U.S.-India Strategic Partnership
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Assistant Secretary Blake: Rick, first of all I want to thank you and all your colleagues here at CSIS for hosting me. For those of you who don’t know, we’ve had a really wonderful partnership with Rick, the Wadhwani Chair, and all of his colleagues here where CSIS has really been a terrific incubator of ideas for us and it’s been really good. So there have been a whole series of policy studies on our economic relations, on defense, on many many other things, the most recent one being the Indo-ASEAN ties. Those have been really helpful and have actually, many of those ideas are incorporated in the various policies that we’re now pursuing. So it’s been really terrific and I want to thank you.
I also want to thank Rick and Persis for mentioning the Joint Statement. That means at least two people have read the Joint Statement, and that’s always a good thing. We struggle with the fact that these Joint Statements, when you actually send them around for interagency clearance, of course everybody wants to pile on and talk about all the things that they’ve done.
So the most recent one that we were trying to get clearance on, at one point I think it was 11 pages and we decided we had to cut it because there was just too much going on in our relations, which is a good thing.
What I thought I’d do today is just give you a little bit of an introduction, then talk a little bit about some of the things we’ve been working on for the last four years, and then conclude with what I think are going to be kind of the focus areas for this year’s dialogue, and then of course we’re glad to take any questions you’ve got.
I have John Fennerty here. Many of you know our very able Director for Indian Affairs as well.
First, just to say what Rick said, this is going to be our fourth round of the Strategic Dialogue and the very first for Secretary Kerry, but Secretary Kerry is certainly no stranger to India. He has had a very long background with India. He likes to tell everybody that he first visited India about 20 years ago, led one of the first congressional trade delegations to India. So I think he has a very long history there.
He of course was also the leader on the Senate Floor for the civil nuclear deal, and very very active and we appreciated so much his leadership on that. And of course he attended the first state dinner that we’ve had, and we’d been closely coordinating with Secretary Kerry before he became Secretary. And now, of course, he’s been extremely engaged leading up to this dialogue.
The Secretary will be leading a very important and senior and wide-ranging whole of government delegation to the Strategic Dialogue. We have Secretary of Energy Moniz who will be joining us. We have the Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Rand Beers who will be joining us. The PACOM Commander, Admiral Locklear. The NASA Administrator, the Science and Technology Advisor to the President, and many many other very senior people on this delegation. So I think it’s again, a testament to the excitement that a lot of people feel about our relations and the opportunities that everybody sees to further develop our relations. So that’s a good sign for the next four years for our relations with India.
Let me just briefly touch on some of the things that we’ve been working on for the last four years and that will help set up where we want to take it next.
Rick started with the economic side of that. Obviously that is always the most important. We’ve been happy to see that there’s been quite substantial growth in our trade relations over the last four years. You all know that bilateral trade has grown roughly five times in the last ten years, and is now crossing the $100 billion mark. Likewise, investment has grown in both directions. U.S. investment is about $25 billion now into India. And interestingly now, India is one of our fastest growing investors into the United States. Again, that figure I think is touching about $5 billion as well. That’s again, a very good sign of the balance in our economic relations and I think if anything there’s very strong head room to see much more in both directions because of the young Indian market. And obviously its economy is still growing reasonably fast and is projected to pick up growth and is going to be one of the third or fourth largest economies in the next 10 or 15 years. So obviously a hugely important market for all of our companies. And I’ll come back this as we look ahead.
I think a second area of really important growth has been in the energy area, particularly in the clean energy side where President Obama and former Secretary Clinton I think devoted a lot of energy and certainly our Department of Energy has been a real leader on this. As a result of their efforts, I think there’s been tremendous growth on this side of it.
OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, for example, has committed over $500 million now and mobilized an additional $450 million in private sector capital in India’s clean energy sector. EXIM Bank, likewise, has a very large portfolio, the second largest globally in the world. And a lot of the new growth has been in the clean energy sector. So obviously we want to do everything we can to sustain that growth.
A third focus, of course, has been on counter-terrorism and homeland security. Obviously we want to do everything we can to protect our citizens on both sides of this relationship. We established in the last four years the Homeland Security Dialogue that last met in May when Home Minister Shinde was here to meet with Secretary Napolitano. Again, I think there’s been extensive cooperation on that that has combined with the extensive training programs that the State Department, the FBI and others undertake with their Indian counterparts. There’s been a lot of very good coordination and cooperation on things like legacy policing, critical infrastructure protection, global supply chain security, and of course countering [illicit] finance. Again, we’re very happy that Deputy Secretary Beers will be joining this delegation.
