Interview
Wendy R. Sherman
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
New Delhi, India
May 24, 2013


QUESTION: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with us, DD News, Wendy Sherman.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: It is a pleasure to be here.

QUESTION: How did your interaction with the Indian Minister of External Affairs and later the Foreign Secretary go? It’s in the run-up to the Secretary of State’s visit.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Yes. We had a terrific meeting this morning, both with the Minister of External Affairs as well as the Foreign Secretary. I will see National Security Advisor Menon later today and the Deputy [Chairman] of the Planning Commission Ahulwalia. So it is just a terrific set of meetings here in India, as it always is, as good friend always have a comprehensive, deep relationship.

In the last year, there have been 42 senior meetings between the U.S. and India, let alone many many sub-group meetings. And that really speaks to the nature not only of the Strategic Dialogue we’ll have at the end of June between Secretary Kerry and Minister Khurshid but the entire breadth and depth of the U.S.-India relationship.

QUESTION: So in these few hours you are packing -- from economy to strategic affairs to diplomacy -- all of that in?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: All of that and more. There are really four pillars when we look at the breadth of the relationship: 1) global economic, which is very important because we all want India to prosper, the United States to prosper, the world economy to prosper so we can all raise our families to have a great future; 2) A global security dialogue, which really gets to how the U.S. and India are working together, not only regionally, but all over the world for peace and security; 3) regional cooperation - India has really been a leader in ensuring the transition and stability in Afghanistan and the region as a whole, economically and in terms of security; and 4) energy, which is so important to all of us - climate change, clean energy. This has been a long relationship between the U.S. and India, which has been the leader in renewables.

QUESTION: Let’s pick up on these one by one.

The strategic partnership. One key area, of course, is the outstanding issue of the civil and nuclear deal between India and the U.S. Any progress on that? Because the U.S. wants to put the nuclear power issues on the table, have the liability issues resolved. Any discussions?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: We are very committed to the development of our civil nuclear relationship. We made tremendous strides over the last years. I would suspect that when the Strategic Dialogue happens we will make even further progress.

It’s interesting, Secretary Kerry who will be coming here at the end of June for the Strategic Dialogue, came here at a point when the civil nuclear deal didn’t look like it was going to get through. He was a United States Senator at the time. He came, he met with everyone in Indian society and in the government. He went back home and he became a bipartisan strong advocate for the civil nuclear deal. So I know he will want to see it take one more step in its realization and I’m sure that will occur.

QUESTION: But the issue of liability is the real stumbling block between Delhi and Washington. Is there any substantial progress on that? If yes, then what’s happening?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: There are ongoing discussions and I think people have figured out how to manage this particular issue and still make progress, and I think we will. We have, and we are, and we will in the future as well.

QUESTION: The other big area, of course, is what U.S. is keen, as we see it, to push its strategic defense deals. Already a big market, India, $9 billion or so. Going forward, will that be also on the table? Was that issue also discussed?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Very much on the table. Very much discussed. Important for India’s economy, important for the United States economy. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter along with National Security Advisor Menon and others in the Indian government are trying to move forward on this defense trade.

The interesting part is there is a new surveillance aircraft that is going to be delivered to the Indian Navy. You’ve purchased eight. The first one has been on time delivery. In fact, the Indian Navy got it before the U.S. Navy did. So I think our defense cooperation is important, growing. There are other sales coming. But we want to work on co-production and co-development because that will strengthen both of our economies and both of our security.

QUESTION: Which includes transfer of technology at some stage?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: There has always been that discussion. I don’t think there’s any sale that we have discussed that we have not been able to work our way through. I’m sure we will in the future as well.

