Interview With Aaj Tak TV
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
QUESTION: Today we have with us the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Robert Blake.
Mr. Blake, one of the biggest evidence that has surfaced in the relationship between the two countries is David Coleman Headley. India has provided specific intelligence, it hasn’t been provided any specific intelligence on David Coleman Headley but America claims otherwise. Where does the truth lie?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me tell you, first of all, that I think the counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and India has been one of the most positive parts of a very positive agenda that we have bilaterally. Well before 26/11, the Mumbai attacks, the United States had a habit of providing whatever specific information we had about possible terrorist attacks against India. And this is not something we do just with India. It’s what we do with all of our friends.
So I don’t really think that your viewers should be concerned in any way that there was some information that we might have had that we didn’t share. That is simply not the case.
Since Mumbai that counterterrorism cooperation has really mushroomed out even further, and blossomed. We’re doing everything from megacity policing to forensics training to a wide range of other things. I think in the course of the President’s visit you’ll hear some further announcements about the --
QUESTION: This concern actually comes from Indian intelligence agencies and that is supported by the claim of the wife of David Coleman Headley that she had informed U.S. authorities who had ignored it. And they finally, with the fact that he was an American agent once upon a time, so that is the concern as we expressed here.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to get into the specifics of our intelligence cooperation with India, but just to say that it is very strong. Again, any time we have any specific information whatsoever about possible terrorist attacks, the first thing we do is to share that on a very urgent basis with our Indian partners.
QUESTION: Now that India has become a non-permanent member of the Security Council, would America support India in its bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t want to speculate about what the President might say on this. We certainly understand the importance that India attaches to this. We’ve said in the past that we believe that global international institutions must reflect India’s rise, but I don’t want to comment now about what the President might say about that.
QUESTION: A concern that has been expressed is that Pakistan has been openly using the Afghan Taliban as a strategic ally. There are reports that they have even sheltered Osama bin Laden and [inaudible]. These reports have emanated from the U.S. But clearly, America, the feeling is that America has been ignoring all of this. In fact a new loan of $2 billion will be released to Pakistan. Why is this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: It’s because we are not going to succeed in Afghanistan in our objectives there of dismantling, defeating al-Qaida, unless we have the support of Pakistan. A lot of the al-Qaida militants and others that are associated with them are located in the border areas of Pakistan. So it is very much in our interest to help Pakistan, give it the military equipment and training that it needs, particularly in counterinsurgency, to deal with that threat.
But I think that your viewers should understand that the most important change that has taken place from the Bush administration to the Obama administration has been the increase in civilian assistance that we have provided to Pakistan. We have provided over five years $7.5 billion in civilian assistance. I know that’s something that our Indian friends believe very strongly is important as well, to help with things like health and education and new job opportunities for young people in Pakistan.
So we will continue to help the Pakistanis. But I will say that it is very important that they continue to deal with all of the groups that are in Pakistan that are threatening not only India but the United States.
QUESTION: Would that mean ignoring something that has been so blatant, considering that Pakistan has been openly supporting forces that are hurting American interests?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Certainly not. We wouldn’t ignore that in any way. As I say, these are groups that are targeting American troops in Afghanistan. LET is targeting Americans in many countries now. We think that after al-Qaida itself it’s one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world now. So this is very much on our agenda, our bilateral agenda with Pakistan, to have them deal with these groups. And of course we’ll continue to work closely with India.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you.