Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you all very much for coming. I’m terribly sorry, I was a little late, but we’re not too bad here. I’m very very pleased to be here in Pakistan and particularly pleased to be here in Lahore. This is actually my second visit. I came here as a young 20 year old and had a lovely time, so it’s great to be back.
I’m here on part of a wider swing through the region. I started in India, and then have been in Afghanistan for a few days. In Pakistan, I started in Islamabad, went to Karachi, and now I’m in Lahore before leaving tomorrow.
I think we’re at a very important juncture in America’s relations with Pakistan. Earlier this week, as all of you know, our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted Foreign Minister Qureshi for the first ever Strategic Dialogue between our two countries and this should be seen for what it is, which is an attempt to make systematic progress on the issues of importance to the United States and Pakistan. So not only is this going to be chaired at a senior level by our respective ministers, but we’re going to set up a steering group and working groups to look systematically and make concrete progress on all the various issues of importance to both of us, everything from agriculture to power to the whole range of things that you’ve seen in the statements, so I won’t review those. I really want to stress that this is part of our efforts to broaden and deepen our long term partnership with Pakistan, full stop.
Another very important theme throughout my visit here and also my visit in Pakistan has been the importance that the United States attaches to improved relations between India and Pakistan. We welcomed the important foreign secretary level talks that took place in Delhi on February 25th, and we hope that both of our friends, India and Pakistan, can sustain that dialogue because it’s only through such dialogue that you’re going to be able to resolve your differences.
India, as you well know, hopes that Pakistan is going to make progress, continue to make progress in the trial of the Mumbai suspects and it also hopes that Pakistan is going to be able to take action against militants that are crossing the Indo-Pak border, that potentially might launch another attack against India.
I think that for those of us who have served a long time in the region, we recall very well the very important progress that your two countries made in bilateral relations between 2004 and 2007, and that progress was made possible and was predicated from the Indian perspective on the fact that Pakistan was able to take serious steps to stop the cross-border infiltration.
The United States believes that Pakistan has made great progress in its fight against terrorism and we understand that no one has suffered more than the Pakistanis themselves in this fight against terrorism. We think that your government and your military have taken significant steps, first in Swat and then in South Waziristan and now most recently against some of the Taliban. So these are extremely important steps that we very much welcome, and I think you saw that in our public statements this week in Washington.
We think it’s also very important that Pakistan take steps to rein in the activities of some of the Punjabi based groups, particularly Lakshar-e-Taiba. Lakshar-e-Taiba’s important to the United States because many Americans, six Americans died in the Mumbai attacks, and the David Headley case, in our view, shows the growing global scope of LET’s activities and therefore the importance of, again, reining in LET which would have a great benefit for not only the world fight against terrorism but also I think your relations with India.
I’ve heard, we’ve had a lot of people to people talks in my days here, I’ve been here for five days, and many Pakistanis have spoken to me about the Indus Water Treaty and about Kashmir. I’ve told them that with respect to the water issues, that there is an independent arbitration mechanism under the Indus Water Treaty and that if Pakistanis believe that India has violated its obligations or in any way taken more water than it is entitled to, that it should raise those before the independent arbitration panel for adjudication, as you have done in the past with things like the Bagliar Dam.
With respect to Kashmir, I think you all know our longstanding position that this is something we think India and Pakistan should resolve bilaterally and that the pace and scope and character of that dialogue that takes place is up to both of you to decide. But as a friend of both countries, we certainly encourage dialogue and we encourage every effort that you can make to resolve those differences.
Again, I come back to what I said earlier, that the period between 2004 and 2007 shows that you can make significant progress in resolving those differences. So I think that’s an important thing to build on and in fact perhaps even a starting point so that you don’t have to start from zero again.
I also think that you have now for the next three or so years, an extremely important partner in Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, who is somebody who is personally and deeply committed to peace with Pakistan and has consistently shown a willingness to take risks, political risks in India to achieve peace with Pakistan. So I think this is a valuable opportunity that Pakistan and India should seize to try to, again, narrow their differences and seize the opportunities before them.
One of the most important opportunities that I’ve spoken of during the course of my visit with business people and others is the under-exploited trade opportunities between your two countries. Pakistan has got a large unemployment rate right now, and your population is continuing to expand very rapidly.