QUESTION: On the issue of energy, that also is work in progress, but we believe that the U.S. Department of Energy is in principle or more than that okayed the sale of liquefied gas?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: More than that. The Department of Energy has announced that there will be sales of LNG to non-FTA countries. It’s a very transparent process. One can in fact go to the HYPERLINK "http://energy.gov/fe/downloads/summary-lng-export-applications" Department of Energy web site and see, I think it’s 16 possible deals and the order in which they will be considered. This will take some time, but I think it speaks very well to what the future might look like in the U.S.-India LNG relationship.

QUESTION: Energy’s a core issue with India for a good reason. We are energy hungry, energy deficient, and Iran has been one of the big sources from whom we were getting our oil and then the U.S.-Iran thing got [complicated], for lack of a better word. There were sanctions. We have our own interests in Iran. It’s been a partner in so many ways in the regional setup. Is there any possibility of a waiver happening for more Indian oil imports? How do you really see this? It’s not just energy.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: You know the issue around Iranian oil is not a U.S. issue. It’s an international community issue. The international community -- and India has very much been part of that because India’s a non-proliferation leader and has just a perfect record on non-proliferation -- has said to Iran that it must answer the questions of the international community about its nuclear program. Are they trying to acquire a nuclear weapon? They have not answered the question.

I lead the U.S. delegation to P5+1 talks. The P5+1 have put a credible proposal down on the table to Iran and Iran has not really responded to that proposal in any substantive way. We want negotiations to work, but while we’re working on the diplomacy side we also want to say to Iran you’re going to pay a cost of being further isolated if you do not answer the questions. And reducing the purchase of Iranian oil is one of those sanctions.

India has really come through. I know this is difficult in terms of energy security for India. But India has really come through in reducing those imports.

All of those sanctions can be lifted. It is in the hands of Iran to make that happen. I’m sure that hopefully the Supreme Leader will take the strategic decision to in fact work this through with the international community.

QUESTION: Because one view in Delhi is that India wants to really expand its ties, and it is expanding with the U.S. It’s crucial, very important.

At the same time Iran has its own role for India in the geopolitical setup in the region. Whether you look at it from the prism of Kabul or Islamabad, energy, Central Asia, and somewhere there is a section, which feels that we kind of lose out on that traditional relationship because of what’s happening internationally. And that’s one cost one has to pay for Indo-U.S. relations.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: The United States has said that we understand that Iran has a relationship here in Asia and in Central Asia. And certainly has an ongoing and traditional relationship with many countries in the area. Have been players in the development of the region going forward.

But on the other hand, we all have to be cognizant of what Iran is doing in terms of attempting to acquire a nuclear weapon, actually fomenting further civil war in Syria by sending in their own IRGC Quds force, by being state sponsors of terrorism. So we have to deal with that side of the equation, which has grown larger and larger. Terror is something that India understands, sadly, all too well and has been a great counter-terrorism partner with the United States to deal with threats in the region and throughout the world. That’s something we need to continue to do.

QUESTION: On the issue of counter-terrorism, the Indian Home Minister was there meeting Homeland Security officials and senior people there. Anything further issue there? One issue here always has been Headley, Rana, more access to them. And overall, more cooperation on the issue of terror.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think as you said, we just had a Homeland Security Dialogue in Washington. We will continue this dialogue as part of the Strategic Dialogue that we have, and this is a really important channel because we both have experienced terrorism. We both want to stop it and deepen our relationship, both regionally and in the world. And I think that’s quite important. Where David Headley is concerned, U.S. courts have now sentenced him to 35 years. I think that Indian viewers will well understand that although many many Indian lives were lost in the horrible Mumbai attack, six Americans died as well. So we have interest and we care deeply too, for ourselves and for India.

Before he was sentenced, India had access to Mr. Headley and I know there’s a request for continued access of some sort, and that will get worked through in whatever way is appropriate in the Homeland Security channel and with our Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Earlier you said how on the issue of civil and nuclear deal between India and U.S., Secretary of State John Kerry was not earlier so convinced. But then later on he became a great proponent for the idea. One view in India, which is held, is that Secretary of State John Kerry is a little too soft on Pakistan when seen from Delhi’s shades or prism.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think that what India needs to know is that there is no stronger advocate for a strong U.S.-India relationship than John Kerry.

