Interview With Times Now

Richard A. Boucher
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
March 27, 2009

QUESTION: We’re here at the U.S. State Department with the Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs, Ambassador Richard Boucher. Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us.

AMBASSADOR BOUCHER: Thank you. It’s good to talk to you.

QUESTION: President Obama earlier today pointed out the danger posed by instability in Pakistan. In that context, what pressure, with the review now out of the way, is the U.S. going to put on Pakistan to comply with India’s demands as they relate to the Mumbai attacks and other trans-border issues?

AMBASSADOR BOUCHER: Well, I think the first thing that President Obama pointed out is that Pakistan has an interest in stopping terrorism. And we have always called upon Pakistan to act on that interest, to carry it out, to punish the people involved in the Mumbai bombings, and to eliminate the group that supported it. And that remains something that we work very intensely with the Pakistani Government to achieve.

I think they need to do that. That’s part of the overall effort that they have to make to eliminate terrorism. We’re going to help them with the overall effort. We’re going to help them both deal with the terrorists, but also to create the opportunity and support for their own people who want to move forward in a different direction.

QUESTION: And does the U.S. think that the Zardari government has the ability and the willingness to go after alleged ties between groups within government, like the ISI, and militant groups in the region?

AMBASSADOR BOUCHER: I think we’ve seen a lot more effort against the militant groups – since the democratic government came in last year. We’ve seen them go into some of the tribal areas. We’ve seen them arrest people who were behind the Mumbai bombings. So we just need to see them make that consistent and continuous. We’re going to support them in doing that and we hope others will as well.

QUESTION: Looking at it from a U.S.-Pakistan perspective, there was a report just in The New York Times this week saying again that there was collusion between ISI operatives, elements of the ISI, and Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Is this something that you’ve taken up with the Pakistani Government?

AMBASSADOR BOUCHER: I think that the way I’d put it is that the Pakistani leadership of the government, the democratically elected government, senior people in the civil service, senior people in the military have all said they understand that terrorism is a threat to Pakistan, period, no differentiation, no ifs, ands or buts. We need them to act on that. We’ve seen some actions. We want to see continuous action. So our effort with them, yes, is going to continue to be to make sure that they act against all terrorists and to enable them, to empower them so that they can act against all the terrorists.

QUESTION: This was evidently a review of Pakistan and Afghanistan policy. So what role does the U.S. foresee India playing in this revised strategy?

AMBASSADOR BOUCHER: Well, India has a very important interest in stability and interest in seeing the terrorists stop their activities. So we’re going to work with India. We’ve already been out there to talk to the Indians. Ambassador Holbrooke has stopped there. We’ve had visits by senior Indian diplomats who we’re working with.

And we’ll continue to work with India, first of all on its own terrorism issues, second of all on making sure that India can make a contribution to something that’s very much in their interest. They’re a major player in Afghanistan. They’ve been very helpful in a lot of different ways. And just as we’re working with all those who have an interest, we’ll work very closely with India.

QUESTION: Just finally, there is a fear amongst some foreign policy circles in New Delhi that this new revised relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan will cause Washington to lean on New Delhi, to resume a dialogue with Pakistan despite the fact that in the government – Indian Government’s eyes, progress – sufficient progress has not been made in cross-border issues. Is that the case?

AMBASSADOR BOUCHER: Our position is to support efforts that Indians and Pakistanis make themselves. We’re going to have an election in India. We’re sort of starting already. We’ll see where we are with the new government in India. But I want to say I think as the Pakistani Government acts against those responsible for Mumbai, as the Pakistani acts against terrorists generally, I think that will create a good basis for India and Pakistan to resume their efforts. So I think what we want to see is action by Pakistan that would make it possible for India and Pakistan both to get back into their efforts to reduce tension.

QUESTION: Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us.

AMBASSADOR BOUCHER: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: That was Ambassador Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs here at the U.S. State Department.