Interview With Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg Radio

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Taj Palace Hotel
New Delhi, India
May 8, 2012

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton, for being with Bloomberg Radio today. We really appreciate it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Indira.

QUESTION: I wanted to start out by asking you, last week in China you were involved in a roller coaster ride of backstage negotiations over a blind legal activist, Chen Guangcheng. Take us behind the scenes. Did your talks reach the highest levels of China’s government, and what leverage did you have to convince President Hu Jintao to let a dissident leave for the U.S.?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Indira, I’m not, at this point, going to be able to go into the details. Right now I’m focused on the here and now, which is, briefly stated, Mr. Chen remains in the hospital obtaining medical treatment, some of which was suggested as being necessary based on examinations that our doctors at the Embassy gave him. We remain in close contact with him. He is meeting with Chinese authorities in order to pursue the necessary steps to be able to leave to pursue his studies in the United States. And we’re also on our end expediting and making all the necessary preparations.

So my goal is to welcome him to the United States to pursue his studies. There’ll be plenty of time in the future for him and others to discuss how we got to the point where we are today.

QUESTION: So you think it’ll be a matter of weeks that he’ll be in the U.S.?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to put any timeline on it, because we’re all working very hard. There are a lot of people engaged in both the Chinese and the American governments.

QUESTION: Let’s step back. This was an unusual case. Mr. Chen escaped from house arrest and later was picked up by a U.S. Embassy car that was chased and almost had to abort its mission. Was it you or President Obama who authorized this plan, and do you worry that it might spark a run on U.S. embassies in China and beyond?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first this was an exceptional case with extraordinary circumstances, and I do not anticipate seeing any case like this again. But I am not going to discuss any of the details at this time. There’ll be an opportune moment to do so –

QUESTION: You certainly must have authorized it, or I can’t imagine the Embassy would have done it without you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ll let your statement stand. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: All right. Human rights have been a defining issue of your career. Would you have left China if this case had not been resolved? And did you indicate to the Chinese that you couldn’t leave without a deal?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to answer a hypothetical, because thankfully it was resolved. And we actually resolved it twice, but the second resolution was acceptable to Mr. Chen, who, as I said repeatedly, we were working hard to honor both his choices and our values.

QUESTION: What assurances have the Chinese demanded that this case not be repeated? And are you amazed that China even agreed to a second deal after the first one fell through?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to characterize our negotiations or any decisions that were made, but I would just underscore that we really have stated clearly that this is an extraordinary case with exceptional circumstances. And it is not something that either we or anyone anticipates occurring again.

QUESTION: What’s different in U.S.-China relations that China actually agreed to this deal? Could you even have imagined something like this being negotiated a couple of years ago?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, without really commenting on any understandings that were reached, I will say that the intensive work that I have been doing along with our American team through the mechanism of the Strategic and Economic Dialogues, plus all of the interim meetings and consultations that we have established over the last three and a half years, created a level of personal relationships and understanding between individuals and our government institutions that is absolutely critical for us to be able to discuss the full range of challenges we both face.

As I’ve said, and it was interesting because every high-level Chinese official I met repeated back to me from a speech that I gave at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington that what we are trying to do – the United States and China – is unprecedented in world history. We’re trying to find a way for an established power and a rising power to coexist. The United States is going to remain a power, the predominant power economically, politically, militarily, for a long time to come, as far as I can imagine. We recognize that China is a rising power. There will not always be a convergence of our interests or even our perceptions about what is happening in the world. So how we manage this relationship is absolutely critical to peace, security, prosperity, individual freedoms – you name it. And therefore I have invested a lot and argued strongly for combining what were dialogues and meetings on the economic side with disparate dialogues and meetings on the strategic side under an overarching umbrella. Because we have to be working across our governments and we need to be sure that no issue predominates or undermines the potential for reaching agreement on other equally important issues.