Secretary Kerry when he was a Senator also led the first trade delegation from the U.S. Congress to India. He is a tremendous believer in economic development. He’s been a leader on clean energy and climate change, on non-proliferation, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He knows many people in this wonderful country and I know he’s very excited about being able to come here, spend some time, and have the full range of the dialogue that only good friends and a strong relationship can have.

QUESTION: Can you just elaborate on the concern. The concern is also in some quarters that he may lean on India to start the dialogue with Pakistan without actually taking into account and address India’s concerns on terror.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think that Secretary Kerry believes that how that goes forward is up to India. That’s not up to the United States. So how India moves forward on its relationship with Pakistan is India’s choice, what the pace of that is, what it looks like, and we’re very respectful of India’s choices in that regard. We encourage, of course, a better relationship between all countries in the world, but it’s really India’s choice.

QUESTION: Talking about Pakistan, there’s a new regime there, which will take over soon. The topic, the subject of the American drone policy, somehow just never goes away from the front pages of headlines. So will there be a change going forward? What’s there?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think we saw yesterday, Thursday, it’s hard for me to keep my time zones right when I travel. President Obama gave a HYPERLINK "http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/05/23/remarks-president-national-defense-university" speech not only about our drone policy but our counter-terrorism policy, and all of the tools that we have to use: diplomacy, development, security. The whole range in the toolbox to deal with counter-terror. But he did address the drone program and this was really a speech where he was talking principally to the American people and saying this is a tool, it should not be used very often. We much prefer if we’re trying to address a particular terrorist to capture that terrorist because then we can interrogate him or her and find out more about the terror networks that might put American lives at risk and other people’s lives at risk. But there are occasions when drones are an effective tool in that broad toolbox. And that America should do that in a transparent way with respect to the sovereignty of the state, in consultation with our partners in the region as well as in the country itself. But it should be something we use infrequently and in a transparent manner.

QUESTION: Is there anything more which you are doing, Washington is doing in terms of leaning on Islamabad to rein in its own extremist forces and terror groups, which operate from there? You do actually quite a bit, but --

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Yes, I think every day in every way in Pakistan and everywhere in the world. We all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to rein in terror.

The United States very recently, as you know, and we are very grateful for the condolence messages we received from officials in India, had a horrible situation in Boston with people running a marathon and subjected to terror. Just yesterday in London there was an act of terror. This is something, unfortunately, India knows too well.

So yes, of course, in every dialogue we have this is a high priority because people’s lives are at stake. Civilians’ lives are at stake who may find themselves in the path of such a horrible act.

QUESTION: President Karzai was here just before you came. And Afghanistan is very central to the Indians. Things are of course very important from Washington perspective as well. But some Indians think that in respect to the schedule of 2014 withdrawal, the Americans may just outsource their security strategy to Islamabad.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think the United States has a long record of pretty much not outsourcing their security to anyone except ourselves. I think every country takes its own security very seriously.

QUESTION: But --

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: We are going to withdraw most of our forces, but we will still be quite present as diplomats, as AID workers. We will have some forces still present to help train and to deal with counter-terrorism. We will be in close consultation with India and with others in the region, but most particularly with India, to ensure regional stability. We are very grateful for all that India has done bilaterally in Afghanistan. Again, having President Karzai here to work with the “Heart of Asia” process to make sure there is regional economic development and investment. So we very much look forward to our partnership with India on the long-range security, both economically and militarily, for this entire region.

QUESTION: Is it a difficult balancing act between Islamabad and Delhi all the time?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: You know, it isn’t about just a balancing act between India and Pakistan. India is our dear partner and friend. We have a long and broad and deep relationship. Of course, we have a relationship with Pakistan as well. But India has a relationship with Pakistan also, and one that India and Prime Minister Singh has worked hard to try to take steps forward and open up some of the economic possibilities for cross-country trade.

