Remarks to the Press on the U.S.-India relationshipChristina Rocca, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs
New Delhi, India
April 10, 2002
ASSISTANT SECRETARY ROCCA: Thank you, Angela, and if youíll bear with me I will read just a quick opening remark and then weíll do questions and answers.
First I would like to say that Iím pleased to have the opportunity to return so quickly to India to make up for the meetings that I missed in March. As you know the reason for my abrupt departure was yet another terrible reminder that the war on terrorism is a primary focus for all members of the coalition.
While here Iíve been able to discuss the latest developments in our efforts against terrorism and to hear Indiaís viewpoints on our progress and on the way forward. I feel my meetings have been productive and Iíll be returning to Washington to report that the U.S.-India relationship and cooperation is solid.
I believe most of you know that Iíve met Minister Singh and other senior Ministry officials. I was also able to speak with them of the general situation in South Asia including my recent visit to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I found my visit described in some papers as routine. I find that a very positive sign. [Laughter] It should be a routine thing that the Assistant Secretary for South Asia visits India and the region on a regular basis to discuss items of mutual interest.
Itís significant that today our areas of bilateral interests span the globe. This indeed is evidence of what Ambassador Blackwell describes as the transformed U.S.-India relationship.
With that, Iíll be happy to take your questions.
Okay, thanks for coming. [Laughter] Iíve answered them all in my opening statement, clearly.
QUESTION: Iím Ranjit Kumar of the NAVBHARAT TIMES.
Probably a decision was taken to institute a political/military dialogue. Would you please elaborate?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: This isnít new. It is something that weíve been talking about for a long time. The Defense Policy Group met not that long ago here in New Delhi and this is part of the continuing dialogue. Assistant Secretary Lincoln Bloomfield will be coming I believe at the end of April to further the discussion.
Question: What were the sum of your discussions with Mr. Jaswant Singh, and what subjects did you cover in your discussions with the officials at the MEA? Iím sorry, Iím Indrani Bagchi , Economic Times.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Well, we discussed a number of things including the U.S.-India relationship, the regional situation, my recent trip, the upcoming pol/ mil discussions, and Lincoln Bloomfieldís upcoming visit. We talked about the war on terrorism and Indiaís security environment. We touched on the licensing process which is another issue that Assistant Secretary Bloomfield will be talking about, cyber terrorism, our military-to-military exchanges, and the prospect and security challenges in South Asia in general.
Question: Ashok Sharma from AP.
I understand you have been to Pakistan. Do you see any immediate prospects of India and Pakistan ending their standoff? The armies, over one million people, have been there for almost four or five months now. Any message from General Musharraf? Iím sure this would have come up here also. So do you see any prospects?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: The situation continues to be of concern to us as it always is when two military forces are facing each other in such close proximity. We are continuing to talk to both sides to urge that there be some dialogue in order to help diffuse some of the tension and to reach some kind of a stable situation in South Asia in general.
Question: Parsa from Tehelka.com
The U.S. has made progress against the war on terrorism. Now the operations have ended to a certain extent in Afghanistan and some of the Taliban people have slipped over into Pakistan. Did this question come up in the discussions, and what are your views on it?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: I think if you look at the statements that have been made by Defense Department officials, nobody thinks that the war on terrorism is over or even that Operation Enduring Freedom is over. Itís entered a new stage where the U.S. military is now going after pockets of al Qaeda and itís going to be more localized and more targeted; but it is far from over and I think that point has been made repeatedly, I would say on a daily basis, by the Secretary of Defense.
As for them going into Pakistan or any other country, I believe that the recent raids that youíve read about are proof of the fact that we will continue to pursue terrorists wherever they may go.
Question: Ranjan Gupta, CBS News.
General Musharrafís threat to India about using nuclear weapons, how seriously do you take it? A follow-up to that is about his quest for legitimacy and the referendum he is holding. Do you give that enough credence to accept him after the referendum as a democratic leader? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Let me say first that weíve urged both countries to moderate the rhetoric and we continue to make that point. I can just leave it at that.
