Remarks to the PressRichard A. Boucher,
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs.
Remarks at the American Center
January 9, 2009
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m really delighted to be back in Mumbai. I was here last summer and have come here many times. I actually was thinking today that I came here for the first time in December of 1980, right before a presidential transition. I remember flying back and seeing the transition take place. It’s a little closer this time. I think that’s a reminder of how we keep having presidential transitions, and Mumbai keeps doing great things and growing and prospering.
QUESTION: If you say this is a good a good start, then is this enough, the way Pakistan is taking steps against terrorism?
I came this time to see the people, to see the people of Mumbai, meet with people in the business community, meet with people in the U.S. consulate, talk to the people who are investigating the horrible, horrible attacks that took place here in November. I think you all know the United States is determined, as you are, to determine the cause of this, to figure out who did it and how they did it, and to do everything we can to make sure that the groups that conducted these attacks are eliminated and to make sure attacks like this are prevented in the future.
We have a lot of cooperation with India; we have a lot of cooperation here in Mumbai with the authorities to do all those things. But we’re also very, very aware that Mumbai is not a city defined by attacks. It’s a city defined by its culture, its prosperity, its business, its attitude, and we’re just happy and proud to be part of it. I’ve been here before and seen all the areas that we work on here: culture, education, business, politics, just about everything.
So it’s a great pleasure to be back here in Mumbai. It’s a great pleasure to visit with people here and to work with them on all these things. That’s all I want to say. I’m happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Have you come to the conclusion from the evidence given by the Indian authorities that there was somebody in the Pakistani establishment, I’m not talking about non-state actors, but the Pakistani establishment who was, as well, behind the attacks?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think, first of all, probably it’s too early for me or anybody else to talk about any type of investigative conclusions. The investigation is under way in India certainly. People are out developing information, looking at other information; the Pakistanis have a lot of people in custody, they’re developing information. And our focus right now is to work on making sure that we’re putting it all together, that people on all sides who are investigating are, to the extent possible, sharing information, developing a maximum picture of what happened, who did it, and how they did it. I think it’s probably premature for me to try to express any investigative conclusions. Our focus right now is, I’d say, information sharing.
QUESTION: The FBI is also investigating the case. Can you share with us what you’ve been doing so far, and also has Pakistan done enough? What has been done so far?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Look, we want to get to the bottom of this. We want to make sure we know who did it, how they did it, who else might be out there trying to do similar things, and we want to make sure the groups that are involved, the groups that originated this attack in Pakistan, that those groups are shut down, put out of business, brought to justice. It’s a long-term thing. It’s got to be done thoroughly and consistently. So, that’s where we’re going, that’s where we are working with the others involved to make sure that we don’t suffer this kind of attack again.
The FBI has been here working with Indian authorities. Let’s remember, first and foremost, this is an Indian investigation. Our people have been out here, they’ve been working with them. They’ve been looking at various pieces of information, trying to help with any expertise that we have, and trying to make sure that we and you are both focusing on the relevant parts of what happened here. So we’re primarily in a supporting role, an adjunct role, to an Indian investigation, contributing and developing what information we have.
QUESTION: Is the United States concerned about the differences within the Pakistani government? You have, for instance, some people who say that Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested, is a Pakistani national. While there’s been action taken against him, since the U.S. considers Pakistan an ally in its war against terror, are you concerned about this difference of opinion, even within the elected government?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t know that there’s that much of a difference of opinion on nationality. I think what we’ve heard very consistently from the leadership of Pakistan is that they are determined to rid their country of terrorism. We’ve heard that from civilian leaders, from military leaders, but it’s a big task and has a lot of elements to it, and we’re going to work with them on that task, support them in that task, but also insist on it, because that’s the only way Pakistan is going to be safe, regional countries and India are going to be safe, the United States is going to be safe. I mean, it’s not just terrorists who have engaged in attacks against Pakistan like the Marriott bombing, or engaged in attacks against the people of Afghanistan -- cases where children have had acid thrown in their face, the bombing at the Indian Embassy -- but also people who have engaged in terrorism in Kashmir, in Mumbai. You can’t have some groups that are okay and some that are not. Pakistan has to get rid of it all for Pakistan and all the neighbors to be safe. That’s what we’ve heard from people in Pakistan, they increasingly understand that. So that’s what we’re working on.
QUESTION: I have two questions. One is: do you think that the November 26 attack is an act of war? And, second: the Indian Prime Minister has gone on record saying that terrorism is a part of state policy of Pakistan. What is your view on this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think, first of all, we all know the history of terrorism in this region, and we know how some of these groups have been supported by state policy. But we also know that we’re in a time now when we shouldn’t be tolerating them, and they shouldn’t be allowed to persist, and that none of us are safe, including Pakistan. None of us are safe, as long as those groups are still tolerated. So, I think that’s what we have to deal with and we have to think about it in terms of what’s the most effective way. I would say the most effective way to eliminate that threat is to cooperate : cooperate on finding out the sources and origins of this attack, cooperate in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and cooperate in eliminating the groups that carried out this attack and may be planning others.