One of the best ways to provide employment to young Pakistanis is through trade. The United States has reiterated its commitment to providing market access for Pakistan and through these reconstruction opportunity zones and you heard Secretary Clinton talk about that in recent days in Washington. But I also think India is going to be an extremely important market for Pakistan.
Right now, as you know, intra-regional trade in the SAARC region is only five percent of total trade. Your bilateral trade between Pakistan and India is only 2.75 billion dollars, which is far below what it should be.
As we look ahead, we see India as an extremely important market for American goods. There are 300 million people in the Indian middle class right now. It’s going to double to 600 million in 20 years. Our bilateral trade with India has doubled over the last five years. And we see very similar opportunities for Pakistani products, for Pakistani businesses in India.
So again, I think this is a significant under-exploited opportunity that you can share.
Let me just conclude on two important notes that I hope I can leave you with. One is on India and Pakistan. That is that as somebody who has lived in the region, as somebody who’s lived particularly in India, it strikes me that there is so much that unites your two countries, and instead, there are a few on each side who tend to focus on the few things that really divide you and ignore all the many opportunities and the common ground that you have. So I hope that, again, both countries can seize those opportunities.
The second message I want to leave you with is the U.S. commitment to the long term partnership with your country. We know there’s the perception that our relations have gone up and down, but we really are committed this time to a long term, positive trajectory in relations, and we see this as one of the most important relations that we have with any country in the world. You saw that reflected in the meetings that took place this week, and you’ll see that reflected in the seriousness of purpose with which we pursue this Strategic Dialogue.
With that, I’d be glad to take any questions that you have.
Question: You have a 56 page [inaudible] that Pakistan gave reporters, Strategic Dialogue. One of those was I think Pakistan wanted some kind of peaceful non-nuclear reactor like India has.
Secondly, what was the Strategic Dialogue? What [inaudible] was there for and what really [inaudible] familiar with?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: On the dialogue, I really can’t answer that question because I’ve been in Pakistan the whole time that dialogue was going on in Washington. So I think --
Question: -- there is somewhat of a disappointment here that perhaps Pakistan wanted some [inaudible] benefits [inaudible] like the [inaudible] and what was [inaudible], that this [inaudible] strategic dialogue. I think the word used was [inaudible] that.
So I just wanted to ask you, what was the really, the [inaudible] of this dialogue and what [inaudible] Pakistan [inaudible]? There seems to be a gap there.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t think there’s a gap. I think, again, from our perspective we are seeking first to show to the people of Pakistan and the government of Pakistan the strategic importance that we attach to our relations with Pakistan and to provide some meat to those bones. We’re setting out these working groups, again, to systematically work through all the different important sectors of our relationship and identify where we can make concrete progress, and then make that progress. So I think that is a very significant thing that we don’t do with very many countries.
Secondly, with respect to your question about the civil nuclear issue. For the moment we are focused on helping you to meet your immediate power shortage needs. You saw that our USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah announced a new program, $51 million, to rehabilitate three power plants. That will provide fairly immediate short term assistance to increase significantly the megawatts available to reduce the load shedding that’s taking place in this country, that has both the social impact but also has an impact on your ability to attract foreign investment. So we think this is an important step that will help address some of those needs.
I can’t really comment on what exactly was discussed about civil nuclear cooperation. I noticed that both the Secretary and Foreign Minister Qureshi declined to provide details on that, so I’m going to follow their lead and not comment further on that for the moment as well.
Question: The question occurs to me, there are [inaudible] --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sorry?
Question: You’re talking about a long term strategic relationship.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes.
Question: I think the context historically is as you said, up to now a far more negative perception of that here as you may be aware. How much of a bipartisan consensus exists in the present Congress, and what is the likelihood of that if it exists surviving beyond November when you have elections for Congress?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think there is a growing bipartisan consensus and you see it reflected in bills like the Kerry/Lugar Bill which significantly expands the civilian assistance that the United States is going to be providing to Pakistan. Particularly I want to stress the civilian assistance that we’re going to be providing. And as you know, it’s $1.5 billion a year over five years, and then Senator Kerry has talked about extending that even further after that five year period has elapsed.
So there was bipartisan support for that bill, and for those of you who have followed American politics lately, there’s not bipartisan support for much of anything these days.
