September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Press Conference Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill; November 21, 2001

Press Conference
Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill
foreign Correspondents Club
new Delhi, India

Ambassador Blackwill: Thank you very much. It's very good to be back on this beautiful day in India.

I wanted to correct my comments at the offset to the summit that occurred between the Prime Minister and the President, which of course I went back to Washington to be part of. And I had the opportunity of speaking with the President before and after that meeting, and also had the opportunity to attend several of the functions that the Prime Minister undertook while he was in Washington. My judgment, having read as much as I have been able to about the US-India relationship is that the summit on the 9th of November in Washington was the most substantive and consequential summit in the history of the US-India bilateral relationship, and I'd like to exemplify and elaborate on that judgment briefly, and then I'm happy to take questions.

There are essentially eight areas that were pushed forward during that summit by the two leaders who directed their respective bureaucracies and ministries to prepare for the summit, and subsequently afterwards have directed them to accelerate the cooperation with respect to the US-India bilateral relationship. First, and I will go through these fairly briefly and then we can discuss them.

First was defense cooperation. As you know, defense cooperation between the United States and India was suspended in 1998 but for the United States' part we anticipate a robust US-India defense relationship of a kind that is unprecedented in our bilateral relationship as we move forward. Admiral Dennis Blair who is the commander of American military forces in the Pacific will be here next week, interacting with both the civilian and the military side of the Indian Government. And then a few days thereafter the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Mr. Feith, third most senior ranking member in the Pentagon will be here to continue those discussions, which will have to do with the specifics of the military-to-military relationship between the US and India in all its dimensions including arms sales. And I have no doubt that as we look forward over the next year or more you all will see a quite conclusive acceleration in US-India defense cooperation.

Second, counter-terrorism. This, of course, was a very major subject between the two leaders who discussed it at length during their meetings at the White House. There, operationally I just mention both that as you know the Home Minister, Mr. Advani has been invited to Washington to further develop our cooperation on counter-terrorism with his counterparts there. And also we have, together, launched a joint cyber-terrorism initiative. This is unique. The US is doing this with no other country in a bilateral sense, and of course it should be obvious to all of you why India is our partner given the extraordinary hi tech visibility and information technology capability in India. Cyber-terrorism, the penetration of our most sensitive information systems by terrorists will be a growing problem in the international systems and one the US and India are uniquely prepared to combat. Our cooperation in this regard will also benefit dozens and dozens and dozens of other countries in the international system, that face similar challenges to their sensitive information systems whether they are diplomatic, military, political, financial, banking, and so forth.

The third area had to do with the future of Afghanistan, another subject that was discussed at length between the President and the Prime Minister. There was a meeting earlier this week in Washington with respect to issues of reconstruction of Afghanistan, following the end of the Taliban regime. India participated in that meeting as a full participant along with others and the President made it clear to the Prime Minister that we, at least the Americans regard India as a central player in the international effort to assist the people of Afghanistan to produce a peaceful non-terrorist regime. In addition, the coordinator for Afghanistan at the State Department, Ambassador Richard Haas, will be in India in ten days time, and our envoy to the anti-Taliban Forces in India, Ambassador James Dobbins, will also be here soon. So the third area was one of intensification of our discussions together on the future of Afghanistan.

Fourth is strengthening the new strategic framework. This follows from President Bush's May 1 speech in Washington. We've agreed to enhance our discussions of US missile defense plans. We're going to establish a channel of discussion regarding the new strategic framework dialogue which essentially has to do with how to reduce the danger of weapons of mass destruction in the international system. We've agreed to accelerate and expand our cooperation on export controls. And finally we have agreed to stimulate further bilateral high technology commerce between the US and India. In that respect, I think many of you already know this, until recently and these news items are always addressed on a case by case basis. In the past on that case by case basis with respect to India, US officials operated on presumption of denial, of denial. They now operate on a presumption of approval, which is another big change.

We also agreed to resume our civilian nuclear safety cooperation. We agreed to expand cooperation with respect to the peaceful uses of space.

We set up a structure on the economic side, which is the most ambitious one that the United States has with any country. There are five ministerial channels, which have been established - trade, finance, commerce, energy, and the environment, and you should expect ministerial exchanges and visits in all of those areas. In addition a private sector component was also established within that new economic dialogue.

And then finally, and I won't say any more about this, intelligence cooperation between the United States and India will also be accelerated and intensified.

So, I'll conclude by simply saying that if you look at this enumerative list of initiatives and agreements, and work to be done, I think there isn't any doubt that this is an extraordinarily substantive achievement by the two leaders. And you'll notice that it has nothing to do with any third party. This was a set of achievements which were within the context of what the President of the United States calls transforming the US-India relationship and what the Prime Minister of India calls as reflecting the agreements between natural allies. I believe, myself, as an amateur historian that analysts will look back on this particular summit meeting and mark it as the codification of a new era of global cooperation and collaboration between the US and India. I'm happy to take your questions.