QUESTION: Would you differ with the Prime Minister’s statement that terrorism is a part of state policy of Pakistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Again, I’ve given my answer on that.
QUESTION: Yes. Yes. Pakistan is often being viewed as a sponsor of terrorism…follow-up question to the question my colleague asked…
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Okay, I’ll give you a follow-up answer.
QUESTION: …and at the same time, it’s a victim of jihadist terror. How does the U.S., as an honest broker, address this dilemma, or choose to address this dilemma in the first place?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think it’s quite clear what’s going on. Pakistan has suffered from terrorist attacks, but Pakistan is also a place where some of these groups operate. And, as I said, none of us are going to be safe -- not Pakistanis, not Indians, not Americans -- until those groups are no longer present in the region, including on Pakistani soil.
QUESTION: It’s been six weeks since the attacks happened. There is considerable anger in Mumbai and across India that perpetrators of this crime have not been brought to book. U.S. has given the evidence, India has given the evidence. Until when do you think the government of India should wait? Doesn’t patience run thin in this country?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think it’s a matter of: every day you have to look at what’s the best way to pursue these. What’s the best way to end this threat, and deal with the people who did this? I think the answer is: the best way is still to cooperate. Just look for cooperation, promote cooperation, expect the cooperation of all the authorities, including the authorities of Pakistan, investigating and following up on leads, and not just accepting the information, but using the information. And when you’re in an investigation, you don’t stop at one piece of information, you develop the rest of the background. And, in the information that India provided, there is information that Pakistan can use to find out more. And so, what we’d like to see is that they do find out more and start bringing information back to you, and that we can create a flow of information that the investigators will find useful so that we end up knowing everything that there is to know.
QUESTION: What is disturbing a lot of people in India and also the government in India is Pakistan’s denial of what is happening in Pakistan territory. How do we solve this problem? Is the United States going to put some pressure on, because it’s obvious now that these people came from Pakistan, the groups exist in Pakistan. Unless the government first accepts that it is happening in Pakistan, it cannot be remediated. So what is your view on this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: My view on this is that Pakistan has put a lot of people in custody. It’s detained a lot of people from Lashkar-e-Taiba. They closed down offices of Jammat ud Dawa; they have those people in custody, too. And that provides a basis for them to find out what these people have been doing and what their relationship is to the Mumbai attacks. And that’s what we expect, so I’m not looking so much for them -- somebody -- to make this statement or that statement; I’m looking for people to find out who did this, and bring them to justice, and stop further attacks. That’s how we will make [inaudible].
QUESTION: I would like to ask you how would the U.S. react to similar terror attacks, god forbid, if they happen on your soil? Would you react to them in the same way, continue with dialogue, and hope for cooperation from Pakistan, or would you go ahead and bombard these terror camps there, or probably attack the entire country?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We would react in whatever way we thought was the most effective way for protecting our people. And that’s…what one has to decide is: how are we going to end this threat and how are we going to stop these groups? And I think we need the cooperation of the government of Pakistan, but we need the cooperation of all the governments in this region so that these groups can’t be allowed to operate.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, if India acts like Israel and bombards them, will you be supporting India like Israel, as you’ve done in the Security Council?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: First, we’re in the Security Council right now looking for a resolution on a sustainable ceasefire. The Secretary has been meeting with counterparts and supporting Egyptian efforts. So, I think we’ve been very active with the international community on trying to work on the situation in Gaza.
But, as far as the situation that India faces regarding terrorists, again we come back to just that basic question: how are we going to stop this? What is the best way to stop this, and make sure it doesn’t happen again? And that involves both finding out and punishing [perpetrators of] this attack, and finding out who else might be planning such things. And there are other aspects too, that the United States has worked on with India.
We are looking forward now to rescheduling the visit of the Home Minister, but we are working with his team, working with people in India to try to help you build your preventative measures, your ways of dealing with these attacks, finding out before they occur. We’re working on security issues with Indian counterparts -- how can we help India, and help India itself go ahead and better protect its citizens and all those who come here? So, I don’t think it’s a matter of just relying on one particular investigation; there’s a lot we can do in counterterrorism measures. I think that’s an area where the United States and India have started to cooperate even better and will continue to cooperate.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state, which also encourages terrorism out of its borders. How exactly does one deal with such a state, because it’s a qualitative difference in dealing with what’s happening in Gaza and other places?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t think the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons is really the most important factor. It’s obviously a factor to be considered, but it’s just a reminder of the dangers of terrorism in Pakistan, and it’s a reminder of how important it is for everybody’s sake that we eliminate the dangers of terrorism from Pakistan and in Pakistan. And that goes back to what I said before, about working with everybody to cooperate in eliminating those groups and to expect action by Pakistan, but also to support action by Pakistan against those groups.
