Status of U.S.-India RelationsRichard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary For South And Central Asian Affairs
Remarks to the Press
New Delhi, India
November 10, 2006
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: It is a great pleasure for me to be back in India. I am about half way through a day of consultations, mostly at the Foreign Ministry. I have met a few people from civil society and think tanks to talk about general issues, but largely today I am concentrated on meeting with people at the Foreign Ministry. I met with the Foreign Secretary this morning. We had a chance to go over a broad range of issues in the region, things that the United States and India can do together, views on issues in the region, our common concerns about terrorism and stability, and the need for democratic stability in this region. I will also have a chance to go into greater detail with some of the officials who handle matters affecting the countries in the neighborhood. I will spend some time with my counterpart to discuss U.S.-India relations.
We have had a very active season with U.S.-India relations -- you all are aware of the matters that are before the U.S. Congress -- but in addition to that, at least once a month either I have been out here or my counterpart has been in Washington. We met in New York where the Secretary was able to meet with then-Defense Minister Mukherjee, and they had a good discussion. We have a very active bilateral relationship with India in all areas, in terms of moving our relationship forward. We had an important set of economic talks recently in New York at the CEO Forum, where each side had three or four cabinet-level people and some of the largest company CEOs in our respective countries, to talk about very serious and practical business. And one of the largest -- I think the largest ever -- U.S. trade delegation ever sent to any country is coming to India at the end of the month.
We have increasing bilateral cooperation across a whole broad range of topics. I am here to review that, to work on it, to move it forward -- in science, in agriculture, in every other area. We also have increasing cooperation on matters involving the region. I mentioned some of those, but will be going into more detail in my discussions with others today.
On a global scale, the United States and India have become partners who can act together on a global scale, whether it is in the U.N. or peacekeeping issues, or other matters. It is very important to us and very important to India that we have a strong partnership to move together on a global scale. I am happy to be part of that. I am happy to do my bit of keeping it moving forward and looking for these areas of cooperation.
I will come back again in a week, because India is hosting the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on the 18 th and 19 th of this month. This has been an important endeavor, coming from the first one that President Karzai held in Kabul . The United States has really worked hard on these issues -- not only on general concepts of how South Asia and Central Asia can relate to each other -- in what is truly an historic shift. For several hundred years, Afghanistan has been a place of conflict, a buffer, or something that has separated South and Central Asia . Now with Afghanistan opened up, it is an opportunity for the countries of South and Central Asia to find trade patterns again, to find common cause again and to exchange ideas and energy and goods.
We all need to look at how we can open up those opportunities for the people of the region. That is what the United States wants to do, that is what the countries of the region want to do. I had good conversations in Pakistan with officials there, in Afghanistan with officials there, and I am sure in India with officials here, about how we can really foster that cooperation, not just on the conceptual scale, but on the scale of roads and electricity lines, and trade policy and things like that. So, I am very happy to be coming back next week for that conference. It already looks shaping up to be a major event that moves forward on these things. I am very appreciative of India hosting this conference. I am very appreciative of the role that India is playing in trying to develop these ideas, which I think have a very profound significance strategically, but also historically, for this region.
QUESTION: There is a lot of talk about the fact that the Democrats would have more control over the foreign policy. Now what actually are the real chances of the bill relating to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal being taken up in the lame duck session? Do you think there are real chances of it getting postponed to January 2007?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I am very hopeful. I think we are all very hopeful. You have heard in the last few days, I think not once, but twice, from the President of the United States, from the leader of the Senate Democratic -- minority at this point, in the future to be majority -- from Senator Reid, you have heard from prominent senators like Senator Biden, that they want to take this up in the lame duck session. The President has made very clear this is a priority for him. The leadership has made very clear it is a priority for them, Democrats as well as Republicans. Remember, the votes that we have seen in our legislature, in the House and then in the Senate committee, have been extremely strong. There has been a very solid support for the specific legislation, but there is also enormous support for the U.S.-India relationship. It goes across both parties. I expect that support will continue. They will manifest it in terms of their scheduling and their votes.
It is always hard to predict exactly what is going to happen on the Senate floor and how matters get taken up, and how much time they get, and when they go in and out of session. That is not something that is in any way under our control, as much as we can talk to them. I guess I can provide a wager, but I can not give you a certainty. So, my bet is it is going to happen. But we are determined to do this. And I think whatever happens, the Congress is extremely supportive of the U.S.-India relationship, both Democrats and Republicans. Senators and Congressmen both are very supportive of this legislation and that this process will go through, and we will make it happen.