On the issue of the referendum, we have said all along that we want and that we support a return to a full democratic system in Pakistan. Itís something that weíve been pushing for for the last three years, and I believe youíve probably heard the voice of the United States government quite loud on this issue. The issue of the referendum itself and its legality is something for the Pakistani people and the Pakistani courts to decide. But we look forward to fully free and fair elections and a return to democracy in Pakistan.
Question: Giles Hewitt of AFP
When you say you are continuing to urge the two sides towards some sort of dialogue - betwenn India and Pakistan, and as weíve already said theyíve been there for months now - the urging started a long time ago. Did you see any difference on your trip this time to both Islamabad and Delhi; is there willingness to either listen to you or even to concur with what youíre urging them to do? Because thereís no sign of any de-escalation whatsoever.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Let me put this differently. Let me say that weíre continuing to look at it and watch it very closely and to remain closely engaged, and I think that, in and of itself, is an indication of continued optimism that there is a way forward from this situation.
Question: Iím Javed Naqvi, Iím a freelance journalist and I write for DAWN
This war on terrorism as you would perhaps have experienced yourself, has led to a lot of collateral damage Ė not just to terrorists but a lot of civilians also have been affected in Afghanistan. Right across the world there seems to be a perception, rightly or wrongly that there is an open season on people who may be just moderate Muslims, that it is happening here in India, it is happening in Gujarat, it is happening in Palestine. I would like to hear any words of consolation, whether this is in fact not something that the United States is willing to tolerate. Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Let me say first of all something that I know is not news to you, but I will repeat it because it does bear repeating. This is not a war against Muslims in any way, shape or form. This is a war against terrorism and it doesnít matter what the religion of the terrorist is. This is something which the United States is committed to pursuing. This is not against any one religion.
Iím sorry, the second part of your question?
Question: As for Gujarat, the atmosphere (unintelligible) action against terrorism, if the language that you hear is pertaining to terrorism, anti-terrorist effort and then in the process a lot of innocent people get killed. Something similar might be happening in Palestine. And have you seen the reaction in Egypt and across much of the Arab world.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: The thing that people forget is that when you couch it in terms of any kind of an attack on Muslims people forget that the United States has come to the succor of Muslims on a number of occasions in the past, the war in Kosovo being just the latest example of that.
The events in Gujarat were horrible, we were saddened by it, and we really hope that there will be a way to move forward to find some kind of communal peace and stability and that this does not reoccur anywhere else.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: I donít believe we talked about internal matters with the government of India that much, no. But I think itís well known. Weíve talked about this before, both publicly and privately. Weíre deeply saddened by the whole event, but I believe everyone (inaudible.)
Question: Ajay from Aaj Taak
You said you talked about the security environment of India with Mr. Jaswant Singh during your interactions. Did Mr. Singh brief you about the level of infiltration because India had made this a prerequisite for any kind of movement forward with Pakistan? Apparently the military establishment of India has been maintaining that the level of infiltration hasnít come down as expected. Was this a part of your conversation?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Let me just say that when talking about levels of infiltration weíre getting into the kind of intelligence issues which Iím not at liberty to discuss. But I do want to say once again that this whole issue points to the need for a dialogue between India and Pakistan in order to resolve these issues.
Question: As a supplementary, do you in that case suggest that prior to the condition that the government has put forward regarding the level of infiltration, that they must first come down and then they can move forward? Would you in that case suggest that there should be first dialogue and then Ė
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Weíre not going to dictate anything to anybody, but I would say that we support a dialogue between both nations.
Question: (Ranjan Gupta, CBS) What are you doing to get the dialogue going between India and Pakistan? I mean how can you get a dialogue going if one of them says that he is going to use nuclear weapons? So what is happening? What is the U.S. doing to get a dialogue going?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Weíre continuing to talk intensely with both sides and see if there are ways forward to help diffuse the situation. But that does not in any way mean that weíre mediating or anything along those lines whatsoever. Itís just that this is a concern not only to the United States but to the world in general.
Question: If I can just move away a bit from security issues, I have a question. Last year when you visited youíd mentioned Enron and made a statement saying that from an American perspective Indiaís problem can be summed up into one five-letter word, called Enron. Any change in that perspective from what has gone on in the last one year?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: The point that I was making at the time was the issue of sanctity of contract and of transparency in dealings with the business community and with businesses. That point still applies, whether itís Enron or any other company.
