U.S.-Pakistan RelationsRichard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Remarks to the Press
January 5, 2009
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: First of all, it’s nice to see everybody. I’m glad to be back in Pakistan. I want to wish everybody a happy new year. It’s the first day of my first trip in the new year, so I think I attach special importance to Pakistan and what we are trying to do here -- to work with Pakistan as it faces the many problems that we all know exist here. But I think…you know, let’s hope for the best. Put it that way.
I took a little bit of time to drop by the Marriott today. Glad to see that they’re reopened. I was very happy to go there and look around a little bit and have a glass of juice at the coffee shop. I think it’s a sign. I think it’s a sign that whatever these terrible people try to do to Pakistan, whatever attacks there are against the structure of Pakistan, that there is a great number of very determined people and far-sighted people in Pakistan who are going to press on, who are going to rebuild, who are going to reopen and keep going forward. And I think the reopening of the Marriott is a good sign and one that I wanted to understand and appreciate, and that was a good chance to stop by there.
I also spent part of my time today talking about the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks -- a horrible set of attacks that killed many, many Indians, killed Americans and other foreigners, and have really endangered people in Pakistan as well as in India and elsewhere. And I think there’s a determination here to follow up, find those who are responsible, find the groups that were responsible, make sure that we know all we can about how they did it, and even better than that, making sure that they can’t ever do it again. And so we talked about how to ensure that, particularly how to ensure the flow of information back and forth so that the pieces of the puzzle that are on the Indian side can be known to the rest of us that are interested, and the pieces of the puzzle that are on the Pakistani side can be known to the Indians who want to get to the bottom of this.
I was glad to see that the Indians provided information today to the Pakistani High Commissioner in Delhi and to others. And we have also tried to encourage sharing of information so that everybody who is determined to stop this kind of attack can conduct their investigations and pursue all possible leads, so we understand who did it, what happened, how they did it, and how to stop it.
A final closing remark just to say I think we all understand what a difficult situation Pakistan faces, whether it’s the economy or the security situation or even stabilizing democratic institutions and a democratic future. Pakistan has a myriad of challenges. But it also has determined people who are going to work to overcome those problems, and we’re going to be there with them.
On the economy, I think we’ve talked before about our various assistance programs. I think food is one important area the people of Pakistan…we talked about this…I talked…gave the Prime Minister an update today because we had talked during his visit to Washington about food assistance. In recent weeks, I guess, we’ve announced food credits of 48 million -- GSM credits -- and a gift of, grant of 50,000 tons of wheat.
Those are just other examples of how we’re continuing to support Pakistani people in the food situation. We have an energy dialogue coming up in Washington next week to deal with the energy problems. That’s…it takes a little more long-term investment. And we also talked today quite a bit about preparing projects with the Friends of Pakistan and other donors, meetings that might be coming up in the early part of this year.
On the security side, we’re deeply involved with the military as they undertake their operations to protect Pakistan, to end the terrorist menace that’s killed so many Pakistanis and threatens all the people of this country. We also talked a lot today about how we can help support the police to provide security and order for the people.
And on the democratic side, I think really we want to see the democratic institutions be stabilized, solidified. And so we’re working with Pakistan on building the institutions that can ensure the long-term success of democracy here, because that’s fundamentally for us what it’s all about.
And that’s what we’ll continue to do throughout the year and on into the future. So let me stop with that and I’d be glad to take questions.
QUESTION: Do you think that the proof provided by India to Pakistan is sufficient for the probe?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think both sides have a piece of this. The Indians have some people in custody and they have evidence from the scene of the crimes. They are investigating what they can find out through that. Pakistan has a number of people in custody who were involved with the planning and execution of this. They need to find out what they can from those sources, and the two sides need to exchange information. They need to follow up each other’s leads. They need to determine what the threat is of other attacks.
So I would see it as part of that process rather than some proof or accusations. I think it’s a part of a process of both sides looking at how they can develop the information that allows them to deal with the parts of the puzzle, parts of the horror that originated, that occurred on their soil.
QUESTION: Previously India has been talking about the non-state actors (inaudible) elements like Lashkar e-Tayyiba that have been (inaudible) saying that they’re either state actors or state-assisted actors. How can (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think the answer is: let’s find out what the evidence shows. Whoever was involved in this needs to be held responsible. But I also wouldn’t jump to any particular conclusions. I think Pakistan has shown itself determined to deal with the groups and the individuals who might have been involved in the planning and execution of this. And I think we have to rely on Pakistan to do that. We need everybody to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
QUESTION: Well, have you seen any evidence so far that indicates any involvement, whether directly or indirectly, to support the militants who carried out Mumbai? Any involvement from anybody…
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I’m not going to pass judgments on the investigation at this stage. I don’t think we’re at that stage. I think we’re at the stage where people need to share information, follow up leads, and determine everything they can about what happened.