Question: Health care in particular. [Laughter].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Right. So the fact that there was bipartisan support for that legislation I think you should take some comfort and it really says something important about support for Pakistan and the United States. Let me just leave it there.
There’s also, as you know, an important Pakistan caucus on the Hill which I think helps also to build support for Pakistan.
Question: You [inaudible] Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan. The relationship between Pakistan [inaudible], the relationship with Pakistan [inaudible]. From the very beginning [inaudible]. [Inaudible] always been [inaudible]. In fact what are the conditions in Pakistan now [inaudible] that [inaudible] Pakistan and the United States for [inaudible]? So far [inaudible]. Now dialogue between Pakistan and India, I think if it’s not a dialogue, if it’s something that [inaudible] the United States [inaudible] should do now to help the United States [inaudible]. [Inaudible] more progress [inaudible] and perhaps no progress in [inaudible] as possible as far as the desire to establish a liberal, democratic, modern setup [inaudible]. So if Pakistan [inaudible] provided [inaudible] to eliminate the [inaudible]? And [inaudible] Pakistan [inaudible]? The [inaudible] civilian [inaudible]. Pakistan [inaudible]. They decide about Pakistan’s [inaudible]. [Inaudible] since 1937. They are allowed to take their decisions irrespective of the [inaudible]. I would like --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me --
Question: -- to [inaudible] if they have bail out United States [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: You raised several questions there. First of all, I really want to disagree respectfully with your assertion that the United States is making demands on Pakistan. The steps that Pakistan is taking in its efforts in Swat and South Waziristan and elsewhere are steps that Pakistan is taking because it’s in Pakistan’s own interest to do that. Not because the United States is demanding Pakistan do that. Again, we see Pakistan as a sovereign partner and friend and we’re not in the business of making demands like this, as you say.
With respect to Afghanistan, again, I would respectfully disagree with your assertion that the situation there, that we are failing. I’d say there has been some modest progress. I don’t think our policymakers are prepared to say that we’ve turned the corner yet, but I think there’s been significant efforts made in, for example, the area of agriculture. Agriculture, as you know, is the most important part of the Afghan economy and the United States is making a significant effort to try to raise agricultural growth inside Afghanistan because we believe it can not only help the overall economy, but can provide important job opportunities for the foot soldiers of the Taliban who might not be ideologically committed to the Taliban and would be willing to give up the fight if there are opportunities for them to work.
So we are putting a great deal of time and effort into that. Last year Afghanistan had its best agricultural year in 30 years and we hope to see similar progress this year. I think one of the most important efforts you’re going to see is a much closer civilian/military effort in Afghanistan and probably where that’s going to start is in Marjah, in this very important operation that has just taken place in Marjah. And it’s not well known that behind the scenes there’s been an intensive effort to prepare the ground so that civilians could come in right after the military clear Marjah to help, again, to diversify the economy of Marjah which now is completely dependent on opium production and to provide, again, agricultural opportunities and to help the Afghan government to provide services to the people of Marjah and so forth.
So this is I think kind of a template for what you’re going to see in the future. It’s a much closer civilian/military role, and again, it’s too early to say we’ve turned a corner, but I think we are making progress, and we certainly aren’t failing.
Question: [Inaudible] of Pakistan they don’t believe the [inaudible]. But now [inaudible] is being perceived as having this Strategic Dialogue. [Inaudible] United States policy regarding civilian and military relationship is now United States giving primacy to the military?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t think we’re giving primacy to the military. Certainly we attach great importance to our relations with the military, and one of the important new areas in which we’re cooperating with the Pakistani military is in the counter-insurgency area to increase the capabilities and the training in counterinsurgency for the Pakistani army since the Pakistani army has always been focused more on the threat posed by India. So I think that’s an important new area of cooperation between the United States and Pakistan.
But if there’s any one new shift in American thinking and policy it is, again, toward civilian assistance as symbolized by the Kerry/Lugar Bill where it’s again, a quite widespread effort to help the government of Pakistan and its civilian institutions to better deliver the services that the Pakistani people want, like improved health care, improved education services, that in the long run are going to have a great deal of importance to the overall stability and development of this country.
