October 26, 2007: Assistant Secretary Boucher's Remarks at
U.S Official Speeches and Interviews
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard A. Boucher's Remarks at Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies Washington, D.C
October 26, 2007
BUREAU OF SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIAN AFFAIRS
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I want to thank Professor Anderson,* to begin with. This is a very important program and I’m sure it’s a source of a lot of the information that we end up using one way or the other either directly, or some of the graduates who come to work for us. I think the series of lectures is a real contribution to the discussion of South Asia.
The fact that they do invite me back I think is not a reflection on me. It’s a reflection on how many things keep happening. I think that’s generally our impression every morning at the staff meeting, is something else happened. It’s frequently bad -- it’s not always bad -- but we’ve got a lot to deal with. I think coming here to reflect at least once a year if not more often is important to me, and I really look forward to hearing your comments and questions as much as I do just a chance to talk to you about how we see things these days.
Since I was invited to talk about South Asia, I’m going to take the liberty of starting off in Kazakhstan. Because –
I actually work in a bureau that’s now South and Central Asia and those of you that study history know this a lot better than I do, you know the Moguls* came from what’s now Uzbekistan, you know the traditional trade routes and exchanges, you know the influences on the view of Islam, the views of society that went back and forth. If you look at it that way, then these last couple of hundred years have been an interruption in what should be a normal interchange in commerce between South and Central Asia.
So what we were looking to do by creating this bureau and by working together is to do that; is to create those, to allow those links to open up again. Now, that didn’t happen because the State Department changed its organizational structure, it happened because of a change on the ground which is the change in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, which for hundreds of years had been a barrier and a block between Central and South Asia is now an open place where transit and commerce and ideas and people and energy can pass.
So, one of our goals in trying to work in Afghanistan is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south. Ideas and goods can flow to the north. People can move back and forth. Intellectual influences can move back and forth. And so that the countries of Central Asia are no longer bottled up between two enormous powers of China and Russia, but rather they have outlets to the south as well as to the north and the east and the west.
I think as we look at this region strategically we are trying to change the outlook, the ways of doing business, the opportunities for every country in the region.
Which brings us to the bridge, the bridge that we opened about two, three weeks ago. Secretary Gutierrez went out and I was able to go with him. We opened a bridge that the U.S. built between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. President Rahmon from Tajikistan was there; President Karzai came up from Afghanistan; and this bridge which admittedly kind of goes from nowhere to nowhere else right now -- [Laughter] -- but it’s right in the middle of this whole idea that there can be a connection there.
There are roads still to be built, but the Japanese are going to build a road that connects to the Dushanbe Highway, that connects to the Chinese road that goes to the ADB* road that’s being built in Kyrgyzstan that connects to the highway that was already built up to Almaty. With the Ring Road in Afghanistan and the other pieces, within two or three years there’s going to be a road from Almaty to Karachi. There’s going to be a chance for people to trade.
The day after we opened the bridge, we were down in Kabul and we talked to the Chambers of Commerce and one of the guys who spoke up said, “I sell fruit and I sell juices and I’m trying to develop the markets in Central Asia, and that’s my bridge. I’m going to use that bridge to develop commerce in Central Asia from Afghanistan.”
So it’s really there, it’s really a potential. The same potential exists for electric lines. A couple of years from now we should have electricity lines coming down from Tajikistan not only to Afghanistan but all the way down into Pakistan to help Pakistan meet some of its energy needs. And making those connections changes the opportunities for every country in the region.
Now the core of all this is to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the parts of Pakistan that are still difficult or ungoverned.
Afghanistan: you can always look at the challenges. We see a lot of reporting, and I’ll be frank to admit the narcotics crop is enormous, the insurgency is still raging, bombs are going off, there’s corruption, and there are a lot of problems there but we’re dealing with them. And when you look back five years to where we started. The first time I went to Afghanistan was in January 2002 with Secretary Powell.* We sat around a table with the new Afghan Cabinet -- President Karzai and his Cabinet. And that was it. That was the Afghan government essentially at that time. These people had no telephones or computers in their ministries, there was no money in the Central Bank vault. There were just a bunch of people who were thinking about how can we do this? How can we build a nation?
Since then we’ve built some 4,000 kilometers of highways including the Ring Road in Afghanistan which brings the country together in a way that it has not been together in a long, long time. We’ve been able to extend health care so that 85 or so percent of the Afghans have health care now, at some level. The estimates are -- the infant mortality rates, the mortality rate for children under five have gone down enormously. The estimates are that there are 50,000 babies every year who are alive because of the work we’ve done over the least five years in the health care system. Fifty thousand babies, that -- that means something to me. That’s what we’ve done. And we’ve done that in a lot of areas. We have six million kids in school versus about 900,000 in the last years of the Taliban. So there’s been a lot of progress.