So, there are lots of pieces to this puzzle, but for us, and I think it will be quite apparent in the Strategic Dialogue in terms of the Americans who will come here to India at the end of June for that dialogue is representative of the broad and deep partnership we have with India, quite unlike almost any other country on the face of this earth.

QUESTION: Just one more question on Afghanistan, if you may. Presidential elections are also due there. There’s so much talk about good Taliban, bad Taliban, the not-so-violent Taliban, the not-so-fundamentalist Taliban. What’s your take? Because again, there is a lot of concern on that issue here.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Of course. There’s a lot of concern by everyone on that issue. President Karzai very much would hope that there could be sound reconciliation with Taliban. That reconciliation is based on some premises about safety, security, peace and the end of violence. And, as you know, the Secretary had a meeting in Brussels with Afghanistan/Pakistan/U.S., about whether in fact that process of reconciliation could go forward.

People went away with some homework to do because unless the terms of such reconciliation really meet the needs that President Karzai has set out, it will not go forward. So this is not a decision for the United States to make. This is a decision for the parties to make. There are interests beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. Certainly India’s interests are part of this as well.

So I think we don’t know the end of that story. But we are trying to be responsive to requests made by President Karzai to see whether in fact something is possible.

QUESTION: We don’t know the end of the story, like you said, but Indians do sometimes feel that they are left out of the plot vis-à-vis Afghanistan when the big powers of the world sit on some high table.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I consider India a big power. India’s a big power not only here but all over the world, at the United Nations, as part of the G20, in virtually every multilateral organization that matters in this world. It is very important for the United States to stay in very close consultation with India. We can never not do that well enough. Every day we try to improve that consultation because if this region is going to succeed, if the world is going to succeed, India’s going to be at the center of that and we are very grateful that they’ll be at the center of that as a partner with the United States.

QUESTION: Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. government. Thank you very much. We really appreciate your giving us time.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with us, DD News, Wendy Sherman.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: It is a pleasure to be here.

QUESTION: How did your interaction with the Indian Minister of External Affairs and later the Foreign Secretary go? It’s in the run-up to the Secretary of State’s visit.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Yes. We had a terrific meeting this morning, both with the Minister of External Affairs as well as the Foreign Secretary. I will see National Security Advisor Menon later today and the Deputy [Chairman] of the Planning Commission Ahulwalia. So it is just a terrific set of meetings here in India, as it always is, as good friend always have a comprehensive, deep relationship.

In the last year, there have been 42 senior meetings between the U.S. and India, let alone many many sub-group meetings. And that really speaks to the nature not only of the Strategic Dialogue we’ll have at the end of June between Secretary Kerry and Minister Khurshid but the entire breadth and depth of the U.S.-India relationship.

QUESTION: So in these few hours you are packing -- from economy to strategic affairs to diplomacy -- all of that in?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: All of that and more. There are really four pillars when we look at the breadth of the relationship: 1) global economic, which is very important because we all want India to prosper, the United States to prosper, the world economy to prosper so we can all raise our families to have a great future; 2) A global security dialogue, which really gets to how the U.S. and India are working together, not only regionally, but all over the world for peace and security; 3) regional cooperation - India has really been a leader in ensuring the transition and stability in Afghanistan and the region as a whole, economically and in terms of security; and 4) energy, which is so important to all of us - climate change, clean energy. This has been a long relationship between the U.S. and India, which has been the leader in renewables.

QUESTION: Let’s pick up on these one by one.

The strategic partnership. One key area, of course, is the outstanding issue of the civil and nuclear deal between India and the U.S. Any progress on that? Because the U.S. wants to put the nuclear power issues on the table, have the liability issues resolved. Any discussions?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: We are very committed to the development of our civil nuclear relationship. We made tremendous strides over the last years. I would suspect that when the Strategic Dialogue happens we will make even further progress.