QUESTION: You have gotten involved in this because of the death of some Americans. But we’ve had a terrorist problem for quite a while. Does this signal any sort of long-term commitment on your part now with India in the fight against terrorism?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think it definitely does. We’ve had a growing dialogue, and a growing effort with India on terrorism. We’ve had a counterterrorism working group, with a growing amount of interaction and effort together over the last couple years. But I also think that [with] the kind of cooperation we’ve established at this juncture, specifically on the Mumbai attack, but also starting to work on these areas -- how do you prevent terrorist attacks, how do you deal with them, at the national, state and local levels -- we’re finding more and more areas of commonality and common interest. So I think it does signal a rapid acceleration of cooperation against terrorism.
QUESTION: Sorry, may I just follow that up? Anything specific that’s going to come out of this in terms of any sort of new structures?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think, first and foremost, that decisions on new structures are ones that are being made, and have to be made, on the Indian side. One of the things we’re doing with some of the Indian experts in the States right now is to show them how we’ve done this, how we’ve put together the National Counterterrorism Center, and how we work with federal, state and local officials together on counterterrorism issues. I’m sure they’ll look at many people’s example and decide how they want to do these things, and then different organizations can work with each other. We have a lot of different areas we can work on, and we keep putting people together who know about these things and try to encourage cooperation.
QUESTION: Before coming down to Mumbai, you have been to Islamabad. The steps taken by the Pakistan government, is that enough?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: The simple answer is: it’s a promising start and there’s a lot more to do before we eliminate the threat. That’s what we’re all intent on seeing.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: It’s a promising start. There’s a lot more to do.
QUESTION: There is a lot of debate on Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist captured by the Mumbai police. The FBI is cooperating with the police, as they have in Pakistan. Can you throw any light on his nationality? Is the U.S. satisfied that Kasab was a Pakistani national?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t know his nationality myself. I’m sure the investigators do. I talked to our FBI guys and that wasn’t one of the questions I had asked. However, I think we all know, fundamentally, that this attack had origins on Pakistani soil. When we follow the traces of how this was done, it traces back to groups in Pakistan, and so, that side of the investigation has to proceed, as well, when you can know who those people were, how they were organized, and how they’re going to be eliminated.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up question: what is going to be the role of the U.S. government if it is proven that Kasab is a Pakistani national?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Our role is what it is now and what it’s going to be, and that’s to do what we can to make everybody safe, to develop everything we can about the investigation, and to expect of all sides, including Pakistan, that they investigate this thoroughly, punish anybody who was involved, and ensure that everybody that was involved is brought to justice. We have to deal with this thoroughly to prevent it from ever happening again.
QUESTION: Can we expect the U.S. administration to put pressure on Pakistan to hand over some of the most wanted men that India is seeking from that part of the country, for extradition?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think that you can rely on the United States. But I think we can all work together to make sure these people are brought to justice, and second of all, to deal with these groups, and eliminate future threats.
QUESTION: Sir, related question, one of those most wanted terrorists is actually on the U.S. list also, Dawood Ibrahim. Could you just put pressure on -- will the U.S. put pressure on Pakistan?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: As you say, this is a wanted man, but what I think what we’re dealing with right now is this Mumbai situation, the situation with these attacks. There are a lot of wanted criminals we’d like to see brought to justice.
QUESTION: Ambassador Boucher, you would agree that the basic principle is to try and ensure that these terror factories, places where these people are trained, are finished off and to ensure that this is worked out? India, and perhaps America, know about the existence of these terror factories in Pakistan, in part of occupied Kashmir. Do you think it’s legitimate on part of India authorities, Indian defense forces, to try and strike these centers?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think it’s legitimate to try to ensure that these places are closed down and that’s what we’re trying to do. But let’s make sure that we understand that closing down these groups is something that Pakistanis themselves have said they want to do. We should expect them to carry that out.
QUESTION: Just one last question. Would you say that India’s non-response to the terror attack is a sign of maturity or spinelessness?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I would say that India’s response to the terror attack -- India’s investigation, India’s developing of information and turning it over to the people involved in the investigation, India’s expectations that these groups should be shut down, India’s steps to better protect its people and set up new structures to deal with terrorism -- these are all responses to the attack. I would say that these are responses that we will cooperate with, support and work with.