Interview with AsiaNet

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

AsiaNet: Assistant Secretary Blake, thank you very much for giving us this opportunity to have an interview.

Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you so much.

AsiaNet: Recently there were blasts in Delhi, and two months ago there was blasts in Mumbai. Has India asked for any assistance in this regard? How can you cooperate in expanding the fight against terrorism in this region?

Assistant Secretary Blake: First of all India has not requested any particular assistance from the United States with regard to these two blasts, but I would say that our cooperation to combat terrorism has been very very good and very very strong and will continue to be one of the very high priorities of our bilateral relationship.

AsiaNet: There was a lot of discussion recently regarding the WikiLeaks cables in India. Has it embarrassed you or has it affected your foreign policy initiatives?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I can’t really comment on any of the WikiLeaks cables. We are in the process of prosecuting those who were responsible for this. We consider it a real breach of trust in our security. But our relations between the United States and India are very very strong and we’re certainly able to manage things like this that come up.

[Problem with recording.]

AsiaNet: There’s been a lot of discussion about the WikiLeaks cables in India. Has it embarrassed you? Has it affected your relations between the U.S. and countries mentioned in the leaks?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I can’t really comment on the specifics of WikiLeaks. We condemn those releases. We consider them very much a breach of security. But as a general matter, I can tell you that they have not had a major impact on our bilateral relations. Our relations are very strong and we consider that India has got to be one of our defining partnerships of the 21st Century.

AsiaNet: Certain leaders, especially the communist leaders in India say that USA is still pursuing policies of imperialism and they are attacking you. How will you react to this?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I would say that is not true. We are very much a partner of India. We’re working very collaboratively with them across a huge range of matters including economic cooperation, energy cooperation, counter-terrorism, health, and a huge range of other things. So there is nothing for the communists or any other Indians to be concerned about. On the contrary, we think this is going to be, again, one of our most important partnerships for the United States going forward.

AsiaNet: Many professionals, particularly in the IT and medical fields are concerned about President Obama’s policies on denying visas to Indians. Is there a real need to worry about this?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I don’t think there’s a need to worry. One of the very strongest aspects of our relations, one of the reasons that our relationship is so strong is the strong people to people ties between our two countries. The 2.5 million non-resident Indians who live in the United States, the 100,000 Indian students who are in school in the United States, and even on visas Indians are tremendous beneficiaries of the American immigration system, and even on the famous H1B visas, India itself gets more than 40 percent of all of those visas that are issued worldwide, so India by far is the largest recipient and beneficiary of that program.

AsiaNet: Finally, have you ever been to Kerala? What is the news you are getting about that state, what you think about that state?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I have been to Kerala. It’s one of my absolute favorite states. I went to Kochi, I went in to the inland waterways, and it was just a lovely, lovely experience. I hope I have the chance to go back there.

AsiaNet: Thank you very much.

Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you so much.

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