It’s interesting, Secretary Kerry who will be coming here at the end of June for the Strategic Dialogue, came here at a point when the civil nuclear deal didn’t look like it was going to get through. He was a United States Senator at the time. He came, he met with everyone in Indian society and in the government. He went back home and he became a bipartisan strong advocate for the civil nuclear deal. So I know he will want to see it take one more step in its realization and I’m sure that will occur.

QUESTION: But the issue of liability is the real stumbling block between Delhi and Washington. Is there any substantial progress on that? If yes, then what’s happening?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: There are ongoing discussions and I think people have figured out how to manage this particular issue and still make progress, and I think we will. We have, and we are, and we will in the future as well.

QUESTION: The other big area, of course, is what U.S. is keen, as we see it, to push its strategic defense deals. Already a big market, India, $9 billion or so. Going forward, will that be also on the table? Was that issue also discussed?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Very much on the table. Very much discussed. Important for India’s economy, important for the United States economy. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter along with National Security Advisor Menon and others in the Indian government are trying to move forward on this defense trade.

The interesting part is there is a new surveillance aircraft that is going to be delivered to the Indian Navy. You’ve purchased eight. The first one has been on time delivery. In fact, the Indian Navy got it before the U.S. Navy did. So I think our defense cooperation is important, growing. There are other sales coming. But we want to work on co-production and co-development because that will strengthen both of our economies and both of our security.

QUESTION: Which includes transfer of technology at some stage?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: There has always been that discussion. I don’t think there’s any sale that we have discussed that we have not been able to work our way through. I’m sure we will in the future as well.

QUESTION: On the issue of energy, that also is work in progress, but we believe that the U.S. Department of Energy is in principle or more than that okayed the sale of liquefied gas?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: More than that. The Department of Energy has announced that there will be sales of LNG to non-FTA countries. It’s a very transparent process. One can in fact go to the Department of Energy web site and see, I think it’s 16 possible deals and the order in which they will be considered. This will take some time, but I think it speaks very well to what the future might look like in the U.S.-India LNG relationship.

QUESTION: Energy’s a core issue with India for a good reason. We are energy hungry, energy deficient, and Iran has been one of the big sources from whom we were getting our oil and then the U.S.-Iran thing got [complicated], for lack of a better word. There were sanctions. We have our own interests in Iran. It’s been a partner in so many ways in the regional setup. Is there any possibility of a waiver happening for more Indian oil imports? How do you really see this? It’s not just energy.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: You know the issue around Iranian oil is not a U.S. issue. It’s an international community issue. The international community -- and India has very much been part of that because India’s a non-proliferation leader and has just a perfect record on non-proliferation -- has said to Iran that it must answer the questions of the international community about its nuclear program. Are they trying to acquire a nuclear weapon? They have not answered the question.

I lead the U.S. delegation to P5+1 talks. The P5+1 have put a credible proposal down on the table to Iran and Iran has not really responded to that proposal in any substantive way. We want negotiations to work, but while we’re working on the diplomacy side we also want to say to Iran you’re going to pay a cost of being further isolated if you do not answer the questions. And reducing the purchase of Iranian oil is one of those sanctions.

India has really come through. I know this is difficult in terms of energy security for India. But India has really come through in reducing those imports.

All of those sanctions can be lifted. It is in the hands of Iran to make that happen. I’m sure that hopefully the Supreme Leader will take the strategic decision to in fact work this through with the international community.

QUESTION: Because one view in Delhi is that India wants to really expand its ties, and it is expanding with the U.S. It’s crucial, very important.

