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Powell Remarks, Minister Jaswant Singh of India

Remarks with External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh of India

Secretary Colin L. Powell
New Delhi, India
October 17, 2001


MINISTER SINGH: Ladies and gentlemen of the press, good afternoon. It’s my distinct pleasure to be here with my friend, the Secretary of State, to meet all of you. I had the pleasure of the occasion to meet him very recently in Washington on the 2nd of October, and I am delighted to be able to play host to him since yesterday. He leaves shortly for Shanghai, but as the Prime Minister informed the Secretary of State, we are not treating this visit by him as a visit of the Secretary of State of the United States of America in lieu of a formal visit.

We had, I had, a very cordial, very frank, and very fruitful discussion with the Secretary of State yesterday where we spent just under an hour discussing issues together and we had a pleasant supper together. We covered the entire range of issues, bilateral India, the United States of America, regional, as also global issues and, of course, in regional, asked that covering the latest developments in Afghanistan, particularly on September 11 and thereafter October 2, came up for considerable extent of mutual discussion.

I do want to repeat that what the Prime Minister had said when he last addressed the Joint Session of the U.S. Congress about India and the United States of America being natural allies. I treat my friend Colin’s visit as part of the same demonstration. We continue to hold that September 11 was an assault on freedom, on civilization, on democracy, and India’s stand against terrorism not simply starting from September 11, even before that, have been unequivocal and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the international community and the United States of America in our battle against this global menace.

It is my pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to now request my friend and guest, the Secretary of State, to share his thoughts with us. And, thereafter we are in the hands of Nirupama, and you are in her hands.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for your warm welcome, and Jaswant, I thank you for your friendship as well. It means a great deal to me. And I thank you and all of your colleagues, especially the Prime Minister, for the courtesies extended to me in this all too brief visit and I look forward to returning at some future time and spending much more time here in India.

As you have noted we are natural allies. Two great democracies who believe in a common set of values that have served both of our nations well. President Bush has made it absolutely clear that transforming a relationship with India and to putting it on a higher plane is one of his highest priorities. I have found that this view is entirely shared by Prime Minister Vajpayee and his colleagues as well.

The United States and India have a responsibility as the world’s largest, multi-ethnic democracies to work in close partnership with each other. The prospects have never been brighter for our cooperation across a whole range of issues and we have discussed all of these issues in the past dozen or so hours. President Bush asked me to come here to discuss the global coalition against terrorism, and how the United States and India can continue our efforts over the long haul.

As an aside I might mention here and now that we know the Prime Minister will be coming to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly meeting in early November, and President Bush has extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to come to Washington on the 9th of November for a working visit with the President, and we look forward to receiving the Prime Minister in Washington on the 9th of November and I’m also pleased that, of course, that invitation has been accepted and I can assure you, you will be warmly welcomed, Mr. Minister.

President Bush also asked me to convey his personal thanks to the Prime Minister for the support we have already received from India and especially Foreign Minister Singh who has been in the forefront of developing and presenting those support offers to us over the past month. We have stood shoulder to shoulder in this fight against terrorism. Both the United States and India were quick to realize the attacks of September 11 were attacks on the whole world. Citizens of some 80 countries were among the victims, including many Indian citizens who remain among the missing. Our hearts go out to the families of those here in India who were lost, as do our heartfelt thanks to the people of India for the outpouring of sympathy we have received for our own losses in the attacks.

I want to make it clear that our focus in Afghanistan now is eradicating the Al Qaida network, to end the terrorist use of Afghanistan as a safe haven, to stop the invasion of Afghanistan that has taken place as a result of the presence of Al Qaida. We will achieve that goal. President Bush and the international coalition are determined, and we will persist and we will prevail. Only after the terrorists are gone can there be a broad-based government in Afghanistan that represents all elements of Afghan society, brings an end to fighting, lives in harmony with its neighbors and the neighborhood that it coexists in, begins the task of reconstruction, and welcomes the refugees back home.

My colleagues here pointed out correctly that the problem of terrorism is not limited to Afghanistan, and I assured them that our efforts are directed against all terrorism. The United States and India are united against terrorism, and that includes the terrorism that has been directed against India as well. Even before the September 11 attacks, the United States and India were cooperating extensively against terrorism. We established a counterterrorism joint working group last January for example. And now our cooperation is even more intense.

Today, Home Minister Advani and I signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that will enhance our fight against crime. Though clearly a major focus of my trip has been on ways the United States and India can work together in advancing the international coalition against terrorism, my talks with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and other officials covered many other important issues as well. We agreed on the far-reaching importance of the new Indo-U.S. relationship, which is anchored by the commitment of our leaders and by the friendship of our peoples. I am confident that our relations, already improving substantially, are becoming and will become even stronger. President Bush’s waiver of Glenn Amendment Sanctions allows the United States and India to move forward with broader cooperation between the two sides.

During the course of my visit, I had occasion to discuss President Bush’s new strategic framework, and I briefed the Prime Minister on our continuing exchanges with Russia on this very, very vital subject.