Thank you, Ambassador.

Question: I am Putma Rao and I write for the German news magazine, Der Spiegel: Mr. Ambassador, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto is due to visit India according to newspaper reports this morning and also meet with the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Vajpayee. How do you view or how does the United States view her visit in light of the fact that (a) you are also interested in seeing a return to democracy in Pakistan and (b) she happens to represent the oldest political party in Pakistan or the largest?

Ambassador Blackwill: As American Ambassador to India, it's not my job, indeed I think it would be inappropriate for me to make comments on who the Indian government invites to meet with it. So I think I would just give that a pass. That's surely up to the Indian Government.

Question: Your Excellency, two small questions. One on Pakistan's reports about Pakistan's role in actively aiding Taliban. And the second, what would be a course of action or what would be the reaction if it is known that Taliban are entering, say Pakistan-occupied Kashmir? Thank you

Ambassador Blackwill: I'm going to write down each of these questions and I'll wait until I get to the first one on US- India relations. It's two for two. We'll see how far we go.

With respect to Pakistan, it is my Government's view that Pakistan has been a very helpful participant in the war against terrorism. It has provided a great deal of useful information to the coalition as it is sought to route out the terrorists inside Afghanistan, the Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden, terrorists as well as information on the leadership, the whereabouts of the leadership of the Taliban itself. So, I will simply say that Pakistan entered the coalition without preconditions and we think is a valuable member of the coalition in that respect.

Second, it's one of those hypotheticals, which I learned a long time ago never to answer. I won't answer hypotheticals, but I will say this. The United States condemns terrorism wherever it occurs, and will continue to do so. It has made clear that no country can remain a sanctuary for terrorism. There is both a moral and practical reason for that. The moral reason is that one cannot maintain an argument which has moral integrity if you say terrorism is okay some place but not okay some place else. And my Government has made it absolutely clear that we don't think there are good terrorists and bad terrorists. We just think there are terrorists. And perhaps you noticed that Secretary Powell told Fox News just a day ago and I quote, "Terrorists are not freedom fighters, they are terrorists." Unquote. So I think our position on that score could not be clearer.

Question: Ambassador, a few months back a US State Department Official said there is a five letter word that is coming in the way of Indo -US commercial relationship that was e-n-r-o-n, Enron. I was wondering if in light of what you have said in a multifaceted manner, the five-letter word is no longer in between Indo-US commercial relationship?

Ambassador Blackwill: No, it remains a problem. There's no doubt about it. And I was just, of course in the US and was able to discuss this with a variety of people. Our position has been that we hope that a mutually acceptable resolution between the parties can be reached. And we continue to hope that, but I have to tell you - and I say this as directly as I can - that the problems that Enron has had in India continue to cast a very dark shadow over foreign investment possibilities by Americans in India, so that's true to this day, so I'm very hopeful that at some point soon this issue will be resolved.

Question: CNBC India: (inaudible)

Ambassador Blackwill: Well first of all... The first thing that is important to say is that the Doha agreement is an enormously important accomplishment for the international community - a new trade round will be good for every country and I think that it's a tribute to those who were there that an agreement was reached. Of course it was a tough negotiation. That shouldn't come as any shock. Countries go there and represent their national interest as best they can. But I really think that headline out of Doha is enormously optimistic and successful that these 100 plus countries got together and were able to reach an agreement. And I think rather than poking around in who said what to whom in the final overnight hours of that conference when the negotiations were undoubtedly at its highest pitch, as by the way is the case always in such settings, I prefer to accentuate the positive and say that the international community itself is much better off because an agreement was reached and because a new trade round was launched.

Question: Your Excellency: I think that most Indian people would really like to ask you is that what you just said. Terrorists are terrorists and America will condemn it in any form, any time, anywhere, anyhow, no matter who it is. Given that fact, coming from an Indian's heart, we really want to ask, as to why having recognized Pakistan as a terrorist state because of its geographic position, because of America's use or need of Pakistan that you are shutting probably half an eye or one (garble). Your comment, sir:

Ambassador Blackwill: I was with the President for most of the day and the night, and was able to again to see him speak, including to the Prime Minister on the issue of the global war against terrorism. And I can tell you, and as you know I know him from the campaign and many situations, I can tell you that his resolve to carry out the war against terrorism globally until it's stamped out everywhere was manifest, and it is now an extraordinarily powerful part of his presidential mandate. It is one that he is carrying out many hours every single day, and I can tell you, knowing the man that he has the stamina to carry through on this global war against terrorism, and he also, as you can tell from the press accounts, he's working very hard, along with Secretary Powell, and Secretary Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, to keep the coalition strong, and it is strong, and it is operating on the basis of some principles that could not be clearer. And let me just say them again.