QUESTION: What sort of information or evidence does the U.S. have that they can show Pakistan or India? Because my understanding is that there are intercepts and things that the U.S….
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I’m not going to talk about information. Everybody knows one of the first principles is we don’t talk about investigations while they’re underway, and that’s what we’ve got here now. I think, you know, any information we can bring to the table, we will. We’re talking to both sides. We’re working with both sides, both the Indians and the Pakistanis. We have a very direct interest in this attack because six Americans were killed. And we’re going to work assiduously ourselves, but also work with both parties to make sure we find out everything possible about how this was done and how to prevent future attacks.
QUESTION: In the past, there has been some lack of cooperation between two countries, Pakistan and India, particularly on this (inaudible) share the informations. How can you assure these (inaudible) through the involvement of America that this knowledge, share information and find the real conspiracy of this Mumbai attack?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Well, I don’t know that we can just assure people. I think people have to work with each other, the people that are serious about investigations, that share information, that follow up each other’s leads, that get back to each other on what they can learn about pieces, you know. If you find things in India that were used in the attack, well, maybe the Pakistanis can figure out where those were acquired and who acquired them and who’s at fault. And it’s that kind of back and forth that leads to a successful investigation, so we’re trying to encourage that.
QUESTION: How well do you think they’re working together?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: So far, they’re just getting started, but they’re each doing serious work. I mean, in terms of working together: no, there’s not much so far. But in terms of working with us, I think we have a positive relationship with both. In terms of taking action against the groups in Pakistan that were involved in this, I think Pakistan has done quite a bit. I think India’s investigation is advancing. So I think more and more information is being known, so let’s try to see what we can do in terms of sharing and following up each other’s information.
QUESTION: Do you believe there are still the channels that Pakistanis can directly use (inaudible) everything is on hold? Or part of it…
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Well, I think you have an example today. India talked to the High Commissioner in Delhi and shared information that way.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: So they’ve got channels.
QUESTION: So if Pakistan was to prosecute…identify and prosecute, let’s say, a couple of planners, militant planners or something like that, would that satisfy the United States? And perhaps more importantly, do you think that would satisfy India?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t want to speculate. I think it’s important that anybody who was involved in this, in the planning and execution of this act, be brought to justice and held accountable. And I think leaders in Pakistan are determined to do that. They’re determined to pursue the investigation. And we’ll have to watch as it unfolds to see where it leads.
QUESTION: So when you said that as far as taking action against people in Pakistan who were involved in this, you said that Pakistan has done quite a bit. Is there anything you can elaborate on about what you’ve seen them do, what…some of the specifics that they’ve done?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I want to try to stay away from getting into the sort of details of investigation and the pieces and how they fit together because I think that’s a matter for investigators to pursue at this point.
But let me point out that a couple of weeks ago, for example, Jamaat ud-Daawa was listed on the UN list as being another name for Lashkar e-Tayyiba. And since then, we’ve seen Pakistan bring into custody a significant number of Lashkar e-Tayyiba operatives. We’ve seen them close down Jammat ud-Daawa front offices and take a series of steps against these organizations. I think that fits with Pakistan’s commitment to eliminate sources of terrorism on Pakistani soil, terrorism that threatens the people of Pakistan as much as anybody else. And that’s the kind of action that we’ve been seeing from Pakistan. That’s the kind of action we’d like to see continue.
QUESTION: So here’s a big threat in…regarding relations between India and Pakistan, with India talking about the terrorists and (inaudible) troops in Pakistan as well as in India (inaudible). What is the thinking over there in U.S., sir, to house all those terrorist groups? And will you have talks on your visits in India about those hard-line groups?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think our thinking is very similar to the thinking that we hear from countries in this region, and that is: none of us are going to be safe as long as these terrorist groups are operating in this area. Unfortunately, sad reminders of the Marriott bombing, my own memories of Benazir Bhutto and her assassination a week ago -- a year and a week ago, sorry -- as well as the events in Mumbai.