Likewise I just want to touch on cyber security which we attach a great deal of importance to. We’ve had, again, several whole of government cyber security consultations and I think that this will continue to be a very very high priority as we go forward on that.
A fourth area of quite substantial growth has been on the defense side. All of you know already that we are India’s largest bilateral defense partner and so there’s been a very successful exercise program but I think that the real area of growth has been on the defense sales side which went from practically zero up to almost $9 billion just in the last two or three years and made it mostly by the very large C-17s and C-130J sales as well as now the maritime patrol aircraft, the first of which has recently been delivered. We have a number of other contracts that are very close to being concluded as well. Again, I think there’s been some good growth, and I’ll talk later about where we want to take that next.
I think the other kind of thing that I’d just like to mention in terms of kind of achievements has been, from my perspective, a really quite striking growth in the strategic convergence between the United States and India. And that’s where we have all of these bilateral dialogues. And in addition to my own regional consultations with my counterparts in India, Under Secretary Sherman and Deputy Secretary Bill Burns have had extensive consultations over the years. We have the U.S.-India-Japan trilateral, the U.S.-India-Afghanistan trilateral. I think all of these collectively have really enabled us to have an extremely good dialogue on things that previously were very difficult issues for us. Things like Afghanistan, Iran, Burma, Middle East, where oftentimes these were actually areas of quite sharp differences. Now I think we have, again, a remarkable degree of convergence which has been very welcome to see.
Obviously we don’t always agree on everything, but I think we now have a degree of trust where we can easily work through differences as they do emerge. And certainly there will be some challenges and I’ll be glad to talk about those later.
Let me just briefly talk a little bit about the areas of focus for the Strategic Dialogue.
First and foremost will be, from our perspective, the economic and trade piece of this. As Rick mentioned, there has been a lot of concern on the part of the American business community about what they see as growing obstacles to trade and investment. We’ve heard from the U.S.-India Business Council, we’ve heard from both the House and the Senate on a bipartisan basis about their concerns on this. Again, those are all well known. Most of those have been made public. But you’re all familiar with some of the challenges that have been identified. Intellectual property protection, some of the local content restrictions that exist now. Continued restrictions on foreign direct investment in different sectors. So I think this is certainly going to be a focus. Both of our countries obviously want to do more to try to seize the opportunities that lie ahead and to continue and sustain the growth that has taken place both on the trade and investment side.
One of the goals is to reinvigorate the Bilateral Investment Treaty talks. As many of you know India has had its own ongoing review, internal review, so we’d like to get the next round of those [talks] going and obviously conclude those as soon as possible.
Likewise, we want to try and reinvigorate the Trade Policy Forum which is headed by the U.S. Trade Representative. As you know, Mike Froman has had his hearings but has not yet actually been approved by the Senate, but he’s somebody who has long experience with India, so I’m very excited to have him, Senate permitting, be part of the team. I think he’ll be a terrific leader on this.
Then of course we want to continue to make progress on the civil nuclear side. So I think that will also be a topic of discussion on the economic side for the talks.
A second area I think where we want to really drill down and do as much as we can is to sustain progress on innovation. The Secretary will have a public event during the Strategic Dialogue where he and Secretary Moniz and their Indian counterparts will highlight some of the really interesting progress that our two nations have made. A lot of these have been with public/private partnerships of one sort or another. I’ll mention both the BS&T progress that we’ve been making, but also the very important Millennium Alliance that many of you are familiar with that USAID set up as a public/private partnership with [PIKI] and others. There will be some announcements about that, about some of the initial projects that will receive funding. So we’re very very excited about that. Again, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz will tour an exhibit of some of the really interesting new areas of technological development, kind of the outcomes from some of this financing that has taken place.
A third area I think that will be very very important will be higher education. We’ve already started this dialogue, but I think we’re now getting down to specifics. You all are familiar with the premise, which is that India wants to try to train and education, higher education, 500 million young Indians in the next eight to ten years, and that’s obviously a major challenge. I think they are quite interested in our community college model, so the higher ed will have a dialogue on that. We’re also obviously committed to sustaining the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative that has supported a range of partnerships between our higher education institutions, and we’ll be announcing the next round of awards on that.