Everybody in Afghanistan has probably been affected by this progress in one way or the other, but it’s not comprehensive and it doesn’t really accomplish the fundamental task which is going to be extending governance out to the whole countryside. Providing good government and government services to everybody we can in Afghanistan. That’s going to take roads, and we’re building more roads. It’s going to take giving people electricity so they can develop a new economy. Its going to mean training policemen so that people can have safety, extending the court system so they can have justice; and extending the schools and the education, winning over the population and giving them what they have a right to expect from their government which is safety and justice and opportunity and education and health care. That’s a task that continues.
I don’t think we should be surprised at how difficult it is. In the ‘50s and the ‘60s, and the ‘70s Afghanistan was one of the poorest countries in the world. It was always at the bottom of the list on GDP* and per capita GDP. And then it went downhill for 20-25 years. So the enormity, the development task even absent the insurgency has been difficult, and it’s a long term proposition and there is a long term commitment from the United States, not only -- well, for several reasons. One, because we do care about Afghanistan and we always have. The second is because this region has been a source of terrorism and could still be the source of terrorism. Every time a new plot is uncovered there’s some connection to Afghanistan and the Pakistan Afghanistan border areas.
Third of all, because there is this sort of strategic opportunity that we see creating a stable region of really moderate Muslim democracies between Southeast Asia and the Middle East. And eventually that region itself will have an impact on the world if it can be stabilized and it can grow the way it should.
Pakistan is going through an interesting moment right now. That’s probably true almost any day you talk about Pakistan, but it’s a particularly interesting moment right now.
I think there are a lot of questions about how this transition is going to work, but if you look at, again, the big picture on Pakistan over the last several years, I think the big trends in Pakistan, many of them are good. The economy is reformed and growing and you still have a very high rate of economic growth and higher rates of foreign investment going in the education system, the curriculum being reformed and extended by the government. There’s been an explosive growth in the media. Whereas there was one government TV channel eight, nine years ago, there are now -- I thought it was 42, and last week we were there and they told us there were 55 channels and more coming up every day.
So there’s really a modernizing trend in Pakistani society, and overall the population I think is moving in a direction that’s more moderate and more modern. But that said, they still have a lot of problems with the insurgency.
As they go through this democratic transition, this transition from military rule to civilian rule, they’re also facing some real serious threats not only in the tribal areas but in other parts of their society as we saw with the Red Mosque, in Islamabad.*
We’re trying to help them. We’re trying to help them with the immediate threats that they face, and there’s a new -- I guess bin Laden video or recording coming out where he threatens Pakistanis directly, including the Pakistani Government. But we’re also trying to help them with a bigger picture of helping Pakistan succeed as a prosperous economy, succeed with a good education system, succeed in providing its people with energy in different ways.
We just had -- last week -- strategic dialogue with Pakistan where we did talk about education and energy and agriculture and science and technology and the economic program. The United States is supporting that because we want Pakistan as a nation, as a society to be a success because it’s vital to these bigger goals that we have.
The one thread that you’ll hear from me, whether it’s Afghanistan or Pakistan or if we talk about Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, is good governance. Building up good government is really one of the keys to stability and growth. In Afghanistan it’s the key to in the end beating the insurgency and getting control of the poppy.
In Pakistan this problem with terrorism along the border does have something to do with the fact that there were historical arrangements for governing the tribal areas and those arrangements were broken down over the years from the anti-Soviet effort and a lot of other things that have happened since then. So it’s difficult to govern that space. Building good governance and opportunity into those spaces.
Corruption is, unfortunately, endemic in my part of the world, and where you see turmoil, where you see difficulties in many of these places it’s because government hasn’t performed well and government hasn’t delivered. So we put a lot of emphasis on good government: the practices of democracies, the institutions that defend and support democracy like independent judiciaries, anti-corruption commissions, independent election commissions, things like those. And we’ve put a lot of emphasis on the fundamentals of democracy, building the kind of society that can move forward into the modern world with education, with information, with technology, with the rule of law.
There are, despite all the difficulties you face from country to country and region wide, I think there are enormous opportunities in this region. Just about every country has a young population that’s better educated and seeking better education. That in itself sets them up for a different kind of future.
There are economic opportunities that are being developed in some places, not in others. Look at little Bhutan up there in the Himalayas. They’re just opening their first big dam and got the investment selling the power to India. It’s going to triple the GDP of that country, that one dam. They’ve got four more on the way. They’re making a transition to democracy at the same time.