First of all that a terrorist, is a terrorist, is a terrorist. Again, as Secretary Powell said, terrorists are not freedom fighters, they are terrorists. So that's principle number one. Principle number two is that's true everywhere. There are no exceptions. Principle number three is that no country will be permitted to provide sanctuary for terrorists. So that leads me to principle number four which is that the war against terrorism certainly includes terrorism against India, which has been condemned by the President, by Secretary Powell and by indeed all the leading members of the Administration.

The war against terrorism will not be considered until terrorism against India is ended and I believe that those principles could not be clearer. If you have a chance to have a look at the joint communiqu‚ that was released after the summit meeting in Washington it made clear and compared the September 11 attack in New York and Washington with the October 1 attack in Srinagar. So the United States and India are in this battle against terrorists together.

And I think with respect to the principles which animate our policies there's no difference whatsoever, and the Prime Minister and the President in Washington agreed that they, as partners, would certainly see this war against terrorism through until there were no terrorism against the United States, no terrorism against India, no terrorism.

Question: Ambassador Blackwill, in your opening remarks you listed defense cooperation fairly high. However, we haven't gotten.... Could you expand a bit on what form that defense cooperation is going to take?

Ambassador Blackwill: I would prefer, I know I didn't expand on it. It wasn't that I lost my place in my notes. But we have two very important meetings coming up in New Delhi within the next week and I believe that you will see in the course of those meetings further advancement but we are talking about the usual. We are talking about exercises, and education, arms sales and so forth. The sort of military to military cooperation that occurs between friends, collaborators.

But I want to add one other thing. And it is true. Each of these eight areas that I mentioned, these are areas which will be part, our part of a long term strategic collaboration between the United States and India. And they will be advanced in the period ahead as they were at the summit. But they are going to be advanced much further than that as the months and years go by. If you would like to think of it in this way, if the essentially a taxonomy for US-India strategic cooperation and it is the job of the two governments to follow the President and the Prime Minister's leadership in filling more and more substance into this taxonomy. And I have no doubt that that will happen including at the time of the visit of Admiral Blair and Undersecretary Feith.

Question: (inaudible) from Gulf News. .... Terrorists cannot be called freedom fighters. My question is: While the militancy has been on in the State of Jammu and Kashmir for over twelve years, why has it taken the US Administration so long to come to this conclusion. Or has it anything to do with post September 11 scenario that it has changed the US perception of Kashmir? Thank you.

Ambassador Blackwill: Well, I would be the first to say that American policy towards terrorism has changed since September 11. I dare say that every country's position regarding terrorism has changed since September 11. And I would not defend every piece of US policy towards terrorism before that. In some cases it tended to be ad hoc, in some cases it tended to be episodic, and in some cases it tended to ineffective. But what, as a practicing diplomat now, I prefer to concentrate on, since I am no longer a Harvard scholar, looking around in the past, is the degree of cooperation that is occurring now between the United States and India. And it is absolutely unprecedented in the war against terrorism. And that is where I am devoting my energies including in meetings I will be having in the next day or two with all of the senior figures on this subject within the Indian Government. So we are working hard, not on the historical record if I may put it like that. Perhaps no country's historical record is entirely perfect on terrorism but rather how we can accelerate and improve the cooperation between the United States and India in fighting the war against terrorism.

Question: Yesterday in the Parliament, Home Minister Advani said that in spite of (inaudible) that it is with the international community's fight against terrorism everywhere in the world, Pakistan has not stopped aiding terrorism in Kashmir. How do you react to it?

Ambassador Blackwill: I read the same thing and I make it a practice not to comment on the comments of Indian Ministers.

Question: Mr. Ambassador: For a variety of strategic reasons to do with the Cold War, the Indian establishment has distrusted the United States particularly to do with defense cooperation and arms sales. What is the United States doing to earn the trust of India because there is a feeling within the establishment that if there is an emergency, things like backup logistics, spares, will stop. What is the United States doing to earn the trust of India that this will not happen in the future or is it not doing anything at all?

Ambassador Blackwill: Well. I find the story (inaudible) Here is what I would say. First of all, I do not regard the relationship between the United States and India as one in which the United States is seeking to earn the trust of India any more than India is seeking to earn the trust of the United States. The US/India relationship is built on two extremely solid foundations. One is common democratic values and the second is increasingly overlapping national interests. Those are the firmest basis for long term strategic collaboration. You are quite right to say that during the Cold War, this collaboration did not occur to put it mildly. But I am quite optimistic that on the basis of common democratic values and overlapping national interests it will occur in the future. Finally I would say this about the reliability of American suppliers and I want to be very blunt. I suppose if one wishes to buy weapons from dictatorships, if they can stay in power, you can be sure of supplies. But actually my country like yours is a democracy and therefore, answers to the will of the people and the elected legislature. And so I can't give a flat promise that the American people through their elected legislature in the future won't take steps with respect to American arms supplies to any particular country. But I am, I have a view that that problem which was associated I think more with the past, has been relegated to a much less central part of our relationship because of what I said before which is our common democratic values and overlapping national interests. So I do not believe, myself - I am not going to speak for the Indian Government because it is fully capable of speaking for itself - but I believe that this is not going to be a serious problem in our bilateral relationship in the period ahead.