It reminds us that these terrorists are out to get Pakistan as a nation. They’re out to get Indians and Americans who are opening up and doing business, and that none of us are going to be safe until these groups are eliminated, and that’s…has to be the big goal, and we have to all make steady progress towards that goal. I think that’s the commitment that we expect, the commitment that we’ve seen from the Pakistan Government to deal with the situations.
QUESTION: Am I to understand it that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack have the links to Pakistan? Is that your understanding?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I would say it’s clear that they had links in Pakistan, that the attackers had links, that lead to Pakistani soil. And as far as exactly what those links were and who they were attached to and how they did this, I think that’s a matter that’s still under investigation.
QUESTION: And when you’re talking about a situation in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, (inaudible) the war on terror, intelligence sharing and the proper…the drone attacks are going on in the areas. So Pakistan has some sort of conditions on…especially on the drone attacks? So what will be the final mechanism to fight terrorism? Is this the right strategy?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think we all understand that in the end, that the way to fight terrorism in these areas is to replace it with organized system of governance. I mean, the Tribal Areas have, since colonial days, been ruled by indirect mechanisms. And that system was adopted by the new Pakistan, has continued to this day, and in fact, that system deteriorated through a lot of the events of the past several decades.
So we’re in a position now where groups operate in these areas outside of government control and outside of government authority. And I think what we’re looking for is to try to help build Pakistani capability, not only to deal with these militant groups, but try to build Pakistani capability to provide for the needs of the population. So we support the sustainable development plan up there, we build roads, schools, clinics, hospitals, things like that. And we’re also trying to support the Pakistani Government in developing the governmental systems that can help provide a sense of order and governance up there. But it’s longer-term. But all these things have to be done, and I think we understand you have to…basically, as you modernize the nation of Pakistan, you have to integrate the Tribal Areas into the nation. And that’s what we’re trying to support.
QUESTION: Sir, we’ve heard a lot about troop movement in the last few weeks. How would you characterize the situation on the border between India and Pakistan, specifically as it relates to that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I would say the situation on the border is basically calm, although I think we both want to…we all want to make sure that neither side takes steps that could be misinterpreted by the other side. I think you’ve heard from both sides. They don’t want to push this into military confrontation. And as I said, I think the chief…the chief task in front of us is to deal with those who carried out the action. The best way to do that is through cooperation.
QUESTION: And in this regard, do we have (inaudible) in the leadership of Pakistan? Have you had any contact with Indian officials? Do you hope that after this exchange of evidence put in, there could be a stop in this blame game with the two countries and they will cooperate? (Inaudible) your part, you have to tell not many about it.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think our hope is the one I expressed at the beginning, that this is the beginning of some cooperation in terms of identifying the people who did this, how they did it, and how to stop them from ever doing it again, and that that kind of investigation where there’s sharing of information, there’s following up, and there’s cooperative efforts is really going to be the best way for both sides to be assured in the future that they won’t have to suffer this kind of attack.
QUESTION: What sort of advice would you give the incoming administration? What’s the most brutal, honest piece of advice you’ll give them about how to deal with the situation here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I will give a lot of brutal, honest advice, but I’ll give it privately to the people who ask for it when they come in.
QUESTION: What’s one thing you’re willing to share? (Laughter.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: One thing I really want to say?
QUESTION: You’re willing to share, about something you’ll tell us?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Look, we’ve worked a lot on Pakistan over the last several years -- Pakistan, Afghanistan, India. It’s always been with bipartisan support. We’ve always consulted closely with, you know, Senator Biden, Senator Kerry, Senator Clinton on the Hill, worked with appropriators in the House and the Senate side. So I think, you know, if you look at the history of legislation, you know, we’ve worked with Congressman Van Hollen on the Reconstruction Opportunity Zone legislation. We’ve worked with what was called the Biden-Lugar bill in the Senate and is now called the Kerry-Lugar bill. You’ve seen the visitors come through here.
I think there are a lot of people in the United States who really understand how important Pakistan is and how important that the…not just stability, but the modernization of Pakistan is to all of us, that helping Pakistan modernize its institutions, modernize its economy, modernize its military, modernize its police force is an essential part of stability in a key region for all of us. And we’ve been engaged in that and we’ve got to stay engaged in that. And from what I hear from, you know, the people I’ve been working with in both parties on the Hill, Americans want to stay engaged with Pakistan and they want to do it with a strong democratic partner here, and I think we’ve got one.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the situation in the northwest part of the country? There’s a really…the security situation is really deteriorating. And obviously, you guys have had all these attacks. I mean, their supply lines, our supply lines.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: A few attacks on the supply lines. (Laughter.) All…I mean, all is a big number, a few is smaller. Look, there are a lot of parts to this picture, if you look at the Northwest, that are very difficult right now. We’ve seen a determination on the part of the government and some of the Tribal Agencies, by Bajaur and Mohmand. We’ve seen pressure from militant groups in…on Peshawar and surrounding areas, including Khyber and some of the transit lanes, truck lanes through there. We’ve tried to work together with the Pakistani military and security people so that the effort that we make on the Afghan side and the effort they make on the Pakistan side is pushing in on the militants.