Question: But given whatís gone on in the last year with Enron and the Department of Justice, as well as Andersen, that American perspective on foreign investment, your comment was on the foreign investment climate in the country.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: Thatís correct and that still applies. Itís not Enron-specific. I used Enron at the time was an example of an ongoing case which I understand is still ongoing, but the company name doesnít really matter. The fact is that the situation was sending signals to the business community that it was going to be difficult, that sanctity of contract was not necessarily respected. Itís the kind of thing which sends messages throughout the business community when they look at investment in any given country, whether it be India anywhere else. They stop and think about it. The point I was making at the time was that we would encourage other businesses, the government and the states to look at this and take sanctity of contracts very seriously because it will improve the investment climate.
Question: India Abroad
India has in principle agreed to monitoring the Malacca Strait in cooperation with the United States. You are also having discussions with the Indonesian president and Malaysian representatives as well I suppose. Could you tell us by what time do you hope to have regular monitoring of the sea lanes especially the Malacca Straits? How soon is it going to happen?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: I think the Defense Department will have to answer that question, but I do want to say how happy we are that India is taking this step and how once again it shows the transformed U.S.-India relationship when we have this kind of cooperation in the war on terrorism as well as a number of other fields as well.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: No, the Defense Department is working this and I donít know the exact details of the dates or anything like that.
Question: Iím Anouhita from THE TIMES OF INDIA
You mentioned that the U.S. is concerned about the military confrontation on the border. Do you see any kind of change since both the countries massed their armies on the border? Has there been a de-escalation of tension or are you as worried as you were?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: I think that any time you have two armies fully mobilized and ready to strike, whatís been dubbed in the press as the spark factor is always a possibility, so we remain concerned about possible accidental hostilities caused by whatever the spark might be. So yes, we do remain concerned.
Question: Just to follow up on your list of discussions, could you elaborate on the licensing process that you just talked about, and cyber-terrorism; how far has cooperation moved forward on attacking cyber-terrorism?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: What we were talking about today was setting up the framework for Assistant Secretary Bloomfieldís upcoming visit. And those are the specific things that he will be dealing with, political/military issues and cyber-terrorism. Itís all, in the same structure.
Question: Just as a followup, did you have talks with Pakistan on the list of twenty that India has, I mean , on the list of twentyÖ
Assistant Secretary Rocca: I think weíre well on the record on the list of twenty.
Question: Going back to Enron, there have been press reports here that the U.S. may end its economic aid to India in case Enronís assets were misappropriated. Is there anything in the offing along those lines?
Assistant Secretary Rocca: I think thatís a hypothetical question. I donít know whatís going on right now. I havenít heard from the team that is working the issue.
Question: Sudarshan, Outlook Magazine.
Given the fact of reports of U.S. troops inside Pakistan doing local action without commendable help from the Pakistanis, I want to know whether you still continue to have the same levels of optimism on Musharraf as you did on the January 12.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: I think those reports were erroneous. There was full cooperation and participation of the government of Pakistan and by Pakistani elements.
Question: The establishment in Afghanistan is coming up for review in June. Karzai has to be either accepted or some other establishment. Given the upsurge in violence - and itís continuing, serious apparently. So what are the chances of a transition taking place smoothly, what are your perceptions on that? And what are your comments on Indiaís offer to train the local military in Afghanistan to be able to confront the challenges? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Rocca: The situation in Afghanistan is one which weíve always known is volatile and weíve always known that transition to a stable, prosperous, peaceful Afghanistan was not going to be easy. This is why we have given as much support as we have to the Interim Authority and put the efforts we have into reconstruction. And we will be doing even more. It has to get off the ground. There are security issues, obviously, as you know.
So weíre working very hard in every way we can with the UN to see that the loya jirga takes place, that it be a free and fair event, and that it happens without violence if possible. But at no point has anybody said that this was going to be easy and I think probably youíre seeing some of the volatility. Weíre working hard on all apects to bring the Interim Authority up to speed so the Afghans can deal with this problem themselves. Because itís vital for them if theyíre going to build a stable, peaceful Afghanistan.
Thank you very much.
Released on April 15, 2002