QUESTION: I need to switch to South Asia. U.S.-Pakistan talks are stalled over reopening supply lines to Afghanistan and allowing drone strikes. Why is the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan leaving early at such a critical time, and can the U.S. continue counter-terror operations and achieve peace with the Taliban as U.S. troops draw down from Afghanistan even if Pakistan is unwilling to help?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t, as a matter of course, comment on personnel matters. But I will say that the ambassador has served ably and well under very difficult circumstances. And it’s not unusual in these very difficult assignments that we have now – Afghanistan, before that Iraq, Pakistan, others – that the intensity of the work that is required, it leads someone to say I’m going full out for two years and then I am going to need to step off this fast track. So I’m very understanding of that. It was totally his request, and we’re going to honor it.

QUESTION: So the U.S.-Pakistani negotiations which continue over GLOCs and drone strikes, how do you see those playing out and the U.S. getting the vital cooperation it needs? What if Pakistan says no dice? Can we still continue doing what we need to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’ve made clear what our redlines are, and we stand ready to negotiate over areas of concern between Pakistan and the United States. They’ve had, as you know, some difficult political issues. We’ve waited patiently for them to be resolved. There are still some outstanding ones, apparently, that have not yet been so. But we have negotiations from our Embassy and teams going over on a regular basis.

QUESTION: Do you see any breakthrough now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s a matter of continuing to persevere.

QUESTION: Here in India you’ve been talking about a range of strategic issues, including cooperation on Iran. Now, Indian Government officials have told me that they are cutting orders for Iranian crude by 20 percent this fiscal year. Did Indian leaders pledge the same specific cuts to you, and will that be enough to win them an exemption from U.S. sanctions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are aware that refineries have cut their orders and the actual purchases have been reduced. So we’re encouraged by what India has done. I’m sending my energy coordinator, Ambassador Carlos Pascual, with a team of experts here to India next week, and they will be discussing the full range of energy issues. Because I fully appreciate the Indian Government’s concerns about fueling their economy. They still have an enormous amount of work to do. They still have to extend electricity. They still have to keep it going at affordable and predictable rates. They have a lot of economic challenges they have to address.

So I think what they are doing is certainly noteworthy. We think they can do more, but we think it’s only fair that we sit down and discuss with them how they can meet their legitimate energy needs while supporting the international consensus of which they are part to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

QUESTION: Last question on today’s news, the terror plot that has been exposed. When did you know about that, and how does this fit into your view of the continuing U.S. counterterrorism efforts. You mentioned al-Zawahiri, you believe, is hiding in Pakistan. So is that – explain how this fits into U.S. efforts to continue fighting terrorism (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, I’ve known about this for some time. I’ve certainly known about the efforts to do something like it even longer. So I’ve been someone who’s followed it closely. Look, I mean, you’re dealing with such evil, perverse human beings, who sit around plotting about ways for people to kill themselves and kill others at the same time. I mean, it is so sick, Indira, truly.

And yet we have to remain vigilant and attentive and quick and agile in our response, which thankfully we continue to be, and working closely with the countries that I visited this week. Counterterrorism is always on the agenda because we have to defeat those who would use this tactic that is just designed to sow death and destruction. It’s not a political agenda really. It’s not intended to provide anybody with a better life. It’s a terrible vestige of an attitude that somehow violence is a substitute for participating in a legitimate political process.

QUESTION: So we can expect a strike on al-Zawahiri next?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was very sad to see the video produced by al-Qaida of Mr. Weinstein, who was kidnapped, is being held by al-Qaida in Pakistan, we believe in the tribal areas. He was living in Lahore, Pakistan, from which he was abducted. He was there doing development work to help the poor people of Pakistan, and it’s just tragic. But since Zawahiri inherited the mantle of leadership from bin Ladin and we continue to believe he’s in Pakistan, we are going to pursue him and all those who threaten Americans and our friends and allies.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for your time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Indira. Good to see you.

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PRN: 2012/ T63-20