Those kinds of opportunities exist elsewhere in the region, Nepal, for example. Bangladesh, going through a difficult time right now. But looking at cleaning up the system and going back to democratic elections: that in the end is the only long-term path to stability and we’re going to help people with those things. We’re going to help people make those transitions. We’re going to help people build a more solid basis for their societies over the long term, and hopefully we’re going to succeed everywhere, at least in more places than not. I think one of the keys to that is going to be getting Afghanistan and Pakistan right. That’s why we spend a lot of time on that.
Let me also mention India. India is a bit different than some of the other countries because it is a successful democracy. It’s a successful democracy, a successful economy. They’ve done a lot of economic reform that has been very clearly in the benefit of India and they have other things that they want to do and would like to do and have on the agenda.
But I think as we look at India we see a natural partner for the United States. We see a partner in almost every area, whether it’s energy or defense cooperation or education that’s already big and could get even bigger. We have more Indian students in the United States now than from any other country. It’s about I think 76,000 this year, students. We’ve issued more visas in our embassy this year than we ever have before. We hit the record sometime in August. Everything from August to December is going to be extra. So it’s really an exploding relationship that’s based on people. It’s based on the students who go back and forth, the graduates, the businesses that they create, the classmates they keep in touch with, the family ties that go back and forth. And it is different. When people used to move from one country to another, particularly as far away from India as the United States. They really gradually lose touch. They visit once every two or three years, then every five years. They send these flimsy little AirGrams home once a month. Now they’re writing e-mails all the time, doing video conferences, doing business together, going back and forth. That creates a very active relationship and I have to say in many ways the U.S.-India relationship has been led by the people and the technology that they’ve used to develop businesses and opportunities. The governments are sort of still in the process of catching up. But we’re going to push forward on that.
I think as we look to India we look as a partner. Not only a bilateral partner, a partner in things like UN* and UN peacekeeping; a partner in terms of how we look at regional developments; at least both of us know we need to consult a lot with the other so we know what each other are doing. It’s just a natural relationship there.
Those of you who study this U.S.-India relationship know that we’ve had some euphoric periods in the past with the United States and India and they’ve been very productive. The first green revolution in the ‘60s in India was cooperation between the United States and India. That was very productive and had lasting effects, but eventually that feeling was lost, that momentum was lost with the Cold War and other things.
So one of the things that does face us is either figuring out why it’s going to be different this time or figuring out how to make it different this time. I keep coming back to the people. I think if we keep the educational cooperation, the citizens, the travel, the businesses together, that’s what’s going to make it different this time. It’s not just governments who say we have a natural affinity, we have a natural need to cooperate, but it’s people who are finding opportunities beyond the reach of government that really I think builds a much more solid base and a long-term momentum for us with India.
That’s kind of the big view of the region. I’m not going to do it country by country, but we can talk about anything you want to talk about. I’d be glad to take questions, particularly from students.
MODERATOR: The priority will be for student questions.
QUESTION: Ambassador Boucher, thank you so much for coming today. For those of us who are in the South Asia program, I can’t thank you enough for being here today. We very much appreciate your time.
My question is going to focus first on India, if you don’t mind, and in particular India’s long-established ties with Iran. Can you comment a little bit about that, and also Iran’s influence in the region other than India as well, specifically Pakistan and Afghanistan? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I was just trying to review our established press guidance, what we’re supposed to say when we’re asked the India-Iran question. [Laughter]. You said long-established ties. We actually try to be a little bit intellectual in this and say the ties go back to the Mogul dynasties, which is probably true and certainly the Persian influence over the years of history is seen in a lot of places.
But if we jump quickly to the modern day, I think we understand India is going to have ties with Iran. All the countries in the region or neighborhood are going to have ties with Iran. What we’re hoping is that those ties can be sort of normal and not undermine one or the other’s policy, not result in consequences that none of us want to see.
Iran’s behavior in the region is often a very serious concern to us. We obviously have problems with Iran on the Western side in terms of support for Hezbollah, support for other violent groups that are trying to undermine the peace process. And we have problems with Iran itself developing nuclear weapons which nobody in the neighborhood wants to see, and India actually has made clear its policy on that and is acting on it, when it came down to it. But there’s going to be some sort of normal relationship with Iran for all the countries in the region, and that is to be expected.
I think where you see the concerns raised is over the military relationship, and particularly in our Congress as they consider the nuclear deal. This is an issue that’s going to be discussed and debated and understood.