Question: [Inaudible] saying that we agreed to [inaudible] because he is the one [inaudible] more than anyone else. [Laughter]. Can you enlighten us [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t remember hearing that. [Laughter]. That doesn’t sound like something that our Secretary of Defense would say.
Question: There is a perception [inaudible]. [Inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: No, he wasn’t. Kayani was --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Exactly. General Kayani was part of a delegation that was led by the Foreign Minister.
Question: The Pakistani government [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yeah, but the delegation on our side included Secretary Gates and others as well. So this is a multi-sectoral dialogue.
Question: [Inaudible] U.S. issue [inaudible]. Part of the --
Question: -- the Pakistan --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Okay, sir?
Question: You [inaudible] and [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes.
Question: [Inaudible] probably [inaudible]. But despite perhaps some pressure from your side, our side, [inaudible] policies. Because [inaudible] talk about [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Right.
Question: Do you see that [inaudible] possibility that some kind of progress on [inaudible] dialogue would take place?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I can’t really address the issue of the composite dialogue, per se, but I just think it’s important to continue the process of dialogue. Again, I think you have in Manmohan Singh and the Indian government now a real opportunity, so I just urge both sides to try to narrow their differences.
Again, I come back to what I said earlier, that there’s a lot of goodwill between your countries that can be seized, and there’s a great track record of narrowing and differences in the past, and then exploiting the opportunities that exist. So I think people need to focus on that and remember those things and not focus on these narrow issues that --
Question: I just wanted to --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just say on the issue of terrorism, terrorism for any country is very very important. If there’s any one function of government it’s to provide for the security of its people. The Indians suffered a terrible attack in Mumbai. That, everybody agrees with. So they quite naturally want to see the people who are responsible for that attack brought to justice. As any government would.
They also want to have some assurance that there are not going to be future attacks, because if they were to start a composite dialogue and then there would be another attack, they would come under attack from the BJP and from the opposition. So they have to have some assurance. Again, they go back to what happened between 2004 and 2007 when in fact the government of then General Musharraf was able to make a significant dent in curbing cross-border infiltration at that time, and that in fact was one of the reasons that progress was able to be made. They’d like to see a similar effort now. I think that’s a reasonable thing to ask. And it can then make possible a lot of the progress that --
Question: Do you think [inaudible] possible [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just say I think cross-border infiltration is continuing. I don’t have a judgment about whether it’s increasing or not. But I think it is continuing and so an effort needs to be made.
Question: Punjab is [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: LET and JEM, groups like that.
Question: If you [inaudible] --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I haven’t actually. I’m going to be seeing him later.
Question: One can understand a Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Pakistan during the Cold War years. Long term historic issues. The Pakistan-India obsession, long term historical problem. Your opposition to communism. The Iran invasion and Pakistan’s role in that, a part of that tactical strategical alliance. What’s the strategic nature of current alliance? What is of strategic value to the United States as far as Pakistan is concerned? And what is Pakistan’s strategic interest in the United States? Why is this dialogue being billed as a strategic dialogue? Why not a tactical dialogue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I can’t speak for Pakistan but I can speak for the United States. Let me answer that by saying that it’s really from our perspective probably two things. First of all, it’s a strategic dialogue about all of the important things that are going on in the region, including particularly, the situation in Afghanistan. As you know, the President has made this his highest foreign policy priority. He’s chosen to look at this in an integrated way. You are not going to solve the problem of Afghanistan without Pakistan’s active help and support. But at the same time we understand that Pakistan itself faces a lot of long term challenges, and therefore it’s in our interest to help Pakistan. That’s I think why you’ve seen this broad range of activities that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Qureshi announced.
Beyond the Afghan/Pakistan dimension, I think that as we look ahead, this is obviously going to be one of the most important regions in the world for the United States going forward. India is already a very important power. It’s likely to become even more important as its economy continues to grow, as its population continues to grow, and as our interests converge with India. We think we’re going to be able to work more closely with them on the very big issues of non-proliferation and climate change and things like that.
Pakistan too has the potential to be a very important country on all of those issues that I just talked about, climate change, on non-proliferation. So therefore it’s very much in our interest to engage with you not just on these bilateral issues, but on how we can work with Pakistan on the larger strategic issues that are confronting the globe right now. So it is very much in our interest to engage with your leaders at the highest levels to, again, begin that conversation, again, at the senior level about these strategic issues.
