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


QUESTION: -- Headley’s wives, given all the talk about Headley. Then we hear even the home minister and the external affairs minister saying that well, we got information from the United States but it was not specific. It was generic. We couldn’t act on it. Apart from the [boat].

Now did specific information come from the United States regarding 26/11? And as far as his wives were concerned, did you take that information seriously?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t want to talk about specific intelligence cooperation because obviously that’s very sensitive, but let me just assure you and your viewers that whenever we have specific information about a possible terrorist attack against India or against any of our other friends, we immediately act to share that information on a real-time basis so that your country can prepare itself for that possible attack. And obviously a lot of these reports you never know really how serious they are or not. But again, whenever we have specific information we pass it. That is what’s happened not just before the Mumbai attacks, but since then. We continue to do that.

QUESTION: There are reports that Pakistan is doing this military deal with the United States and they are getting an additional $2 billion. There are two issues here. One is, what kind of material are they looking for? What are you looking to give them? In specific terms. Not just anti-terrorist and conventional. And also, what kind of -- [Anthony] was there a few days ago. He specifically spoke about weapons that you were giving to Pakistan and how they could be used against India. Because some weapons are not just conventional and anti-terror. They’re dual use. So can you tell us about these two parts of this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t want to get out in front of any specific announcement that might be made in Washington today, but let me just assure you and your viewers that first of all, they should understand that the assistance that we are providing to Pakistan is mostly of a civilian nature. If anything has changed from the Bush administration to the Obama administration it’s been the increased emphasis that we put on civilian assistance, specifically $7.5 billion over the next five years to help with the many internal challenges that they face. And I think that’s something that our friends in the Indian government support as well, because obviously the stabilization of Pakistan is very much in India’s interest.

On the military side, this is just a continuation of existing programs that we’ve been doing. We’re just making a five year announcement out of it. And it is in no way going to change the military balance in the region. And it’s also going to be carefully monitored. There is strict end use monitoring to be sure that it really is going to be used for the purposes that it has been provided -- namely, to attack the militants in the border areas of Pakistan that are threatening our troops and are threatening the whole strategy in Afghanistan. That’s really what this is all about.

I also will say that it’s very very important for us that Pakistan also deal with the LET threat. LET is not just a group that is targeting India, it is a group that increasingly is targeting the United States. Therefore it is very much in our strategic interest to see Pakistan take action against LET and all of the Punjab-based groups.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] [Anthony] of course had expressed concern about other weapons. Was he reassured in any way after your discussions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: You’ll have to ask him whether he was reassured, but again, we have a very close cooperation, a good dialogue with our Indian friends about everything that we’re doing with Pakistan to reassure them and to again, make the same points that I just made to you. Although we provided obviously more details to them.

QUESTION: There are also reports that as far as Osama bin Laden is concerned and his chief lieutenants, they are in a nice safe-house on the east of the [Tehran] line, and they are being looked after by certain elements in Pakistan of the administration. This has not only been corroborated, but even the NATO officials seem to suggest that that is so.

The second part of this question is the fact that there are again reports that NATO commanders are taking top Taliban officials from the northwest frontier province to Kabul for a meeting with Hamid Karzai.

How does the American government react to these things? And is there any kind of evidence about Osama living in northwest frontier province in considerable luxury?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Getting Osama bin Laden obviously remains a very high priority for the United States. Obviously, if we had any specific information about his whereabouts or that of his key lieutenants, we would instantly be in contact with Pakistan to make sure that those are acted on. Again, that’s a very high priority for us.

With respect to your question about the facilitation of travel by NATO of various Taliban leaders, I think General Petraeus has spoken about that and has confirmed in a general way that some of that facilitation is taking place. But let me just say that the whole purpose of the reconciliation process is to try to identify Taliban leaders who might be willing to talk with the Afghan leadership. This is going to be an Afghan-led process. We all understand there is not going to be a military outcome to the war in Afghanistan. There must be a political element to this as well. But we’ve also laid down some fairly strict parameters for who can participate in the reconciliation process, namely that they must renounce ties with al-Qaida, they must renounce violence, and they must also agree to respect the terms of the Afghan constitution, particularly the rights of women. I think that will probably weed out a certain number of the Taliban, because they don’t want to --

QUESTION: Are you happy with the nuclear liability law?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t really want to talk about some of those specific things. These are things that are under discussion right now and obviously we hope for a successful outcome by the time the President arrives himself.

Thank you so much.

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