Interview with ANI

Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
New Delhi, India
September 15, 2011

ANI: I want to know, there are some niggling issues in the Indo-U.S. relationship, the visa issue and also technology transfer, particularly of high end technology, and recently U.S. was left out of a $10 billion bid of aircraft. Do you think Indo-U.S. relationship is not at its best right now, it is faltering?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Not at all. I think Indo-U.S. relations are prospering. We had a very good strategic dialogue led by Secretary Clinton and External Affairs Minister Krishna. The two Ministers discussed a wide range of cooperative activities that the United States and India have underway including in particular our efforts on counter-terrorism and our efforts to improve the prosperity of our two people. So I think there’s been tremendous progress.

Occasionally we do have differences, but I think our relationships are now mature enough that we can work our way through those. So I don’t consider those to be significant irritants in our relations.

ANI: Recently a U.S. official had said that China is the reason why the two countries have gone apart, so would you be taking this up with Indian officials when you meet them?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I’ve already had my meetings and that didn’t come up.

ANI: So if you talk about China, U.S. views India as a counter-balance for China in the Asian region. What are your views on that?

Assistant Secretary Blake: We don’t try to frame our relations in that way. We’re trying to improve relations with India because India is going to be one of our indispensable partners in the 21st Century as President Obama himself has remarked. Of course we want to expand our cooperation in the Asia Pacific, we want to expand our cooperation to build a New Silk Road between Central Asia and South Asia. And of course I think both of us want to engage China. China is a very important partner for India and a very important partner for the United States as well. Neither one of us sees the burgeoning Indo-U.S. relationship as coming at the expense of China.

ANI: A recent report has said that the 2014 elections in India would be a race between Narendra Modi of the opposition BJP party and Rahul Gandhi, the young scion of the Congress party. What are your views on that?

Assistant Secretary Blake: That’s up to the Indian people to decide who their leaders are going to be. Obviously they will have free and fair elections here and we will await the outcome of that. I don’t want to speculate about how we might react to that election now.

ANI: How do you think these niggling issues can be resolved, like denial of visa to some professionals here and the transfer of high end technology?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Again, I think that’s overstating it. Indians receive more than 40 percent of all of the high tech visas that go to people around the world. So India is the overwhelming beneficiary of this program. Certainly some people might be refused, but again, the overwhelming story is a positive one in India’s favor.

ANI: Thank you so much.

Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you so much.