian Ocean, for example, off the coast of Somalia, for example. So the scope and scale of our military cooperation is completely different with India.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you.

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