So it’s not just about these sort of smaller, not small, but the bilateral issues, but about some of the wider regional and global issues that South Asia increasingly is going to play a leadership role in.
Question: I ask because I would have imagined that a strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the United States would obviously be linked to the strategic dialogue between India and the United States, obviously. Because you're talking about --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Are you suggesting a trilateral strategic dialogue?
Question: No. I’m saying that I cannot imagine that you would have a strategic dialogue with Pakistan without India being a part of that, since you have a strategic dialogue with India also.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes, we do.
Question: And the Pakistanis [inaudible] as our Army Chief has just pointed out. We remain India-centric in many ways.
So what is it the United States will do to help resolve the problem between India and Pakistan? I mean without that you can’t really have a strategic dialogue with us. You can have one with India, with India and China. How can you have a strategic dialogue with us without getting into this India-Pakistan [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, as you know our longstanding position is that this is something, the differences between India and Pakistan need to be resolved by both of our friends together, not with the help of the United States, and that the pace and the scope and the character of that dialogue will be determined by both of you. It is not for us to try to impose our will on either one of these countries because you’re both friends of ours, but we do everything we can to encourage dialogue. Again, we believe that a dialogue can work and that it is extremely important to help to not only narrow your differences, but identify where there’s common ground, and I believe there’s a lot of common ground.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: No mediation.
Question: No [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t know what you mean by facilitation.
Question: It was said earlier on that we can't mediate but we can facilitate dialogue between India and Pakistan.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, we can encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan if that’s what you mean. Yes.
Question: A diplomatic answer. [Laughter].
Question: Can I ask a question, something that you mentioned on Afghanistan.
The Pakistan army is right now positioning itself to become the principle broker in any kind of peace talks between President Karzai and the Taliban, and in fact the Pakistan Army has warned President Karzai as recently as two weeks ago that either he remove the Indians from some of Afghanistan or reduce the Indian presence in Afghanistan or Pakistan will not help broker those talks.
Where does the U.S. stand in this? Is the U.S. going to encourage Pakistan to be the central broker, even though it may antagonize many countries in the region including India, Iran, Central Asia, not to speak of many of the Afghan groups themselves? Or are you going to try to contain Pakistan and give it a more modest [inaudible] perhaps?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: The United States position is that this process of reconciliation needs to be Afghan led and President Karzai, as you know, is going to be hosting in a while a very important peace jirga that will begin that process. So we support that process. But again, we believe it must be Afghan led. Certainly there are several countries that have important equities at stake, and I think --
Question: But what happens when all the Taliban are living in Pakistan? As they are. We have a stranglehold over the Afghan Taliban. We can produce them or not produce them depending on what the mood is.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Like I said, I think Pakistan has very important equities here, but in the end this has got to be led by the Afghans themselves, not by an outside power, be it --
Question: How are you going to persuade Pakistan to do that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I hate to use the word persuade. We talk very closely with the Pakistani government about all these issues. We’re in a very early stage still on the reconciliation part of this. You’ve heard Secretary Gates and many others, General McChrystal, saying that serious reconciliation is really not going to begin until the Taliban themselves believe that they’re not going to be able to outlast the United States and the ISAF coalition. And as I said earlier, we don’t believe we’ve yet turned a corner on that. Certainly in Marjah; there’s going to be further efforts in Kandahar and elsewhere; but it’s too early to say that we’re winning against the Taliban. But we certainly hope to be able to say that we are making sufficient military progress to persuade them that it’s in their interest to engage in reconciliation. Because everybody understands that in the long run Afghanistan is not going to be settled militarily. It will have to be a political settlement. Our position remains, the people that get involved in reconciliation must renounce violence, must renounce ties with al-Qaida, and most importantly, perhaps, they must respect the existing Afghan constitutions, including very important provisions like protection of women’s rights.