QUESTION: I'd like a comment from you on the situation in Sri Lanka . We have had this latest incident in which some civilians have been killed in a refugee camp, ostensibly at the hands of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. I would also like a comment, if possible, on the attack on the madrassa in Bajaur Agency [ Pakistan ]. There are reports in the Pakistani press that the Americans were behind the attack.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: On the situation in Sri Lanka , I think we have growing concern, and indeed that was one of the topics of my discussion today with the Indian Government. I think there is news this morning of the killing of one of the Tamil politicians, and that is another horrible act. It is really deplorable; we strongly condemn the attack on the displaced persons -- the artillery fire that killed them. It is very important for both sides to respect a cease-fire. It is very important for both sides to understand they are not gaining anything militarily. They are losing ground, in terms of their political standing. Both sides need to understand the only way to achieve what they want is through a negotiation.
I have watched the violence grow now for five or six months, and neither side has gotten anything out of it. It has made it harder for both of them, and it is about time for them to understand that they are not getting anywhere with this violence. They are certainly not going to get a solution though violence, and they are certainly not gaining anything in terms of status or stature or negotiating power. The only way to do this is to go show up seriously at talks and to take viable political positions that can solve this. We have been working very closely with the Government to try to ensure that these human rights abuses and cases of violence and killing are investigated -- that applies to the latest events as well -- and we will continue to press that. I take some hope that there is a more serious attitude on that at this point. The Government has set up a Commission of Inquiry. We have in recent days been able to agree on an International Monitoring Mission that actually will be headed by former Indian Chief Justice Bhagwati -- we very much welcome that. There will be Americans and others who will participate in that committee. So, we need to see investigations, we need to see credible investigations. We have set up a mechanism to try to make sure the international community continues to press on that. But I am very concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka , I think the Indian Government shares that concern, and we discussed these issues today.
On the attack on Bajaur, there is really not much more I have to say on that. The Pakistani Government has made clear it initiated this attack because there were militants in this madrassa who were training, who were threatening, and that they feel entirely justified in carrying out this attack. We understand that, but I will leave it at that.
QUESTION: My question relates to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal again. Now, a lot of rationale for bringing it to the lame duck session rests on the degree of bipartisan support that the Administration holds up for the deal. But, with press reports coming out that the Administration could actually be moving towards dropping the ?no-testing? clause in the final 123 Agreement, do you think that the mathematics of that support would radically change? Would you think that that support would be whittled down in some way? My second question relates to Afghanistan . Yesterday in Pakistan , you had said that the jury was still out on the agreement between the Waziristan elders and the government. Now, when is this jury going to make its final decision, and what are the dynamics that you are going look at when you actually come to a conclusion on that? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Okay, I have answered your first question, the answer is no. I do not think the dynamics change. I would advise you not to start negotiating in the press an agreement where we have not started negotiating it in our own sessions. Do not start writing clauses when we have not started writing clauses yet. Our negotiators got together; it was a very useful session. They talked about concepts and things, but we have not begun serious work on the text, so do not believe anything you hear about the text -- it is not written yet.
Second of all, I do not think the dynamic changes. The reason we want to do this in the lame duck session is because we want to do this, and we want to do this as fast as possible. Because it is important to us -- it is important to the United States . We made a deal. We want to implement that deal the way it was agreed and as soon as we can. So we are going to take every opportunity to move forward on that and that is what you have heard from the President, that is what you have heard from the leader of the Democrats in the Senate and we all are going to try to make this happen now. Whatever happens, we are going to make sure this happens -- that this deal comes to fruition.
On the question of the jury on Waziristan , it is just an expression -- there is no actual jury sitting there. There are a couple of things here -- first of all, it is very important that we stop the ability of the Taliban from going in and out of Pakistan, that we stop their ability to find support there, to be able to use that territory to plan their activities. That is disrupting to the whole neighborhood. That is disrupting especially to the Afghan forces, NATO forces, U.S. forces, who are being shot at in southern Afghanistan by people who are able to go back and forth across the border.
I think, frankly, that the Pakistani Government is determined. And we are determined. They are using a variety of political, economic, and military means to deal with the problem. We need to work with them on that. We are working with them on that. I spent a lot of my time in Pakistan talking to them about the economic development of that region, because ultimately developing that region and bringing it into the national economy is as important as any political deals that are reached, in terms of stabilizing it for the long term. They are looking at not just disagreement, but at a whole series of political, economic, and military strategies to deal with the problem there. We want to work with them as best we can to make sure that they succeed and I think that they are determined to succeed. As this agreement proceeds we will see what it produces. But it is not the only thing that can be done or needs to be done in that area. It is not the only thing that is being done in that area.