And we discussed how to promote stability on the subcontinent. In my talks both here and in Pakistan, I have encouraged the leaders in both nations to continue their dialogue and to take steps to reduce tension between them. I leave India for the APEC Ministerial, confident that the United States and India stand together against the scourge of international terrorism, strengthened by our shared democratic values, and ready as never before to work together for freedom, prosperity, and security in the region and in the world.

And finally, once again, my good friend, I thank you for the warm hospitality you have extended to me. Thank you, Mr. Minister.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State and the External Affairs Minister will now take questions. We will have three questions from each side. We will begin the first question from the Indian side and follow that sequence for the American side asking the second question, and similarly the Indian side and the American side following.

Please indicate to whom you are addressing the question and identify yourself while asking the question.

QUESTION: [ASHOK] SHARMA, AP. How can Pakistan be part of international effort to combat terrorism? Pakistan has supported terrorism in Afghanistan and Indian space and still maintains diplomatic ties with the Taliban. Shouldn’t India be attacking Pakistan going by the logic of the United States of attacking Afghanistan?

FOREIGN MINISTER SINGH: I presume that question is addressed to me.

SECRETARY POWELL: You can take it! I would not want to be inhospitable. If you wish it, it’s all yours. (Laughter)

I think Pakistan has made it clear in recent weeks that they recognize the nature of the Taliban regime and they are working with us to fight against Al Qaida, and they are working with us to see what kind of government can be put together in a post-Taliban regime. We deplore terrorism wherever it exists, whether it’s the kind of terrorism we saw on the 11th of September or the kind of terrorism we saw on the 1st of October in Srinigar. And, we believe that all nations, who are trying to move forward in a 21st century that I think will be shaped more and more by democracy and the values of individual liberty and freedom, can join in this coalition. We welcome all those who are committed to those principles and are committed against terrorism.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, George Gedda of AP. You said yesterday in Pakistan that Kashmir is a central issue between India and Pakistan, and you also said the aspirations of the Kashmiri people must be respected. This caused some unease here in India. Do you have any comment?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I didn’t say "a central". If you look carefully, I said "central" in the sense that I believe it’s an important issue and to suggest that it isn’t wouldn’t have been accurate. But it’s more important to look at the rest of my statement, where I said we should move forward on the basis of dialogue, on the basis of efforts to reduce tension, to avoid violence, and with respect to human rights. I think that is a sound statement. The issue of Kashmir is one that has to be resolved between India and Pakistan.

The United States is a friend of both of those nations, to the extent that both nations can find our efforts to be helpful in some way or another, we will be willing to be helpful. But I think it is more important to focus on the rest of my statement than that particular word which has somehow had an article slipped in front of it while I wasn’t looking.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). Usama Bin Laden in an interview (inaudible) claims that the Islamic world helped Pakistan build the nuclear bomb and as such is an Islamic bomb, and can be used by them as and when they choose. Your comments please.

SECRETARY POWELL: Nonsense. There is no such thing as -- Usama Bin Laden is not a representative of Islam. He is a terrorist, he is a murderer, he has murdered innocent Indians, innocent Americans, innocent Pakistanis, innocent people from all over the world. And he should not in any way be elevated to the status of a leader who believes in any faith. He believes only in power. He has done nothing to help the people who are suffering in the world. All he has done is brought more evil into the world, and death and destruction to individual citizens. There can be no linkage between what he might be doing and what any other nation may be doing. I just reject that as nonsense.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Patrick Tyler of the New York Times. A couple of summers ago, the Central Intelligence Agency was reported to suggest that America’s plans to go forward with national missile defense would incite China to expand its nuclear arsenal and that that in turn would incite India and Pakistan in an arms race in South Asia. Do you personally agree with that assessment? And you said you discussed strategic issues today, how did it come up today?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don’t agree with that assessment. I think the kind of missile defense that we are planning on is a very limited missile defense. I think once people come to understand the kind of reductions we are going to make in our strategic offensive weapons, significant reductions to much, much lower numbers, and when people have a chance to get a look and come to understand the nature of our limited missile defense, I don’t think either Russia or China will find it destabilizing with respect to their deterrent forces.

In my conversations both here and Islamabad, I heard from both sides about this issue. We did have a conversation. I took the opportunity of my meeting with the Prime Minister to describe the President’s strategic framework concept and to thank the Indians for their understanding of the importance of missile defense. I get the sense that both nations understand the nature of these weapons and the importance of constraining their developments so that they serve as deterrents and do not move from a strategy of deterrence to any other kind of strategy. So there is no reason for an arms race to develop based on what the United States is planning with missile defense. In fact, I think missile defense in the long run will be seen as stabilizing, not destabilizing, because it takes some of the currency away from the value of strategic offensive weapons.

QUESTION: Sonia Trika, Indian Express. My question is addressed to both of you. The Secretary said in Islamabad yesterday that you believe that the Kashmir issue is central to the relationship between India and Pakistan. This is not a view shared by India, which has advocated a composite dialogue covering various political and economic aspects with Pakistan, and not a unifocal approach as you have said that centers on Kashmir alone. Do you think that the world sees the wisdom of India’s stand in this?

