US to consult India on goals in Pak, Afghan: Obama aide
US to consult India on goals in Pak, Afghan: Obama aide - US - World - The Times of India
1 Jul 2009, 1033 hrs IST, PTI
WASHINGTON: Describing the militancy-infested Pakistan and Afghanistan as "a
strategic priority" for the US, a top Obama administration
official has said Washington
intends to consult India "very closely" on meeting its goals in the region.
"Well, we intend to continue to consult very closely with our friends in India on this," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told PTI when asked what did US expect from India to meet its goals in the region, where Afghanistan and Pakistan were its main focus points.
"As you say, Afghanistan and Pakistan is a strategic priority. But I do not want to imply that that would come at the expense of India. India would continue to be also a strategic priority for the United States. And I think that will come out very clearly during Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton's visit" to New Delhi later this month, he said.
Replying to another question, Blake said that India need not be concerned about the US assistance to Pakistan.
"As you know, the new focus in terms of our relationship with Pakistan is to dramatically increase economic assistance to Pakistan to help that country overcome some of its economic challenges and to extend the writ of the government to other parts of Pakistan ... and all of those things should be very much in India's interest as well.
"So I think, people of India should support and agree with what we are trying to do," he said.
On concerns about the use of American aid by Pakistan to build up the military against India, Blake said Islamabad "is increasingly focused on dealing with the extremist problems in its own country."
With regard to Clinton's India visit, Blake said the trip would be an occasion to announce a roadmap for the new phase of Indo-US ties.
"... we expect her to visit (India) in second half of July. This would be an opportunity for the United States and for Secretary Clinton to lay out with her counterpart, Foreign
Minister (S M) Krishna, the new strategic partnership and how we are going to upgrade it and take it forward in the new administration."
Asked what the US was expecting from the Indian government during the trip, he said "... I think there is strong convergence between the Ministry of External Affairs and the State Department and other agencies on the way forward.
"Secretary Clinton described in her speech before the US India Business Council, some of the areas which we hope to take this relationship forward. She talked for example about education, about science and technology, about climate change. So we are very excited about the possibilities and about the opportunities to continue to strengthen our strategic partnership with India," Blake said.
When asked how close India and the US were with regard to end user agreement on sensitive defence sales, the top American diplomat expressed the hope that a pact will be reached soon.
"Well, I think, we have been narrowing our differences and I hope that we will reach agreement very soon on that. Because that would be an important way for us to increase our defence exports to India, but to also share more technology with India. So that's an agreement which would be of benefit to both sides."
On whether such an agreement was possible during Clinton's visit, Blake said "I do not want to make any projections on what is going to be done, not done by the time of the secretary's visit. But we are working very hard."
About the implementation of the civilian nuclear deal, he said India has taken "a lot of the very important steps."
"As you know, recently it signed its additional protocol. Now it needs to file its declaration facilities with the IAEA and after that we hope that India would be in a position to announce the two nuclear reactor park sites that would be dedicated to American companies.
"And there is also very important nuclear liability legislation is pending in India. I hope there could be movement on both of those. That would make possible more civil nuclear trade and investment between our two countries," he said.
To a question about the Obama administration's view on the reform of the UN Security Council where India is seeking a permanent berth, Blake said "we are still reviewing that question."
"There is an administration-wise review underway about Security Council reform more broadly. So I do not have anything new to say on that," he said.
Last week, the former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, had said the US should support India as a permanent member of the UNSC.
On when Obama is expected to visit India, Blake said "I know, he very much wants to go. It is just a matter of figuring out the time on his schedule."
When pointed out that the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was pushing for a Free Trade Agreement between India and the US, excluding agriculture, he said it is up to the Indian Government largely.
"We had a good trade dialogue so far and the United States is always prepared to look seriously about bilateral free trade agreements. But we want to make sure that they cover comprehensive and they cover all aspects of trade...
"You have a dynamic new trade minister Anand Sharma, we have a dynamic minister Ron Kirk. I think, they already have a positive first meeting, when Minister Sharma visited here earlier. So I think, this is something which Minister Sharma should talk about with Mr Kirk. I think, he would be receptive as long as it is comprehensive in scope," he said.