I think, frankly, there’s often less there than is sometimes announced or complained about. We’ve seen a certain number of exchanges; we’ve seen cadet visits and things like that. I wouldn’t say we’ve seen anything that we consider significant in a military sense or in a strategic sense. But the fact is those ties are going to get very close scrutiny. I think all we’re saying is on both sides as we talk about this issue, as we try to understand this issue and whether it has any ramifications or not, that we try to do that on a basis of fact.
We are more concerned I think now about Iran’s behavior in Afghanistan. Iran was -- has been a supporter of the Bonne process that created the new Afghan government, that led to the elections where record numbers, enormous numbers of Afghans were able to turn out and vote and decide their government. But then we’ve also seen from Iran trying to build their political influence with particular factions and ties and elements and individuals. It’s not what any foreigner should be doing. We should be supporting the system and the development of a new system, and not financing individuals and parties.
We’ve seen, I think, some attempts to expand their religious influence in certain communities. And we’ve seen the appearance of Iranian weapons going to the Taliban. People say how can they do all these things at once? How can they support the legitimate government with the Bonne process, support and work with opposition politicians, and send weapons to the Taliban? That’s a question for Iran scholars to answer better than me, but it just seems to me they’re kind of – kind of hedging their bets and causing trouble. That’s not a good thing for any of us. So we are concerned about Iran’s behavior in the neighborhood, particularly when it comes to Afghanistan. But balance that with the expectations that most countries in the region are going to have some kind of relationship with Iran and it should be kind of a normal one and not anything that undermines our goals or their own goals in the region.
QUESTION: I have been specifically focusing recently on human rights issues, and in terms of South Asia I’ve been attending to Sri Lanka issues recently. As you’re well aware, human rights watchdogs including Human Rights Watch recently issued a 128 page report and it just documented the continual deterioration and escalation of the problems in that country.
One of the co-authors to that report writes, “In response to this downward spiral foreign governments haven’t done much. Sri Lanka has little strategic or economic importance to most countries. Foreign governments mostly limited their criticism to private messages and minor aid cuts. While in private these governments have raised concerns about human rights abuses with President Rajapaksa they have not exerted concerted pressure to make the abuses stop.”
My question is how are we addressing it and how more can we address it? Because --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Okay. I do appreciate the question and I have to say that’s not what they said about me when I went out there and started criticizing these things and they complained about public pressure more than anything else.
Sri Lanka -- first of all, we do care about Sri Lanka. We’ve been involved for many, many years in the co-chair process. We’ve been involved in trying to get a peace process going there. We’ve had a very good relationship over the years with the government because it is a democratic government. Different governments have come and gone democratically through a political process and we’ve worked with them. It does matter to us because it’s a democratic government that’s fighting a terrorist group. That fundamentally is, I think, where we start. But that has implications. The implications for the government are you are a democratic government and you have to demonstrate that you respect and uphold democratic principles including respect for human rights.
There have been a lot of bad things that have happened in Sri Lanka. We have seen, on the side of the Tamil Tigers, summary justice. We’ve seen bombings of civilians. We’ve seen recruitment of child soldiers that has continued. All this is documented as well.
On the government side we’ve seen abuses by people in the government security services or often people associated with the government security services. What I really put the spotlight on when I was there in May, I think it was, was these paramilitary groups -- the Karuna faction* in the east and some of the people in the north in the Jaffna Peninsula. A lot of the complaints, if you listen carefully to what people are seeing and what’s going on, are about the sort of nefarious paramilitary groups believed to be operating with some connivance in the security services. So we’ve put a lot of effort into pushing on that and trying to get the government to change its behavior.
We have limited our ties with Sri Lanka in some areas, in some of the military things that we wouldn’t do with them -- that we don’t do with them because of these situations, because of the abuses that have occurred and haven’t been properly investigated. We’ve set up an international monitoring group, a group of eminent persons that’s been trying to monitor their Sri Lankan investigation which unfortunately hasn’t gone very far, but that’s another sort of pressure on the government.
The third thing is that there are consequences to these actions. There are consequences to the situation there. The government, I think, is starting to feel them, frankly, because we have seen tourism drop, we’ve seen (inaudible), canceled flights. We have suspended a program that was going to be a very big program under the Millennium Challenge program because we felt the situation was changing in a way that made it hard to carry out that program there. So there have been consequences to these actions that the government has taken. Things have been suspended, they’ve felt some effects.
At moments we get a little bit hopeful to see some change in the situation, and I’d say there has been a little bit of improvement over the last six months, but it’s been really marginal. The big problems are still there: killings that haven’t been resolved, activities of the paramilitary groups, and just a general climate of excess and abuse when it comes to the operations of a lot of the security forces.