At the same time Iran has its own role for India in the geopolitical setup in the region. Whether you look at it from the prism of Kabul or Islamabad, energy, Central Asia, and somewhere there is a section, which feels that we kind of lose out on that traditional relationship because of what’s happening internationally. And that’s one cost one has to pay for Indo-U.S. relations.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: The United States has said that we understand that Iran has a relationship here in Asia and in Central Asia. And certainly has an ongoing and traditional relationship with many countries in the area. Have been players in the development of the region going forward.

But on the other hand, we all have to be cognizant of what Iran is doing in terms of attempting to acquire a nuclear weapon, actually fomenting further civil war in Syria by sending in their own IRGC Quds force, by being state sponsors of terrorism. So we have to deal with that side of the equation, which has grown larger and larger. Terror is something that India understands, sadly, all too well and has been a great counter-terrorism partner with the United States to deal with threats in the region and throughout the world. That’s something we need to continue to do.

QUESTION: On the issue of counter-terrorism, the Indian Home Minister was there meeting Homeland Security officials and senior people there. Anything further issue there? One issue here always has been Headley, Rana, more access to them. And overall, more cooperation on the issue of terror.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think as you said, we just had a Homeland Security Dialogue in Washington. We will continue this dialogue as part of the Strategic Dialogue that we have, and this is a really important channel because we both have experienced terrorism. We both want to stop it and deepen our relationship, both regionally and in the world. And I think that’s quite important. Where David Headley is concerned, U.S. courts have now sentenced him to 35 years. I think that Indian viewers will well understand that although many many Indian lives were lost in the horrible Mumbai attack, six Americans died as well. So we have interest and we care deeply too, for ourselves and for India.

Before he was sentenced, India had access to Mr. Headley and I know there’s a request for continued access of some sort, and that will get worked through in whatever way is appropriate in the Homeland Security channel and with our Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Earlier you said how on the issue of civil and nuclear deal between India and U.S., Secretary of State John Kerry was not earlier so convinced. But then later on he became a great proponent for the idea. One view in India, which is held, is that Secretary of State John Kerry is a little too soft on Pakistan when seen from Delhi’s shades or prism.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think that what India needs to know is that there is no stronger advocate for a strong U.S.-India relationship than John Kerry.

Secretary Kerry when he was a Senator also led the first trade delegation from the U.S. Congress to India. He is a tremendous believer in economic development. He’s been a leader on clean energy and climate change, on non-proliferation, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He knows many people in this wonderful country and I know he’s very excited about being able to come here, spend some time, and have the full range of the dialogue that only good friends and a strong relationship can have.

QUESTION: Can you just elaborate on the concern. The concern is also in some quarters that he may lean on India to start the dialogue with Pakistan without actually taking into account and address India’s concerns on terror.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think that Secretary Kerry believes that how that goes forward is up to India. That’s not up to the United States. So how India moves forward on its relationship with Pakistan is India’s choice, what the pace of that is, what it looks like, and we’re very respectful of India’s choices in that regard. We encourage, of course, a better relationship between all countries in the world, but it’s really India’s choice.

QUESTION: Talking about Pakistan, there’s a new regime there, which will take over soon. The topic, the subject of the American drone policy, somehow just never goes away from the front pages of headlines. So will there be a change going forward? What’s there?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think we saw yesterday, Thursday, it’s hard for me to keep my time zones right when I travel. President Obama gave a speech not only about our drone policy but our counter-terrorism policy, and all of the tools that we have to use: diplomacy, development, security. The whole range in the toolbox to deal with counter-terror. But he did address the drone program and this was really a speech where he was talking principally to the American people and saying this is a tool, it should not be used very often. We much prefer if we’re trying to address a particular terrorist to capture that terrorist because then we can interrogate him or her and find out more about the terror networks that might put American lives at risk and other people’s lives at risk. But there are occasions when drones are an effective tool in that broad toolbox. And that America should do that in a transparent way with respect to the sovereignty of the state, in consultation with our partners in the region as well as in the country itself. But it should be something we use infrequently and in a transparent manner.