Question: You talked about having a desire to [inaudible] Pakistan [inaudible] United States. For that friendship [inaudible] I am sure you are aware that the United States [inaudible]. Is there any progress to improve [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: There is. We hope that the establishment of this Strategic Dialogue and the significant attention and the significant assistance that we are providing to the people of Pakistan will help to reverse the opinion that you talked about. Again, I repeat that the United States is sincere in its friendship and in its desire to forge a long term partnership with Pakistan. And the only way we’re going to be able to prove that is by doing it. So I think you’re going to see, again, a much more focused effort. But you should not forget there is a significant new and enhanced assistance package that includes this Kerry/Lugar civilian assistance. But as you rightly point out, I think a lot of it will also have to be people to people contacts. One of the important initiatives that Secretary Clinton took last fall was to make the decision to establish this Pakistan-American Foundation to help to channel Diaspora and other American contributions to Pakistan and to help foster a lot of these people to people contacts that really provide the ballast for any kind of partnership. I’d say India is a good example of that where we now have 2.5 million Indians in the United States, there are 100,000 Indian students that go back and forth between the United States and India. Those kind of people to people ties have made a tremendous difference to our relations.
There are a lot of skeptics still in the United States and in India about U.S.-India relations. It’s very important that we have to win all of those people over as well. I think, again, these kinds of things like this foundation make a great deal of difference. But it has to be at all levels that this occurs. It’s not just people like me coming and talking. We need to have citizens exchanges; we need to have the Maulanas talking to each other; we need to have every conceivable channel open and having exchanges and really talking openly and honestly about how we can improve our mutual understanding.
Question: What about skeptics in the U.S. concerning the U.S.-India relationship?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes.
Question: In Pakistan we have a very large tribe of skeptics about the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. [Laughter]. Are there skeptics in the U.S. about this relationship?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Of course there are skeptics.
Question: And what are their reservations or --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: It’s hard for me to generalize. But I’d say that the envelope of skeptics, shall we say, is diminishing and that’s in large part a credit to our President and to our Secretary and Secretary Gates, all of whom have made a significant effort to explain to the people of the United States the importance of Pakistan to the United States. Not just in the Afghan equation, but just the importance of ensuring your long term prosperity and development and security.
Question: That’s where the skepticism is from.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I’m sorry, skepticism here or skepticism --
Question: Here. Because we’ve seen in the past that when the United States has needed Pakistan, either for Cold War, or other reasons, we were embraced. And when that particular issue or that particular problem is over and done with, we are discarded. That’s the perception here.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I understand that, and --
Question: -- skepticism, therefore, but the suggestion of a regional issue, related dialogue, relationship will outlast this or whether it will end there. I think there is a lot of skepticism.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I understand there’s that skepticism, and that’s what the Strategic Dialogue is intended to show. That this is not just a short term tactical move on our part but a longer term strategic effort. And I can’t persuade you what we’re going to be doing five years from now or ten years from now, but I can tell you that at least on the part of my leaders, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Secretary Gates, that there is that intention. You should not doubt their --
Question: What is different?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Just what I said. What is different --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: What is different is first, that President Obama is focused like a laser on this region. Number two --
Question: [Inaudible] anybody in office [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Ah, don’t write the President off.
Question: No, I’m [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: They said that about Bill Clinton, remember? [Laughter]. Really, in 1994, and he became one of the most successful presidents --
Question: One is Obama.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: One is Obama. Second is that the Secretary herself is getting personally involved in this and you read her words carefully. She talked a lot about making concrete progress in all these different areas of cooperation, establishing working groups, and again, sort of a systematic effort to look at this stuff and setting deadlines and achieving what you mean to do. So people are going to be held accountable is I guess maybe a crude way to put it. But that’s maybe a good way to look at it. That’s the big difference.
It’s hard for all of you, perhaps, to imagine but there has been an extraordinary growth in the level of energy and attention devoted to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the State Department, in all of Washington, that it’s hard for outsiders really to imagine, and so it’s not just the amount of assistance that’s provided to your country but the number of people who are now working and devoted to making a lot of these promises that we talk about happen. That’s what’s different.
There’s a very large and capable staff led by Ambassador Holbrooke, but also led by Secretary Clinton and President Obama. Both of them follow very very closely what’s going on in Pakistan.
Question: But I can give you a reason why [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Sure.
Question: Because [inaudible] there is a need to make sure that Pakistan stays [inaudible] structure [inaudible]. That seems to be a very good reason to have [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That is a good reason.
Question: They have learned from what happened, they ignored the area [inaudible]. That would be to my mind a more --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That’s certainly part of it.