So we’re very careful in our relationship. We do have limits on it. They’ve lost out on some things. And the pressure is going to continue and it’s going to continue in a variety of fora from not just us but other people in the international forum. Not because we’re against the government, but because we’re in favor of the government upholding its democratic principles.
The only way to really say that you’re a democratic government is to uphold those principles. And you’ve seen the government achieve some military successes, but frankly it doesn’t do a whole lot of good unless you can bring the benefits of democratic government to the people in those areas and use these military victories -- you might say politically -- to not only encroach militarily on the terrorist group, on the Tamil Tigers, but to encroach politically on them as well. To do that the government has to uphold human rights.
QUESTION: You had mentioned good governance to bring stability into the region and I was saying that I couldn’t agree with you more because I’m from Pakistan. We are excited to hear about the October 6th date. But a few months ago you had said that holding free and fair elections in Pakistan is a bigger issue than President General Musharraf’s uniform, and that we should have elections sooner than, you know, rather than how soon Musharraf should be a civilian President.
There have been some reports in the Pakistani press of U.S. official meetings, and U.S. meetings in Dubai with Benazir Bhutto and a possible deal with General Musharraf and Bhutto. I was wondering if you could comment on that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: No.
Let me answer a little bit; as much as I can.
This transition in Pakistan is really important. We want it to be smooth and we want it to be successful and we want it to result in sort of a continuation of the success that Pakistan is having and has had over the last few years. But it has to result in a more stable and democratic system. I think everybody realizes that it’s time for that. So we’ve tried to encourage that in a lot of ways: supporting the election commission, dealing and meeting with really all the major political groups. I’ve done that, and I’ve met with people from all the major political parties and have talked to them about what’s it going to take to have a free and fair election, what’s it going to take to get a stable political center afterwards? We would like to see a more stable political base for Pakistan to move forward.
So we’ve had those meetings. What we find out in meeting with politicians from any party -- and frankly you’d find this out when you go to Congress here as well -- politicians don’t think like diplomats. We can encourage people to sort of move smoothly through the transition, to do everything we can and they can to ensure the elections are open and free and fair, and to sort of strengthen the moderate center. They make their calculations according to their political interests and their political likes. So that’s what’s going to happen. In the end whether they’re going to do that or not, whether they’re going to cut deals with each other or form coalitions, make arrangements, is really up to them. They’re going to decide. We’re observers when it comes to that. We can say wouldn’t it be nice, but in the end I think what they’re going to do is what they’re going to do and they’re going to have to figure it out for themselves. But at least we’re there with a general idea that it would be nice if they could form, you know, a concerted, more mainstream sort of center in Pakistani politics.
For those who don’t follow it as closely as you probably do, the election October 6th is the election of the President by the assemblies in Pakistan. The President is elected indirectly. And then, the expectation is -- well, the necessity is that the assemblies then expire soon afterwards and there would be a general election for the parliaments a couple of months after that. That’s where all the political parties will be competing and as we’ve said, we want to see that transition and we want to see it to be a fair election so in the end it’s about the people of Pakistan. It’s getting voters’ wishes and finding out what they want and respecting the choices they make.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for coming here. I’m from Nepal and my question relates to Nepal, of course. How exactly is the United States viewing the recent developments in Nepal given the fact that the November polls look increasingly threatened because of the constant Maoist threats to walk out of government, which they almost did yesterday? Is it true that the United States views its Nepal policy primarily through India’s lenses? What is going to be the case if the elections are not held in November? What is the U.S.’ policy towards the Maoists going to be? I mean, because you have sort of supported them coming to government but have not delisted them from the terrorism list. Would you please lay that out more clearly?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Yeah, thank you.. I mean, it’s sort of reflected in the Pakistan question, too. It’s funny. We’re in a world of democracies and whether countries are democratic now or not, we’re often dealing with political factors and political parties and political actors in these places. I think as you all study diplomacy and agreements and covenants and deals cut in the back room, it’s not that way any more. We’re often dealing with very complicated situations where we have some influence but we don’t – we can’t -- it’s not just diplomacy any more. We’re trying to influence a situation in a more positive and stable direction. That applies to Nepal.
Let’s face it, it’s a good thing that the Maoists have started to engage in this UN peace process, that many of them have gone in for the resettlement process and they’ve given up or put their weapons in lock boxes, and that the Maoists have at least said they’re going to convert from an insurgency to a political party. When they’ve done that we’ll deal with them as a political party, but I don’t think they’re quite there yet.