QUESTION: Is there anything more which you are doing, Washington is doing in terms of leaning on Islamabad to rein in its own extremist forces and terror groups, which operate from there? You do actually quite a bit, but --

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Yes, I think every day in every way in Pakistan and everywhere in the world. We all have a responsibility to do whatever we can to rein in terror.

The United States very recently, as you know, and we are very grateful for the condolence messages we received from officials in India, had a horrible situation in Boston with people running a marathon and subjected to terror. Just yesterday in London there was an act of terror. This is something, unfortunately, India knows too well.

So yes, of course, in every dialogue we have this is a high priority because people’s lives are at stake. Civilians’ lives are at stake who may find themselves in the path of such a horrible act.

QUESTION: President Karzai was here just before you came. And Afghanistan is very central to the Indians. Things are of course very important from Washington perspective as well. But some Indians think that in respect to the schedule of 2014 withdrawal, the Americans may just outsource their security strategy to Islamabad.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think the United States has a long record of pretty much not outsourcing their security to anyone except ourselves. I think every country takes its own security very seriously.

QUESTION: But --

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: We are going to withdraw most of our forces, but we will still be quite present as diplomats, as AID workers. We will have some forces still present to help train and to deal with counter-terrorism. We will be in close consultation with India and with others in the region, but most particularly with India, to ensure regional stability. We are very grateful for all that India has done bilaterally in Afghanistan. Again, having President Karzai here to work with the “Heart of Asia” process to make sure there is regional economic development and investment. So we very much look forward to our partnership with India on the long-range security, both economically and militarily, for this entire region.

QUESTION: Is it a difficult balancing act between Islamabad and Delhi all the time?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: You know, it isn’t about just a balancing act between India and Pakistan. India is our dear partner and friend. We have a long and broad and deep relationship. Of course, we have a relationship with Pakistan as well. But India has a relationship with Pakistan also, and one that India and Prime Minister Singh has worked hard to try to take steps forward and open up some of the economic possibilities for cross-country trade.

So, there are lots of pieces to this puzzle, but for us, and I think it will be quite apparent in the Strategic Dialogue in terms of the Americans who will come here to India at the end of June for that dialogue is representative of the broad and deep partnership we have with India, quite unlike almost any other country on the face of this earth.

QUESTION: Just one more question on Afghanistan, if you may. Presidential elections are also due there. There’s so much talk about good Taliban, bad Taliban, the not-so-violent Taliban, the not-so-fundamentalist Taliban. What’s your take? Because again, there is a lot of concern on that issue here.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Of course. There’s a lot of concern by everyone on that issue. President Karzai very much would hope that there could be sound reconciliation with Taliban. That reconciliation is based on some premises about safety, security, peace and the end of violence. And, as you know, the Secretary had a meeting in Brussels with Afghanistan/Pakistan/U.S., about whether in fact that process of reconciliation could go forward.

People went away with some homework to do because unless the terms of such reconciliation really meet the needs that President Karzai has set out, it will not go forward. So this is not a decision for the United States to make. This is a decision for the parties to make. There are interests beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. Certainly India’s interests are part of this as well.

So I think we don’t know the end of that story. But we are trying to be responsive to requests made by President Karzai to see whether in fact something is possible.

QUESTION: We don’t know the end of the story, like you said, but Indians do sometimes feel that they are left out of the plot vis-à-vis Afghanistan when the big powers of the world sit on some high table.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I consider India a big power. India’s a big power not only here but all over the world, at the United Nations, as part of the G20, in virtually every multilateral organization that matters in this world. It is very important for the United States to stay in very close consultation with India. We can never not do that well enough. Every day we try to improve that consultation because if this region is going to succeed, if the world is going to succeed, India’s going to be at the center of that and we are very grateful that they’ll be at the center of that as a partner with the United States.

QUESTION: Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. government. Thank you very much. We really appreciate your giving us time.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you very much.

[This is a mobile copy of Interview With Doordarshan News]