We’ve also tried to support the efforts of the Pakistani Government to modernize and transform its military capabilities in dealing with those things. And we’ve also tried to support the efforts that Pakistan and Afghanistan are making to develop those areas economically with a sustainable development plan, a proposal for Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, some of the work going on between Pakistan and Afghanistan on transit trade. We’ve tried to support all that.
So it’s…I guess I’d say they’re passing through a difficult period. I have a great deal of confidence in the long-term policies. But dealing with the short term is tough for them, and we’re going to try to help them deal with the short term there.
QUESTION: So, are you going to India on this trip?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Yeah, I expect to go to India.
STAFF: Time for one or two more.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: There are (inaudible) proximity to? So there are reports that Secretary Rice will (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I wouldn’t comment on anybody else’s travel.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Oh, okay.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: So last…well, maybe yesterday’s report that America is going to enter the…enter an agreement, an agreement with India regarding the funds, $2.1 billion or whatever it might be. So is there any sort of future? Because of…the Pakistani forces are fighting against the militants and the terrorist groups. As you have said, that we are going to modernize Pakistani forces. So is this any sort of agreement between Pakistan’s defense forces and the U.S. and defense regarding the modernization and equipment, especially for the Pakistanis?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Let’s keep them separate.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Okay. I mean, we have worked very hard now to have a good relationship with India, and a good relationship with Pakistan, to help India deal with its opportunities and needs and to help Pakistan deal with its opportunity and needs. And yes, we do have a defense relationship with India that’s growing. We’ve got new deals. They purchased some of our equipment and we’re happy to sell it to them. We welcome India’s emergence as a full partner and a power in the world.
But that doesn’t in any way detract from our ability to work with Pakistan or a desire to work with Pakistan. I think when you look at what we’re doing in Pakistan across the board -- whether it’s food, whether it’s energy, whether it’s military modernization, support for democratic institutions -- we are trying to make sure we make a significant contribution in every area. We provide military assistance to Pakistan. A lot of that is devoted to helping Pakistan fight the menace that it faces from terrorist groups. We’re going to be…I think maintain our involvement, perhaps even expand our involvement in those areas, but I think that’s trying to do what’s right for Paksitan.
QUESTION: And last question (inaudible). Do you think that in future, there is an effort to solve the Kashmiri movement in Pakistani because…
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: There’s always hope. There’s always hope. But it’s been something that they themselves have pursued. The question of India-Pakistan relations is one that…they have actually made great strides forward in the last couple years. And obviously, the tensions created by the Mumbai incident made that more difficult right now. But I think there’s an opportunity here to work together against the groups that are trying to disrupt India-Pakistan relations, against the groups that are actually harming the cause of Kashmir by carrying out these horrible terrorist actions. And hopefully, coming out of that, the two sides will find themselves in a better position to cooperate.
All right. We’re going to do one last one, because…
QUESTION: So do you have some information or any confirmation about this U.S. airline – you know, there was a plot to bomb Transatlantic Airlines from UK and the suspect Rashid Rauf was (inaudible) in U.S. (inaudible) acts in Pakistan. Can you confirm?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t know. I don’t anything about that. Sorry.
QUESTION: Rashid Rauf.
QUESTION: India has been (inaudible) today. Someone (inaudible) link to this Mumbai attack, but we have got indications that Washington, since there is no extradition treaty, Pakistan can prosecute them, but there is an effort by India to re-launch that case.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Now, look, I don’t…the matter of the India-Pakistan relationship on judicial matters is something for them to address. Our interest is in seeing these people brought to justice, knowing that everybody who was involved in these attacks -- whether they were in Mumbai shooting at people or they were somewhere in Pakistan planning it -- that everybody that was involved in these attacks is brought to justice. And we’ll work with all the parties to try to make sure that happens. Okay.
QUESTION: Just to clarify his question, he was asking about Rashid Rauf, whether you knew…know if…whether you can confirm he was killed in a drone attack. You don’t?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t know.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Thank you.