So I don’t see any contradiction in this interim phase of sort of saying we’re glad they’re cooperating and working within the political system, but no, we’re not ready to take them off our various lists of terrorist groups and treat them like an insurgency. They need to give up the gun. They need to give up the extortion. They need to give up the militant youth groups that have sort of extended their power and tried to intimidate people in the countryside. And government, legitimate government needs to get back out throughout the country so that they can have police stations and regular political party activity in all the towns and the villages in parts of Nepal and the Maoists can’t be allowed to block that.
But we do -- whether they’re participating in a particular government as a political party is really a matter for the politicians and the political parties to work out, so they’ve gotten to this moment in Nepal when the Maoists have said we don’t want to be part of this government any more. So that’s really something that’s going to have to work itself out politically.
The second part of it: do they stay in parliament. Well, I guess participation in the political process, participation in parliament is pretty fundamental to that, so one would hope they would keep that role. But these arrangements that exist now are not the result of an open election where everybody’s there because they were voted on and elected. So we do think it’s essential, particularly when you get to very fundamental things like rewriting the constitution and deciding the role of the monarchy and things like that.
It is fundamental to consult the people, consult the voters and give them a chance. So we’re glad to see the elections scheduled for late November, and we think it’s very, very important that everybody respect that and that everybody go through that polling process, that everybody respect the choice of the voters. So trying to crash this election is trying to crash the whole process. It’s declaring yourself an opponent to the democratic political process. We can’t abide that. So I hope they won’t go that far. At the moment it’s sort of a political dispute between the parties and the government and let’s hope they work that out, but everybody needs to stick with the plan, whether it’s the Maoists or anybody else, to go to the elections, get the opinions of the voters, settle some of the constitutional things, and then there will have to be a new election under the new constitution, so this will go on for a while, we hope continuing in a positive direction.
If you look back a year or two, it has gone in a positive direction. The level of violence is down; the Maoists have come in to the government and put away a lot of their weapons, so the overall trends are positive. We hope they are really maintained through this election period.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. My question also is about Pakistan. I was wondering how can the U.S. encourage Pakistan to liberalize its political structure while curbing the rise of Islamist influence in its state and society?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Good question. It’s pretty fundamental because obviously we consider Pakistan a very important partner in the fight against terrorism. When it comes down to it no country has arrested or eliminated more al-Qaida and other terrorists than Pakistan and no one’s done it with greater… you know, no one’s lost more people and sacrificed more people in the army and police in doing that. So Pakistan is a very key ally with us in the fight against terror.
We want to see continuity in that. We want to see continuity in terms of Pakistan being better able to continue that fight for the long term. Continue it not just in the military dimension but you might say the economic and political and social dimension, meaning that parts of the country that are outside of the economy need to be brought in, so we have programs to develop the tribal areas. We have legislation that’s going to go to Congress very soon that will allow border areas of Pakistan to produce things and export duty-free to the United States. We want to see those people brought into the economy and given the opportunity that people elsewhere in the country have.
Part of this I think is just our general judgment, and the judgment I have to say of many in Pakistan, that long term stability in Pakistan requires at this moment a return to democracy and that a democratic government is better able to continue the fight against terrorism, particularly a democratic government that kind of comes together at the center of the political spectrum is better able to continue the fight against terrorism at this moment.
In this whole region, and particularly when I come to my Central Asian countries, we talk a lot about democracy and many people sort of give you the “democracy is chaos” theory. I have to say, having thought about it and worked on it the only thing I can say is to me democracy is the best course for long term stability and the best platform to modernize a country and deal with these problems of extremism that exist. Therefore I don’t see the two as contradictory. I see them as complementary. Making a successful democratic transition will strengthen Pakistan’s ability to deal with extremism and terrorism in its society.
QUESTION: My question is the Kashmir issue has remained unsolved for the last six decades, so what is the U.S. official stance on resolving the Kashmir issue? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Our official stance is that it should be resolved. [Laughter]. We will maintain that position no matter what.
I think it’s the UN’s longest peacekeeping operation. I think everybody would like to see it resolved. We’re all aware of the fact that this has been a great source of tension over the years between India and Pakistan, and frankly, it’s been the source of confrontation recently, even going back to 2002, the bombing at the Indian parliament and the confrontation that ensued after that when Kashmir was a factor in all this.
So rather than just say it’s not an issue right now, we think this would be the best time for them to find a way to resolve this. They’ve had a very productive process between India and Pakistan over the last few years. The statesmen on both sides, the leaders on both sides frankly have moved this forward and had a lot of discussions, gone into great detail, I think probably moved farther in terms of some of the confidence building measures and the other discussions than they ever have before. So we encourage that now.