QUESTION: Taking this question forward, next week the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary talks are slated, and this was essentially stalled following the Mumbai blasts, which was also one of the primary reasons. The U.S. Ambassador out here had indicated that India had shared evidence, shared information related to the blast. Now has the U.S. in any way stepped up pressure on the General to take affirmative action and concrete steps and not just the rhetorical phrases of condemning terrorism? Do you think Pakistan is doing enough on the issue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: There are a number of things I have to address in terms of the way you phrased the question. Let's start with the issue of these Foreign Secretary talks coming up. That is a very good thing. That shows both sides are interested in dealing with their issues directly and together. That is certainly the obvious preference of anybody who is not directly involved. We have welcomed setting up a mechanism to talk directly and work directly on terrorism problems. Many of the terrorism problems that India faces, that we all face in this region, are ones Pakistan faces as well. President Musharraf has made clear he wants to rid his society of violent extremism. He wants to move the nation towards a more moderate course, a more democratic course. That is something that is in all our interests. And so we look forward to the discussions between Foreign Secretaries.
We feel deeply for the problems of terrorism that have occurred in this region, and especially the blasts that have occurred in Mumbai -- actually a whole series of blasts that have occurred in India over the last year. This is another sign that we all need to deal with this problem of terrorism. Many of the links that have been talked about, that have been seen, do go back to groups that have origins and ties into Pakistan . But some of these groups -- all these groups really -- have been banned and outlawed in Pakistan as well. So we all need to work more together, and we all need to work more against terrorism and to try to make our actions effective so that people in India do not suffer from these blasts, so that Americans in this region and elsewhere do not suffer from the attacks of the Taliban or other extremist groups, to make sure this region is not a source of terrorism. That is something that I think we all need to be committed to.
We welcome the direct discussions between India and Pakistan on a whole host of issues. I have spent part of my time in India and in Pakistan , just hearing from each of them about how they approached the talks and what they hope to achieve. I hope these can be positive discussions. We hope that the mechanism to discuss terrorism can be a useful thing that produces outcomes that are important, not just for political relations between the governments, but that produces outcomes that can help stop the terrorism that hurts people. That is ultimately the goal of all of this, and we hope they can make progress of some of the big political issues that stand between India and Pakistan . We will see. I will come back next week and maybe have a chance to ask a few people how it went, as well.
QUESTION: On the information sharing on the Mumbai blasts?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I do not think there is more I can say on that at this point. We have tried to keep abreast of all the information on the issue, but I do not have anything additional to share with you.
QUESTION: What is your sense? Is Pakistan moving toward genuine democracy? And what is the U.S. doing to promote democracy in the region, not fake democracy?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: ?Fake democracy?? We do not promote ?fake' democracy. We promote real democracy. We firmly believe in real democracy. We firmly believe that the only way to achieve stability is through democratic stability. I know that sometimes people say -- ?oh but look, so-and-so got elected?' well if ?so-and-so', whatever his views, is firmly committed to a democratic process, that is the way for people of different views to participate in societies.
We promote ?real' democracy. The United States has been at the forefront of efforts to build democracy in this region, sometimes under very difficult circumstances. In Afghanistan , we have a democratically-elected president working with a democratically-elected parliament. I spent part of my time in Afghanistan meeting with parliamentarians, hearing about their views and their activities, and with a newly-appointed Supreme Court that is another important instrument of government. We have supported democracy and free and fair elections -- peaceful elections, non-violent elections -- in Bangladesh . I am going there over the weekend to try to talk to people there more about how to achieve that. We have supported the program that President Musharraf has laid out in Pakistan -- moving towards a more moderate nation, having democratic elections next year. As you know, there is a lot of free press in Pakistan . There are a lot of political parties with different views. I spent some of my time there with political parties. But I think they are firmly committed to moving to an election next year, and to having a good election next year. We are supporting it with money for the election commission. We are supporting it in terms of our discussions with everybody in the country about how to achieve a free and fair election.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the current state of India-Pakistan relations? Would you say that they are fragile, given the reality that a bomb blast can derail the talks, or would you say that they are robust, or they are tenuous? How would you describe the relations today, and what needs to be done to shore them up?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don't have too many adjectives available at this point. I think what I would say is they are having Foreign Secretaries talks next week. That is a good thing. And what needs to be done is they need to have Foreign Secretaries talks next week and try to achieve some progress on the issues. I am confident that both sides are getting together to try to achieve progress on issues, to try to work together against terrorism, to try to achieve better understandings of positions, and to try to see if there are areas where they can make real progress. I do not expect that one set of Foreign Secretaries talks is going to do it -- there obviously needs to be a whole series of discussions about a lot of issues. But it is a good thing, and I am glad they are doing it.