The Fulbright Nehru Program of course has also been a major program for exchanges. We have, as you know, one of the largest, in fact the largest Fulbright program in the world in India signifying I think that there are tremendous opportunities that we feel we have to do more on the exchange front and on the research and development front.
Fourth, I think climate will be a very important area of discussion. Secretary Kerry has I think really put his stamp on this issue right from the beginning of the administration. President Obama, of course, mentioned this in his inaugural speech for the second term. So climate change is now a global priority for our foreign policy. I think what we want to do is try to, first of all, to sustain the very positive bilateral cooperation that we have both on clean energy and climate change, and also see how we can better work together on the multilateral front as well, so I think that will be an important topic of conversation.
Fifth will be on the defense side where we now I think believe that we’re positioned, both sides, to take the defense trade relationship to the next level. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, with close cooperation from the State Department and others, has been leading this Defense Trade Initiative, and I think we’re now, again, getting down to quite specific areas where hopefully in the next six months or so we’ll be able to start announcing specific ventures that we can co-produce together. So I think, again, we’re excited about those opportunities and that’s certainly going to be a subject of the discussions on Monday.
Last but not least, of course, will be all the very very important regional issues. Obviously Afghanistan will be very high on the list, both because of some of the internal things that are going on in Afghanistan, but just as importantly, the very important role that India is playing on the regional front, to help with the New Silk Road regional economic vision. India really lies at the heart of that and has been such an important leader in advocating for that whole process and working through the Istanbul process to help the Chambers of Commerce work more closely together, as the end point of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline, and in so many other areas. So that of course will be, again, a very important discussion.
Likewise, the Secretary’s going to reaffirm the important goal of India and the American rebalance in Asia. I think you can anticipate there will be a discussion about some of the regional economic integration opportunities to the east as well. Some of the very good work that’s been done on Bangladesh, in Myanmar and elsewhere to kind of help move that process along.
Lastly, I’m sure the two leaders will want to talk about opportunities for further progress between India and Pakistan now that Nawaz Sharif has been elected. So I think that too will be a subject of a lot of discussion and again, we see some quite important opportunities there.
I think I’ve probably already talked longer than I was supposed to. Let me stop there and I’d be glad to just open it up to questions or whatever comments, suggestions that any of you have.
Voice: My name is [Assam Shal] from Business Times.
Both in India and the U.S. there is a tremendous expectation for this dialogue. As we’ve seen from the American point of view the business aspect is more important than [security] although [inaudible]. And especially my question is regarding the difference in the civil nuclear business because USA is far behind in getting that India’s business has [coupled] to other countries. So what are your expectations? India is expecting something to develop in the nuclear [inaudible] issue and there are some other concerns also like [hydroelectricity]. Two or three [inaudible] America is business, so we want to see how much is business, what [securities]. That’s what my, discuss [inaudible] among the CEOs [inaudible]. We want to have jobs created in America because the economy will be improved, and we look forward to this relation with optimism. Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you very much. That’s an important question and it’s an important priority as well. As you say, some other countries have already begun to reap some benefits from the civil nuclear deal and we of course want to make sure that our companies also benefit from this. I think in particular Westinghouse has been engaged in quite intensive consultations with NPCI, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, on the very important early works agreements that all of you are familiar with. So we’ve been strongly supporting those talks. I don’t want to get out ahead of what might be discussed on Monday, but just to say that that is a very high priority, and we want to particularly support Westinghouse right now.
As you know, Westinghouse is a little bit further along than some of the other companies, particularly General Electric. General Electric’s reactor design has not yet been approved by our own NRC, so that’s a little bit slower track. But the Westinghouse one is a very high priority. Again I think we’ll have some things to say at the conclusion of the dialogue.
Voice: Thank you very much. I’m [Husil Yu] from [inaudible]. I’m a business fellow at [CSIS].