Question: Administrations come and go. This particular --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: That’s certainly part of it. If you’re just an independent think tank analyst, you're looking at Pakistan, you’re already a country with a lot of challenges before you, as we all know. But one of the most significant facts is that your population’s going to double over the next 20 years, so there are going to be 350 million Pakistanis and a lot of the same problems still. So it’s important to get on top of the things that we’re talking about now, and that might in fact have a very salutary impact on the future growth that I’m talking about.
Again, for many reasons this has to be a longer term effort on our part and your part.
Question: President Zardari keeps talking about a Marshall Plan, and [inaudible] just be a fraction of what is really needed to come to grips with what you call the challenges Pakistan is facing. Others might say the problems Pakistan is likely to pose for the region and the rest of the world.
So if that’s the way one looks at it, challenge or problem, then the Kerry/Lugar thing is not going to do anything. It’s not even going to hold the situation. The sort of things you were talking about.
Is there a Marshall Plan in the offing in terms of strategic relationship?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I don’t think there’s a Marshall Plan, but there is a Marshall Effort, let’s put it that way. [Laughter].
Question: M-A-R-S-H-A-L-L or T-I-A-L? [Laughter].
Question: Which Marshall?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: In the sense of, again, what I talked about earlier. The great attention that is being focused on Pakistan right now, and you shouldn’t doubt that. You’ll see it. The results of that will be evident, already are relevant. During this dialogue we announced this new assistance for the three power plants; we announced 40 million in new roads for the northwest frontier province. Again, there’s a systematic effort going on, and on any day you could pick out a lot of the things that are being done. Part of our challenge is to better communicate what we’re doing and actually what we’re accomplishing. I think sometimes there’s not a sufficient understanding of what the United States is doing.
Question: Can we expect you to develop AF-PAK? Why hyphenate us? Is the strategic dialogue then get rid of the AF-PAK. Deal with Afghanistan, deal with Pakistan, deal with India.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: You can’t do one without the other. We have to, we cannot look at Afghanistan --
Question: Can you do Pakistan without doing India?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well --
Question: AF-PAK is [inaudible].
Question: [Inaudible] part of the [inaudible] or is there --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: There’s a misunderstanding about what Kerry/Lugar is. Kerry/Lugar is actually an authorization bill that’s passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For the money to actually be spent, it has to be appropriated by the Appropriations Committee.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Right. Actually I don’t think we’re even yet quite to the point of appropriating all this money. But there’s a long pipeline of assistance that’s already in the works that’s providing a lot of --
Question: What [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Yes.
Question: Is the overall package, and the best is [inaudible].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: As you know, that’s just part of the overall assistance the United States is providing to Pakistan. There’s Coalition Support Funds, there’s military funds, there are a lot of other things. So again, Pakistan has now become one of our largest recipients of foreign assistance.
Question: -- 1.5 billion is the gap. That’s what [inaudible].
Question: The current [inaudible].
Question: No, --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t work on this stuff day to day so I don’t know whether that’s under Kerry/Lugar or whether it’s part of the previous assistance, but I’m sure --
Voice: There are [inaudible]. For example, there are funds outside Kerry/Lugar that --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Definitely. All of the money --
Question: -- program funds --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: -- came from a different pot of money.
Question: -- project. I don’t think these are Kerry/Lugar. My impression. I could be wrong.
Question: Kerry/Lugar is not a government program, they don’t know anything about it. I have problems which [inaudible] relationship between the United States and [inaudible].
Question: [Inaudible]. [Laughter].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just -- I’m going to have to run off to another appointment, but let me just conclude by again reiterating our commitment to your country, our long term commitment to your country. But also to ask that if any of you are visiting Washington, please come see me. If you or your correspondents would ever like to speak to me in Washington by digital video conference or whatever, we’re glad to do that.
Question: You [inaudible] relationship. We have long term relationship. [Laughter]. The United States for the last 62 years --
Question: A long, not a longer. [Laughter].
ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think I’ve already answered that question. But I really do disagree. I think there’s a lot that’s new and a lot that’s very very important, and you will see as time goes on.
So again, thank you all so much for taking the time to come on a Saturday afternoon. I’m sure you probably have better things to do than talk to me.
Question: No, no. [Inaudible].