QUESTION: You said that terrorism in the region often has ties to groups that have been banned in Pakistan . India goes considerably further and basically accuses Pakistan in part of state terrorism by making the direct link to the ISI. What is your response to that, given that Pakistan has a stake as a major ally of the United States ?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I have seen a lot of statements in India , but if you want to know the position of the Indian Government you are going to have to ask them. I am not going to sort of take your characterization of it, first of all. Second of all, I really think I have said what I have said based on the facts as I know them.
QUESTION: I was not asking for the Indian Government reaction, I was asking about the U.S. Government?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: You are asking for a comment on an Indian Government position that I have not heard from the Indian Government, and so I am not going to comment on your comment.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that he had credible evidence of links to Pakistan .
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Yes, he did. Yes, he did say that. Look, I am not in a position to do this. I am not in a position to stand around saying, you know, the Indian Government said this or that. What you are saying now is not what you said before. I am just not in a position to start commenting on the way you portray these things. I am sorry. But I have told you the position of the United States Government. If you want to compare and contrast, you can do that.
QUESTION: Ambassador, just two quick questions. First, are you saying that India and the U.S. are not sharing evidence on the Mumbai blasts and the other blasts in India -- Malegaon , Mysore ? Are you saying that the two countries are not sharing information or evidence on what has happened in the blasts? And quick question number two: when Pakistan goes to the polls next year, does the U.S. want to see President Musharraf take his army uniform off and go to the polls?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Okay, two questions. The second one I have answered many times. That is one of many issues that need to be discussed and dealt with in the process of the elections, as to what President Musharraf's status is as he goes into them and comes out of them. He said himself that that is an issue that he will deal with at the appropriate time, and I can not go any further than that at this point.
As far as the discussions between the U.S. and India , I will say we have talked about terrorism in the region. We have talked about how it affects India , and our concern about how it affects the people of India . We have other discussions between experts who go into more detail than I do, so I will just kind of leave it at that. But, I think we have a lot of common concerns in terms of the groups involved and the kind of terrorism that has affected India .
QUESTION: How significant is the presence of Al Qaeda in South Asia ? Because in the last three months, twice Al Qaeda has figured in public discourse here -- once when an advisory was issued by the U.S. Embassy about the possibility of Al Qaeda launching a terror attack and yesterday an anonymous letter was found in a southern state. How significant is this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I may not be the expert to sort of evaluate it relatively, to future and past things, but I think I would have to say there is obviously a presence, there is obviously Al Qaeda activity in this region. We have seen it in South East Asia, we have certainly seen it in Afghanistan and Pakistan border areas, and I suppose we have to assume and understand that their intention is to operate globally against those who are determined to stop terrorism. Every country is at risk, and we all need to be determined to stop terrorism if we are going to rid the world of this. You can not do it in just one place. You can not leave some places free for them to operate, the way Afghanistan was a free place for them to operate in the old days. We have to be able to do it everywhere. Around the world, we need all the countries to cooperate in getting Al Qaeda and other transnational terrorist groups.
QUESTION: Can I ask you for a brief comment on Nepal ? It is something that you have not addressed in light of the Tuesday agreement.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We have welcomed the agreement in Nepal . I will be going there next week before I come back to India . I think it is a step forward that the fighting will stop. I think it is a step forward that the process of sequestration and then of relinquishing weapons will start. I think it is a step forward that the Maoists have said they want to become a political party and stop engaging in violence. We all have to see them do that. The vital thing now is that these agreements are implemented, that people have made pledges and promises to stop violent activities -- stop their violent activity -- and that means not just direct attacks on government buildings, but hijacking buses and extortion of money and beatings of people who they do not like. We need to see the Maoist violence stop, and for them to sincerely engage in the political process. So, we welcome the agreements that have been reached and we look forward to seeing them implemented.
QUESTION: Any comment on India 's role in the recent Nepal agreements?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think India has had a positive role. We have been working very closely with India . We have compared positions. I think our positions are very similar on these things. I certainly welcome the chance today as I have in the past, to talk and work closely with my Indian counterparts on this. As you know our Ambassador from Nepal was down here recently. Obviously, we are different nations, we have different roles in this situation, but I think our goals are very similar and our understanding of the situation is very similar. Our cooperation is quite good with India , as it is with some other nations as well.