Question: Ambassador Blackwill: How close is the US to catching Bin Laden today?

Ambassador Blackwill: We are closer than we were when we began and I don't know when it will happen. But we will keep after it and him until we are successful. It is only a matter of time. You can't put a time line on it. Obviously he is a very clever and elusive person. But we are devoting enormous resources, the coalition, to the destruction of the Al Qaida network and to narrow down the areas where he might be hiding. And we are making progress. But it would be irresponsible of me to try to say is it to be tomorrow, the next day, a month, whenever. But eventually we will get him.

Question: Ambassador: You talked about cooperation in cyber-terrorism and this being the first time that the US (inaudible) is doing some on a bilateral basis. Can you just expand on some of the practical terms what forms this will take?

Ambassador Blackwill: We are talking with the Indian Government about the best way to exactly answer your question is to call it a structural cooperation but since it was only announced a little over a week ago, it is going to take some time. But what we have in mind is bringing to bear the extraordinary information technology and expertise of the Indian (inaudible) along with our own in a joint effort and endeavor to defend our information systems against attacks from terrorists. And as I said before, it could not be more appropriate that it is the United States and India doing this given our extraordinary capacity in this regard.

Question: The lady from the BBC, I mean CNN.

Ambassador Blackwill: Don't make that mistake! (Laughter)

Question: The Taliban is on the run. In the last week and a half we've seen Islamic militants in Kashmir--like just yesterday--saying they were ready for dialogue. Do you think that this, the Taliban's retreat, is going to show a retreat of Islamic militancy?

Ambassador Blackwill: I think that it is probably to soon to know; so I don't want to make a sweeping generalization; but I would say this in a more specific sense: Afghanistan was the training ground of Islamic terrorists, and indeed other terrorists as well, who went around the world killing innocent people. There is no doubt that their capacities have been enormously reduced in that regard through American military action in Afghanistan. But as coalition spokesmen and spokeswomen continue to say: This is really just the beginning of this endeavor. Al Qaida is in fifty or sixty countries. That is why the cooperation of the international community writ large in the coalition is so important. But it will be a signal accomplishment in this war against terrorism when we have destroyed Al Qaida and the Osama bin Laden network in Afghanistan. And surely we will give a very important signal to others that they are not safe anywhere.

Question: Yes from the BBC. Ambassador, could you tell us which of the, militant groups in Kashmir would the United States classify as terrorists and how do you answer the allegation that comes from India that Pakistan is providing sanctuary for some of these groups?

Ambassador Blackwill: I think I'm getting the same question in five different forms, so let me answer it briefly. First of all, we have, as you know, a terrorist list and we have put some of the terrorist organizations that operate in Kashmir on that list. This is a growing list, and you should expect to see other such terrorist organizations on that list. I will confine myself otherwise to simply saying what I said before; and I say this with even greater conviction now having spent time with the President in Washington. The President sees this war on terrorism as global, meaning that no country or terrorist group can be excluded. And he sees it as long term, which means that even when we've stamped out Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden's networks in Afghanistan, it isn't going to be over, by any means. But it is a campaign that we must win.

And I believe that objective analysts would say - not all of them were saying this three weeks ago, maybe not even everybody here was saying it three weeks ago - but I would say that the initial phase of our campaign is going extremely well, both with respect to destroying the Al Qaida network, its training camps, its infrastructure, and strangling its sources of funding. Our law enforcement agencies in dozens of countries are cooperating in arresting people and as you open up your newspapers everyday you see another half dozen arrested someplace or else in the world. So I think the campaign will be long, but it's off for a good start and the coalition will see it through to the end. That will be extremely good for the United States. That will be extremely good for India. And it will be extremely good for the international system as a whole. Thank you very much.

Question: One more question?

Ambassador Blackwill: I thought that was the last question.

Question: From Zee news. An important meeting comes up in Berlin under UN supervision and representing other Afghan sections also. Now Taliban and moderate Taliban elements haven't been invited. What is the United States of America's stand on this especially as Pakistan has been insisting on including moderate Talibanis also?

Ambassador Blackwill: I will confine myself to quoting my dear friend Condoleezza Rice who said over the weekend on a talk show in the United States that the word 'moderate' and 'Taliban' do not go together in the same sentence. Thank you very much.

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