I have a question about India-U.S. strategic partnership. Because the United States has recently [inaudible] for almost [two] years, but I ask many experts about it. All of them agree that the United States and India have not formed formally a strategic partnership. So I would like to know when do you form the strategic partnership and what is the criteria for the strategic partnership? Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Blake: I don’t think there’s any formal criteria for strategic partnerships. We have several strategic partnerships around the world, but I think that the main criteria is who are those countries that we feel are going to be our most important partners globally and regionally and certainly bilaterally with whom we should be discussing in a strategic manner how we can improve our relations. And certainly India is a very important, one of the highest and most important priorities in that regard.
As you know, President Obama has said repeatedly that this is going to be one of the defining partnerships of the United States in the 21st Century. That’s because of the strategic convergence that I talked about. The growing work that we are doing across a vast range of areas, not just regionally and bilaterally, but even globally on things like nonproliferation, like climate change, like food security, and working together in Afghanistan.
If I had to make a prediction I would say if anything that’s going to continue to grow in scope and so that’s why it’s so important to have these dialogues and I think the SD, as we call it, really has given some direction to a lot of our efforts over the last few years and that’s been quite helpful. We’ve always had this very large number of dialogues that take place, so it’s very important to have that overarching super structure to give some guidance to all these dialogues and that’s exactly what we’re doing, and that’s exactly why this particular one is quite important, because this will be the first, for us, of the new second term of the administration to, again, give some overall direction.
Moderator: We have the Strategic Dialogue bilateral, but we also have trilateral dialogues, including a strategic dialogue with the U.S., India and Japan. Do you think that the forecast for 2013 or soon thereafter would be for a formal U.S.-India-China Strategic Dialogue? What would be the prospects there? Secretary Clinton has mentioned that.
Assistant Secretary Blake: And I think we and our friends in India have always expressed openness to that. We’ve had a very successful trilateral with Japan and the one I also mentioned with Afghanistan, but I think we would very much like to have one with China. We do see that there are opportunities for us to work trilaterally in places like Afghanistan and so we should very much try to do that.
So I think there seems to be kind of a growing willingness on the part of our Chinese friends to look at this. I hope that can be something that will emerge over the course of the next few years.
Voice: Thank you. I am [Komech Isaki], [inaudible] CSIS fellow for the Japanese [inaudible].
I’d like to hear about the U.S. thoughts on the current progress of the India-Japan Defense Cooperation, and [inaudible].
Assistant Secretary Blake: We followed with great interest the important visit that Prime Minister Singh just had to Japan. I think a number of important pronouncements came out of that. Certainly we welcome the strengthening ties between two of our most important friends in Asia, and we, as you know, have sought to deepen our trilateral defense cooperation as well, through things like the Malabar naval exercises. So we will continue to look for opportunities to work on many levels with both of these countries. But since your question covers defense, we think we have many many common interests in terms of maritime security, encouraging a rules-based system in areas like the South China Sea, and perhaps a little bit further along, how do we work together in the Indian Ocean region where again I think we all have a lot of common interests in freedom of navigation, protecting the sea lanes, counter-piracy, and so forth. So I think that also would be an area where I think we will probably be doing more over the next several years.
In your opening remarks you said one of the areas of focus is the economy and trade. In the light of all these letters that have been referred to, do you hope to address all of these concerns over the next few days? [Laughter].
Moderator: And resolve them. Not just address them, resolve them. [Laughter].
Voice: You said you are [focusing] on speeding up talks on [BIT] and trade policy forum, but I don’t see them addressing all those concerns immediately or in the near future.
So what deliverables are you looking at on this issue from the dialogue? Thanks.
Assistant Secretary Blake: I don’t know that we’re looking at any specific deliverables on that. I think it’s just more a question of making sure that we understand some of the concerns on each side. India has its own concerns about comprehensive immigration reform. So obviously we need to hear from them about that. And so again, I think the purpose of these dialogues is to first of all hear each other out in a very open and friendly manner, but then also to figure out who’s going to take charge of fixing these? That’s why I mentioned some of these other institutions. It really is important.
Our trade policy forum hasn’t met, in fact, in about two years so it’s really important that we get that going again, that we have kind of systematic talks to address a lot of these. Again, it’s both to help the existing investors and business people who are doing trade in both directions, but it’s also to send a signal to others.
Right now if you have a lot of people who have not terribly positive things to say about your trade relations, it discourages future trade by others, so we obviously want to get a better narrative going in both directions.