FOREIGN MINISTER SINGH: I cannot answer. I think the Secretary of State has more than adequately really read out what he said in Islamabad. There are obviously -- that is a position that the United States of America has and has had. And as two democracies we could disagree on an event but we don’t need necessarily to be disagreeable about the disagreement and we can work together. The question of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an example of the secular traditions of the Indian nation. In that sense, we really cannot move towards reinventing the two nations (inaudible) and we have shared these views with the Secretary of State and will continue to do so.

SECRETARY POWELL: I agree totally.

QUESTION: Martha Raddatz from ABC. Secretary Powell, there was a strain of anthrax found in the letter to Senator Daschle that is said to be highly refined and pure, suggesting state sponsorship. Could you comment on that? And Mr. Prime Minister, do you have concerns --

FOREIGN MINISTER SINGH: I’m not Prime Minister.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I’m sorry (laughter). I’m so sorry. Should I ask forgiveness or should I be happy for him (laughter).

Could you tell me what your concerns are about the evolving and growing relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and have you assured the United States that you’ll do your part to calm down tensions in Kashmir?

FOREIGN MINISTER SINGH: I can answer that very easily, I’m glad you asked that. The relationship that India has and will develop with the United States of America is not a hyphenated relationship. We don’t see it through any resin of relations between any other country. We have a relationship with our western neighbor. We are committed.

This government has demonstrated the commitment of improving our relations with Pakistan as perhaps no other government in the last fifty years has despite the difficulties in several areas. The Prime Minister has often said, and he repeated it to the Secretary of State, that you can change friends but you can’t change neighbors, and we can certainly not alter geography, and Pakistan, with India, has to learn how to live together as good neighbors. It will come, be assured we cannot push the pace of it. Nobody can push the pace of it.

To the people of the two countries, I have no doubt in my mind, realize the essential sanity of what the Prime Minister of India has repeatedly said, that the two people have to learn, have to forget the past, have to forget the mistakes of the past 50 years and we have to learn to live together as we address what are our real enemies of today – poverty, want, as the two countries are enabled to move together in the 21st century and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

SECRETARY POWELL: I really can’t add anything about the anthrax story and the Daschle envelope and what they analyzed. I just have not any more information than you already have from Washington, so I better stay away from that.

QUESTION: Anurag Thomar of Zee News. Minister, Secretary Powell, what is your perception about India-U.S. relations after having a whole lot of meetings on important issues with senior Indian leaders? Where does it stand today, where does it go?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think our relations are strong. They have improved so much in recent years. I was saying to my colleagues earlier that as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in most of the years I spent in senior positions in the U. S. military back in the 70’s and through the 80’s, we really didn’t have much to do with India regrettably. And that is now all changed. It is all changed.

So these two great democracies can now work together on areas of mutual interest. We are trying to remove whatever irritations exist in our relationship. And this improvement was taken place before the 11th September, and since the 11th of September, with the strong support that we received from the Indian Government, we have the opportunity to accelerate the pace of change, and we look forward to seizing that opportunity. And I think it will be in the interest not only of our two countries, but in the interest of South Asia, as well.

QUESTION: Andrea Mitchell from NBC News. Mr. Secretary, can you share any information about what has just happened in Jerusalem with the shooting of a cabinet minister and how this will affect your efforts to try to persuade both sides to resume a more meaningful dialogue and persuade the Israelis, in particular, not to take counteraction?

SECRETARY POWELL: I just heard about it before the press conference so I don’t know the details, and who has taken credit for the shooting or what the nature of the incident was and so I really don’t have a comment at this time.

QUESTION: Are you going to try to reach out to Mr. Sharon and try to persuade him that no matter what has happened in this instance that he should not retreat from --

SECRETARY POWELL: I think I better understand the instance before I suggest that to Mr. Sharon, but as you know I speak to him on a very regular basis, if not daily, every other day or so, and I would look forward to doing it in the next day or so.

QUESTION: And Mr. Foreign Minister, in particular on the subject of the U.S. Congress now lifting some remaining sanctions and the expressed proposal by the Administration to follow up by waiving, by taking advantage of the waiver and granting more economic aid and possibly military aid in the future to Pakistan. Do you think that this economic aid to Pakistan is potentially destabilizing the relationship that India has with the United States? Is this too much of a reward for Pakistan, and is it something that in any way offends India?

FOREIGN MINISTER SINGH: I understand your question. I’ve just responded to a similar question. India’s relationship with the United States of America is not subject to and is not under the veto of any other relationship. These are two sovereign countries, and it’s very good luck to our western neighbors in Pakistan. It is my hope that they will utilize the economic aid for the right purpose, but that’s again something that Pakistan has to decide. I can’t very well decide for Pakistan or even attempt to advise Pakistan how they should do it. We have a certain experience about military aid to Pakistan in the past, and now that we see some evidence of Pakistan moving away from the fixed positions of the past and joining the rest of the international community, we can only hope that the same approach will be governed their utilization of any aid or assistance that they receive from the United States of America or any other country in the world.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I’m afraid we have to conclude here.

Thank you.


[End]


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