That said, we’re not directly involved, we’re not in the middle, we’re not going to jump in with both feet and say hi guys, here we are to help you solve this, partly because they are doing pretty well on their own, and partly because they don’t want us to jump in that way.
When I’ve had discussions with officials both in India and in Pakistan I’ve said what can we do to help? We’re interested in seeing this resolved. What can we do to help? And they both sort of said, you can nudge us. So we’ve become a nudge, officially. We nudge them and we encourage them and we ask questions and we look into it. But they’ve been carrying the ball forward. I think it’s a credit to leaders on both sides and we hope they keep carrying it until they achieve something together. So we’ll nudge, but they’re doing it, not us.
QUESTION: You’ve spoken a lot about the desire to see the emergence of a moderate center over the long term in Pakistani politics. I wanted to ask where you thought the religious parties in Pakistan fit into that framework. Over the long term, what do you see as being America’s concerns about their participation in politics, and are there any positive aspects you see to their participation in politics when it comes to Pakistan’s future?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We certainly think religious parties have a place in the political spectrum in all countries, including in Pakistan. You see them -- frankly you see them dotted around Europe as well as around different parts of South Asia -- parties that are trying to build a modern society, a democratic system, trying to give people prosperity and justice and basic government services deserve to participate. People who are violently opposed to the constitutional system of a country don’t necessarily belong in the political system as well. You have to deal with them differently. But in the end, you know, to have moderate political parties that are based on people of faith should be no surprise and should be welcomed in every system.
The Islamic parties in Pakistan have formed a group, the MMA. They’re an alliance. There’s a lot of speculation about what might happen to that alliance under different political scenarios because they do have different views among different parties. But yeah, we do think that Islamist parties have a role to play in these political systems and they’ll get the votes that they get. What their role is in future governments, what their political power is in future governments will be based on what the voters decide.
If the voters want them in power, as long as they’re upholding the constitution and non-violence, I think we’d be glad to see that and are glad to work with them. But it’s up to the voters to decide and I have to say that some of the polling indicates they might not have as many seats in future parliaments as they have now. But that’s, again, that’s not a matter of polls, that’s a matter of voting. It will be the voters who decide.
QUESTION: Hi, Ambassador, thanks again for coming today. My question is about the U.S.-India alliance, or emerging alliance. I want to focus eastward. I’m curious what role the United States sees for India in managing the rise of China and perhaps dealing with other democracies in East Asia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I’ve spent a lot of my time working on China in my career. I mean, I really started out in Taiwan and China in the late ‘70s so I’ve been immersed in China stuff longer than I’ve been immersed in India. This question is always the one that kind of perplexes me, more on the economic side about how they’ve done differently and better in some areas than others on the economic side.
When you talk about managing the rise of China, I don’t think that’s necessarily something that -- I mean, India’s obviously a factor because India’s emerging at the same time that China is emerging. And you have to deal with both of them. I kind of see this as almost a marketing question. You don’t ignore a billion customers. In foreign policy you don’t ignore a billion people. So we don’t pick. We can have a good relationship with China, a good relationship with India, and India can have a good relationship with China and China with India. So, I think it’s really trying to work with both of them in the areas where they really have capability, contributions, interests, and making sure that we do that in as smooth a manner as possible.
There are some natural areas of economic competition between the two. There’s not really that much geographic competition between the two. I think they manage to resolve a lot of their foreign policy issues, border issues, fairly successfully themselves.
So as I see it, it’s maintaining the best possible relationship with both billions. And when you do look at India and India’s… I think… contribution to the global economy, contribution to global peacekeeping, really contribution by way of example and perhaps even expertise to the growth of democracy around the world, I think the Indian relationship has an enormous importance to us and India has an enormous amount to contribute. Because the systems of government, the societies, the economic systems, the people, the educational backgrounds between the U.S. and India are very, very compatible, I think we have an enormous potential in that area.
So I guess my job is to develop everything we can with India, see how far we can go, how far we can get to. I’ve worked before on developing what we can with China as well. But in the long run we need to have good relations with both. We need to have solid relationships with both, and we need each country -- frankly, whether it’s Bhutan or India or China -- to make its own contribution to the international system and to the stability of these regions, and in the end to the prosperity of its people.
QUESTION: There has been a lot of work that’s gone into the nuclear deal with India, and a lot of concessions have been made by the U.S., but yet I think it’s still in danger of not going through on the India side. I jus wondered if you could handicap what may happen and also what will happen if it doesn’t go through because of all the work that’s gone in on our part?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: If I could handicap what will happen I could probably make a lot more money in betting parlors than I would as a diplomat. [Laughter].