I think also from India’s perspective, the fact that 170 members of the House have signed the letter, and a large number of Senators as well; as India is simultaneously trying to lobby them on comprehensive immigration reform; it’s a bit tough for them to do that when there’s this kind of overhang of negative viewpoint about trade.
So there is, I think, a very good incentive for both of our sides to try to work through these issues and hopefully make some progress on them.
Moderator: Could I relatedly there, while we’re on the economic issue, the question of India’s possible membership in APEC; the question of Indian engagement in some fashion in the TransPacific Partnership, TPP; and the possibility of down the road, on the horizon, however you wish to describe it, a Free Trade Agreement? Do you want to say anything about where these things might take us in the months ahead?
Assistant Secretary Blake: I think all of those things are going to be conversations that we will have, at least starting in the Strategic Dialogue. I’m not sure if we’re going to conclude any of those right away. But I think things like, let’s say India and APEC, or the TPP. Those are all things that I think as we make progress on our bilateral trade and remove some of the irritants, we can then tee up more ambitious initiatives in let’s say in APEC or on a Free Trade Agreement. So I think these are all part of the same kind of bundle of issues. Again, we hope to have quite a good discussion on some of these issues and figure out the way forward.
Voice: John McCormick with the Institute of Multi-Track Diplomacy.
I’m delighted to hear that part of the conversation will be about climate. That’s essential. Also the relationship and any help the United States can offer to improve the relationship between India and Pakistan.
I’m going to suggest a confidence-building measure that perhaps might be part of sidebar conversations. That is India’s interest in opening the Kargil Road to Skardu is a part of the sort of revitalization of the Old Silk Road, but Pakistan is resistant to that for reasons that aren’t clear to me. But nonetheless, India would like to pursue this and anything the United States might do to encourage that conversation, because it would give the Sharif administration a new focus on Gilgit Baltistan, and trade is a possibility. We have the People’s Bus between Srinigar and Muzafarrabad. These are the sorts of things that should also be included in the confidence-building measures basket. Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Blake: I’m sure this will be a topic of conversation. There’s already been quite substantial progress in the last year or so on a lot of these measures. As all of you know, the next step that everybody hopes for will be for the Pakistanis to grant India most favored nation status when the Sharif government takes form and is able to start working with its own parliament. So that would obviously be a very very important step, obviously. One that we would strongly encourage.
But also I think India can take its own steps as well, and I think it’s important that India very early, after Prime Minister Sharif was elected, reached out to Nawaz Sharif and extended a hand of friendship and have suggested some of their own initiatives to move the economic relationship forward. So I think those are real harbingers of things to come. Both of these countries have their own issues they’re going to have to work through. For example India, certainly they have concerns still about bringing those who are responsible for the Mumbai attacks to justice. That remains very much high on the priority list. A lot of these issues need to move forward in tandem.
But I think the economic progress itself is very very important as to build confidence on some of these more difficult issues in some other areas. So I think the economic progress is very very important to emphasize.
Voice: Thank you. My name is [inaudible] from the [inaudible].
[Inaudible] part of the U.S. engagement would be the Indian [inaudible] policy. And one of the [important] issues in the [inaudible] policy [inaudible] of building Indian [forces] and Pacific [forces]. In this I would [inaudible] how the U.S. [inaudible]. Do you think [inaudible]? Provide [inaudible]. Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Blake: We haven’t really talked about the second one that much yet, but I think on the first, we’ve said more broadly that we want to see India become more integrated into all of the Asia Pacific institutions. So we certainly mean that. But also, as I said earlier, I think we’d like to start thinking more about the Indian Ocean as well. So of course Indonesia, Australia and others would have an important part of that.
I think one of the important developments that took place in the last year was that India supported America’s dialogue partner status in the Indian Ocean Region Association for Regional Cooperation. So that will be an important venue to begin some of these discussions. Mostly that will be on the economic side.
But I think we can also begin to think about why there are discussions on some of these other issues that I talked about earlier. Freedom of navigation, anti-piracy, and things like that. Those can be not only in a trilateral context with countries like Japan, but whether we should move on to a greater multilateral context, not just within IOR-ARC or the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium is another institution. So these are all things that I think we need to think through and talk through with our friends, including friends like Indonesia.
Moderator: An easy way to do that is to refer to the Indo Pacific Region as opposed to the Asia Pacific Region -- something that we’ve been increasingly doing here. That sort of underscores the point.
