Interview With Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN
Secretary of State
QUESTION: And joining us now is the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the highest ranking member of the Obama Administration to visit India yet.
Madame Secretary of State, appreciate your joining us here on CNN-IBN ahead of your visit to India. Now, Madame Secretary, the Bush Administration had expected a strategic shift its relationship with India where India was seen as a major partner of the U.S. in the region. Is the Obama Administration equally committed to taking that relationship forward, to seeing India as a major player in Asia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. As you may have heard, I delivered a speech yesterday that summarized many of the priorities that we are pursuing in the Obama Administration. And I made it very clear that we see India as a partner, a global partner. I’m very pleased that when I come to India, we’re going to be announcing a very broad, comprehensive agenda for dialogue that Minister Krishna and I will be leading.
We see India as an economic power, a strategic partner, a country that has an unlimited potential. And of course, I am very pleased that I had the opportunity 14 years ago to come to India to express the commitment that my husband, our then-President, had to India. I supported the steps that the Bush Administration took. As you may know, I was the co-chair of the India Caucus in the United States Senate. So it’s a particular privilege for me to be in this position at this time, to be coming to India and to be pursuing a deeper and broader relationship between our two countries.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the cornerstone of such strategic relationship fashioned by the Bush Administration was the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. Now is the Obama Administration just as committed to taking that deal forward? Because – I ask this because the recent G-8 declaration regarding restrictions on transfer of atomic technology to non-NPT states has led some in India to believe that the Obama Administration is determined to get India to sign the NPT before we move forward.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we are committed to the civilian nuclear agreement that was signed during the Bush Administration. I hope to have some announcements about the continuing implementation of that agreement when I arrive in India. And I want to discuss with Indian leaders how we can work together for a common purpose of preventing the proliferation of nuclear material and weapons to states and non-state actors who pose a threat to India, to the United States, and to many countries around the world. So of course, there will be a very serious discussion that will begin with my visit, continue through our important strategic dialogue.
But I think we share a common desire to make sure that we don’t have irresponsible states, and especially non-state actors such as terrorist networks, that we both have to be very vigilant against acquiring weapons that we know should not be in their hands.
QUESTION: So are you saying that the clean waiver that India got from the Nuclear Suppliers Group last year will override all else, that you will therefore go ahead with these various nuclear agreements on your trip here, and therefore, the Obama Administration is not making signing the NPT as critical to furthering the strategic relationship?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, what I want to speak with your leaders about is what the possible new approaches to nonproliferation might be – global and regional regimes that would make sense for India, as well as other nations. The Obama Administration is, as are the other G-8 members, as you referenced in the agreement that they put out, very concerned about proliferation.
Now, the United States is very committed to our nuclear agreement with India. But I want to hear from the Indian leaders what they believe would be useful steps that we could mutually pursue that would avoid the concerns that I think we share about such material falling into the wrong hands.
QUESTION: Madame, you are coming to India at a time when India and Pakistan have just revised their dialogue. Now there’s a feeling here that it’s the U.S. which is pressurizing India to return to the dialogue table. Is there – was there that kind of pressure?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, not at all. I’m very impressed that Prime Minister Singh has met both with President Zardari and now with Prime Minister Gillani of Pakistan. This dialogue between India and Pakistan is certainly one that can only be pursued with the agreement and commitment of the two countries and their leaders. But of course, the United States is very supportive of any steps that India might take and any agreements that India and Pakistan might reach.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, some feel, though, that the U.S. is still not doing enough to put pressure on Pakistan to bring those responsible for the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, *to boot*, that the U.S.’s sole focus is on Pakistan’s fight against the Taliban, not so much on Islamabad tackling homegrown terror groups like the Lashkar or the Jaish.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think that’s an accurate perception. We have engaged in a very important ongoing discussion with the Pakistanis, both the civilian government as well as the military, about the importance of standing up against terrorists and extremists no matter who they are and where they might strike. In fact, I think in the last few days, there has been a real commitment that was discussed between Prime Minister Gillani and Prime Minister Singh about the commitment of the Pakistani Government to pursuing the Mumbai terrorists and their associated organizations who provide the training and the deployment of terrorists. And I think you will find that Pakistan’s own fight against these extremists is giving the Pakistani people a greater understanding and level of commitment to the continuing struggle against the terrorists.
So I really see events trending in a very positive direction between India and Pakistan, in part because of the shared sacrifice, commitment, and understanding that now exists about the threat that organizations of terrorists pose to both of your countries and to the safety and well-being of your people.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you make climate change also a key issue in your foreign policy. Now, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill which imposes trade restrictions on countries which do not sign up to an emissions cap. Are you aware of Indian concerns that if such a bill is passed in the U.S. Senate, it could hurt developing countries like India?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, what I’m looking for and what I am anticipating discussing with Indian leaders is how together we can make the fight against climate change a win-win proposition. Certainly, you will not hear from me or President Obama or our Administration any desire to prevent the continuing development of India. We understand the great commitment that the Indian Government and people have to improving the living standards of hundreds of millions of people who deserve to have a good life and a better future for their children.
But we also understand the grave threat posed by climate change to coastal countries like India that will be on the front lines of the devastation likely to be reaped if we do not reign in the increasing temperature that is being recorded. So what I’m looking for is a --
QUESTION: I must ask you one final question. The last time you were in India, you came as the First Lady of the U.S. This time, you are coming as the Secretary of State. Any memories from that visit? Anything particular you would like to see or do on this visit to India?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, the last time I came, I was a Senator from New York.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I was last in India in 2005, and --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- have wonderful memories from that trip, as I do from my previous trips, once representing our country at the funeral of Mother Teresa in Kolkata, and then of course the trip that I took with my daughter, which was so memorable, and just leaves me with many positive and warm feelings about India and the people of India.
QUESTION: Okay. Madame Secretary, I appreciate your joining us. We look forward to having you here in India, and hope that we have a positive outcome from your visit to this country.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m very confident of it. We’re going to deepen and broaden our relationship on so many fronts, and I’m excited to see the growth and the potential of India being realized.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.