I don’t think I’m going to take that part of the question, but let’s talk about the status of the India agreement. A lot of work has been done. A lot of work has been done on both sides and we’ve gone through some tough moments and some difficult negotiations and we solved a lot of very difficult problems. We did that when we got the first breakthrough to say we were going to do this. We did that when we got the second breakthrough, when the President went to India in March of 2006. We were able to talk to the Indians about how they were going to separate their military programs from their civilian programs so that we would have a clearly identified civilian sector that we could work with. And we did that over the course of the last year or so in negotiating the bilateral agreement between the U.S. and India, and there were a lot of tough things done there. I think both sides tried to reach agreement.
We had to meet and we did meet all the standards of U.S. law for bilateral nuclear agreements. We recognized in the agreement that we wanted to have the broadest possible full nuclear cooperation with India in the civilian sector. So we were able to craft an agreement that met their needs for politically and economically for energy along with meeting our needs for strengthening non-proliferation with this agreement or bringing India into the international non-proliferation effort, and also our legal requirements. So we think we got a good agreement for both of us.
Back to the question, before. India is a democracy. In many ways, there’s a lot of similarities. One of the things we’ve got to understand -- we have to understand is that democracies have debates and they have discussions and they have political systems, and just as we’ve gone through a lot of debate and discussion with our Congress and we’ll have to do some more before this is finally done, they have to do it with their parliament as well, and they’re going through a political discussion right now on the pros and cons to India of this agreement. They’re going to have to work through that. We hope it happens sooner rather than later. We do think the whole timetable of moving this forward: the faster we can do it the better. Three or four major steps left, but we’ve come a long way; put a lot of work into it because fundamentally this is a good deal. This is a good deal for India, it’s a good deal for India’s economic growth, it’s a good deal for India’s environment, it’s a good deal for the non-proliferation regime around the world bringing India closer into alignment, and it’s a good deal for the United States and for India.
So I think as they go through their debate they will reach that conclusion and proceed down this road, just as we have gone through our debates. We reached that conclusion and got, frankly, overwhelming support, very strong support from both houses of Congress for the deal. Okay?
QUESTION: First, thank you for making your remarks today. I wanted to ask you a little bit move about U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation and the future of the 123 Agreement* which I think has already been addressed a little bit. And two related questions. First, if you could just comment a little bit on the domestic debate in India, and particularly the position of the left parties and the significance of that; and secondly, a question related more to the future of the 123 Agreement. If you could say a little bit about how you expect the implementation of IAEA safeguards at Indian facilities, how that will go and any challenges involved.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: You’re really trying to get me in trouble, aren’t you?
The debate within the Indian parliament, between the Indian political parties, is one that probably proceeds best without the involvement of outsiders and without comment from the American Assistant Secretary of State.
The deal’s the deal. It’s pretty clear we’ve been very public and transparent about how this was done, about the understandings that have been reached. The text of the agreement is out in public and each of us is consulting and discussing with our parliament, but I think they’re going to have to work through the politics of this in India. That probably doesn’t benefit from any kind of assistance I could consider giving or any comment I might make. I think we’re just going to see how it plays out.
But we have that fundamental confidence that this is in the interest of India and in the interest of the United States and it’s been carefully negotiated to meet our needs and their needs. We have to believe, and I think -- I will predict that they’ll work their way through this and continue towards implementation.
There are a lot of different pieces that make this whole arrangement. There were the U.S.-India pieces, there’s the piece that India has to negotiate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, there’s the approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the group of countries around the world that try to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty and regulate the trade of nuclear materials and equipment. And so we have to go through each of those hurdles. Then we ourselves have to go back to the U.S. Congress.
So there are a few more hurdles down the road and one of the key ones is India negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency to get a safeguards agreement that would apply to their power plants because we will only supply materials to safeguarded facilities. That’s true of all the suppliers.
But I think it’s important to remember India already has safeguards arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency on a number of its civilian/nuclear facilities. So there are examples and models there. As we look to see how they negotiate I’m sure those examples and models will be important.
So we don’t think it’s an enormously difficult negotiation for them, but they’re going to have to work that out with the International Atomic Energy Agency. But that’s just one of the several steps left as we go forward. Eventually, remember, the whole goal here is so that Indian kids can turn on the lights so they can do their homework. We’re still a ways away from that and the sooner we move down this road and get there, the sooner they’re going to be able to turn on the lights and do their homework.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I think we’ve kept you – actually, beyond the hour.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Thank you all. Thanks for coming.
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