Voice: Rich [inaudible] from the British Embassy.
Ambassador, thank you for hosting this; Ambassador Blake, thank you for your openness.
A quick question about Indian interests in the purchase of shale gas from the United States. Obviously you [read across] into energy supplies and U.S. sanctions and so on on Iran. Could you say how the U.S. responds to India’s requests [inaudible]?
Assistant Secretary Blake: I think you’re aware that the Department of Energy has made some announcements in that regard, so I think the Indians were quite cheered to hear those. Now they’re working, the Department of Energy is working their way through the various countries that have expressed an interest. So they don’t have anything further to announce at this stage, but again, India is one of a relatively small group of countries and their companies who will be eligible. So it’s very much on the front burner.
Voice: [Sina Marina] from the World [Resources] Institute.
My question is regarding climate change and what the deliverables will be. [Inaudible] and China [inaudible]. [Inaudible] or technology. [Inaudible]. And the [inaudible] Afghanistan [inaudible]. Thank you.
Assistant Secretary Blake: I wouldn’t be a very good diplomat if I announced in advance what my boss is going to be announcing, so I don’t think I’ll respond to that question directly. Except to say I think you can expect to see more announcements on a lot of the very positive clean energy work that we’re doing together. We definitely want to sustain that.
On the climate side, again, I think mostly it’s going to be a conversation at this point about what we can do together. I’m not sure we’re going to be in a position to make any dramatic new announcements, but it’s again, more how to begin to set the strategy about what we’re going to try to accomplish over the next several years. And as I said earlier, this is a very high priority for President Obama and for Secretary Kerry globally, not simply with India.
Voice: Thank you. My name is Jeannie Wood. I’m with Voice of Vietnamese American.
[Inaudible] the questions from the Indo-Pacific Ocean as you have also mentioned Myanmar and Bangladesh. So this is the focus on economic and trade. So with the connectivity between India to the New China area and out to Southeast Asia, where do you see Vietnam in the picture between the connectivity of Indo-China between India and U.S. and China? And also ASEAN [inaudible]. Vietnam has a very long coast line and we also share a long border to the west with many other Indo-Chinese nations including Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Assistant Secretary Blake: I know that India has really made a priority of building relations with Vietnam. Certainly we support that. And I’d say just more broadly, we see quite an important strategic opportunity now to build on the progress that India has made with Bangladesh over the last four years to increase not only their trade but counter-terrorism and other forms of cooperation, to build on that by now setting up a lot of these networks that will go through Myanmar, through India’s northeast, and then down again to all of the countries in Southeast Asia.
As we know, India has made a real priority of trade with ASEAN and so I think there’s tremendous opportunities to develop that trade with your country and Thailand and all of those countries. So we see this as a very very important future priority for us and how we can all help to encourage the multilateral development banks to focus more of their attention on these opportunities, and I think we also feel it’s important to include China in this vision.
I’m always struck that when I go to Bangladesh, for example, that they are very focused not simply on the East-West connectivity, but also on the North-South connectivity, and they always point out that, for example, the daily flights now between Dhaka and Kunming are full in both directions with traders. So it does underline that there are important connections to be made as well that way. I think it’s interesting that India has also emphasized that connectivity and opportunity with China.
Moderator: In this connection let me mention that the report that Ted Osius, a visiting State Department Fellow, Senior Fellow here has done on India and ASEAN enhancing connectivity is a full report. We had an event about two weeks ago where we brought out the executive summary and the 42 recommendations but the full report will be on our web site today.
Voice: By COB today or early tomorrow at the latest.
Moderator: So it very much connects to this question.
Assistant Secretary Blake: And now a plug from our sponsor. [Laughter].
Moderator: I’ve got more. [Laughter].
Voice: I am [inaudible].
My question is that a couple of years back there was talk between India and NATO collaboration. Is there anything in line to come regarding this?
Assistant Secretary Blake: I think you’ll have to ask India that. I can speak for NATO, which is I think NATO is very interested in expanding their dialogue with India, so they’re very open to that. Again, I think there’s quite a lot of common interest in places like Afghanistan and so forth. So we will very much encourage such a dialogue.
Voice: Thank you. My question is today the State Department announced that there is support of Taliban [inaudible] in Qatar. And once Taliban [inaudible] supporting the international global terrorism around the globe including in Afghanistan. My question is, are we going to have enough the Taliban are going to rule again Afghanistan? And now Secretary is going to visit the region -- India and Pakistan among other countries. My question is, Mr. Secretary, that if these issues are going to [inaudible] India [inaudible].
And about your visit to --
Assistant Secretary Blake: Let me take that question first. My mind is too small to take many questions at once.
First of all let me just correct slightly the premise of your question. The Secretary on this trip is only going to India, some of the countries in the Middle East, and then down to countries in Southeast Asia. A stop in Pakistan will not be on this particular trip, although he is looking for an early opportunity to go to Pakistan.
With respect to your question about Afghanistan more broadly, certainly I expect this to be very important topic of conversation. Both of our countries have an enormous stake in the future of Afghanistan and I would say a shared stake in the future of Afghanistan. So we want to talk about all aspects of the transition, the political transition, economic transition, and of course the security transition, but we also would like to talk about the very important developments over the last few days, the opening of the Taliban office and so forth.
So yes, I’m sure this will be a focus of our talks.
Voice: And finally sir --
Moderator: We need to give everybody a chance. We’ve got about five more minutes. What I’d like to do is for those who have their hands up now, if you would ask your questions and Bob will just sort of group these. If you want to take notes --
Assistant Secretary Blake: The CSIS equivalent of speed dating. [Laughter].
Moderator: Yeah. Wolf, why don’t you start and then we’ll just go for about four questions. John, we’ll come to you.
Voice: Wolf Gross, Northrop-Grumman consultant.
The trilateral U.S.-India-Japan relationship has come up several times in this discussion. My Indian friends tend to look at this relationship and say we, the poor relations in the three, specifically on releasibility of military technology. Lots of it goes to Japan. A lot less goes to India. It may come up in the discussions next week. I wonder if you’re girding for this sort of response from the Indians.
Voice: [Inaudible]. I want to clarify the status of the rebalance to Asia, because over the past two months we’ve got some confusing statements from Washington Secretary Kerry during his confirmation hearings said there was no military content to the rebalancing. Secretary Hagel has ordered a review. Ashton Carter gave a very robust explanation of the rebalance. So India is somewhat confused about all this. If you can shed some light on the current status.
Voice: John Schlosser, [inaudible].
In the article that Rick, you, and Don Camp co-authored, you mentioned the relative lack of progress toward Indian membership in non-proliferation regimes. This also gets to the technology release issues. I wondered if you would comment on that. Our British friends, leading up to the G8, robustly endorsed Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Voice: Fandim [inaudible], Brookings.
Just a quick question pivoting back towards the other side. Could you comment on whether the Middle East is going to figure in the agenda at all, especially given developments in Iran and Syria?
Assistant Secretary Blake: Very quickly. Wolf, on your question about releasibility, I wouldn’t say India’s a poor cousin at all. I think the whole purpose of the Defense Trade Initiative is to kind of cut through some of this on both sides, particularly on our side actually. And to take a hard look at what we can do. That’s exactly what Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter is doing. And that’s why I think we are making progress. The Defense Policy Group, whenever it meets, will have this as one of its primary agendas, to work our way through that and hopefully to tee up some announcements about which specific systems we’re going to --
Maybe that kind of dovetails with John Schlosser’s question which is India continues to make progress on its export controls and its technology controls. And I think President Obama and many others have endorsed India’s membership in all four of the non-proliferation [inaudible]. We have been a strong proponent, publicly and privately, of this. Most recently my deputy, Geoff Pyatt, was in Europe last week to continue to push this along. So we remain very committed to that goal. Again, I think as India continues to make progress on its export control and other measures, that will strengthen our ability to do even more on things like defense trade.
With respect to the rebalance to Asia, I don’t want to try to parse statements by one Secretary or another. Just to say that the administration is fully committed to the rebalance to Asia, and Secretary Kerry certainly is very committed to it, and I think one of the things that will come out in this is the very important role that we think India has in this rebalance.
Last but not least, of course the Middle East will be a very important subject of conversation. The Secretary will be making several stops in the Middle East during this trip. So I expect that Syria, I expect that Iran, and I expect that the Middle East Peace Process will all be topics of conversation.