Washington: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton spoke in an interview on Thursday on the India-US civil nuclear deal and the strengthening of ties between the two countries. She also spoke on India-Pakistan talks in the backdrop of terrorism. Edited excerpts:
The Bush administration had effected a strategic shift in its relationship with India, where India was seen as the major partner of the US in the region. Is the Obama administration equally committed to taking that relationship forward?
Absolutely. As you may see, the speech I delivered yesterday (Wednesday, at the senate foreign affairs committee) summarizes many of the priorities that we are pursuing in the Obama administration, and I made it very clear that we see India as a...global partner.
Friendly voice: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on Wednesday. She is confident of a positive outcome from her visit to India. Brendan Hoffman / Bloomberg
I am really pleased that when I come to India, we are going to be announcing a very broad comprehensive agenda for dialogue that (foreign) minister (S.M.) Krishna and I would be leading. We see India as an economic power, a strategic partner, a country that has unlimited potential.
And, of course, I am very pleased that I have (had) the opportunity 14 years ago to come to India to express the commitment that my husband (Bill Clinton), then president, had (towards) India.
I supported the steps that the Bush administration took. 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.
The cornerstone of that strategic relationship fashioned by the Bush administration was the Indo-US nuclear deal. Is the Obama administration just as committed in taking that deal forward?
Well, of course we are committed to the civil 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 (on) how we can work together for a common purpose of preventing the proliferation of nuclear material and weapons to state and non-state actors (that) pose a threat to India (and) 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 and continue to be our important strategic dialogue. But I think we share a common desire... that we both have to be very vigilant against (an irresponsible state or a non-state player) acquiring weapons that we know should not be in their hands.
So are you saying the clean waiver that India got from nuclear suppliers last year will override all else, that you will go ahead with these various nuclear agreements on your trip here, and therefore, the Obama administration is not making signing of NPT as critical to furthering this strategic relationship?
Well, I want to speak to your leaders about this—what the possible new approaches to non-proliferation might be (and a) global and regional regime that would make sense for India as well as other nations.
The Obama administration is...very concerned about proliferation. The United States is very committed to our nuclear agreement with India but I want to hear from Indian leaders what they believe would be the useful step that we could mutually pursue that would avoid the concern that I think we share about such material falling into the wrong hands.
Your coming to India is at a time when India and Pakistan just revived their dialogue. There is a feeling here that it was the US which was pressurizing the two countries to return to the dialogue table. Was there that kind of pressure?
No, not at all. I am very impressed with Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh meeting both president (Asif Ali) Zardari and now with prime minister (Yousaf Raza) Gilani of Pakistan. This dialogue between India and Pakistan is certainly a one that could only be pursued with the agreement and commitment of the two countries and the leaders. But of course, the United States is very supportive of the steps that India might take in any agreement that India and Pakistan might reach.
Some fear that the US is still not putting enough pressure on Pakistan to bring those responsible for the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai to book, that its sole focus is on Pakistan’s fight against Taliban and not so much on Islamabad taking on home-grown terror groups?
Well, I don’t think that’s an accurate perception. We have engaged in very important ongoing discussion with the Pakistani forces, 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 Gilani and Prime Minister Singh about the commitment of the Pakistani government in pursuing the Mumbai terrorists and their associated organizations who provide the training...
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 through the continuing struggle against the terrorist.
So I really see events tending in a very positive direction between India and Pakistan because of the shared sacrifice, commitment and understanding that now exist about the fact that the organizations of terrorists pose (a threat) to both of your countries and safety and well-being of your people.
You made climate change also a key issue in your foreign policy. The US House of Representatives has passed a Bill which imposes trade restrictions on countries which do not agree to an emissions cap. Are you aware of the Indian concern that this could hurt developing countries such as India?
What I am looking to and what I am anticipating discussing with Indian leaders is how together we can make a fight against climate change a win-win proposition. Certainly you will not hear from me or President (Barack) Obama or our administration any desire to prevent the continuing development of India. We understand the great commitment the Indian government and the people have to improve the living standard of hundreds and millions of people who deserve to have a good life and a better future for their children.
But we also understand the great threat posed by climate change to coastal countries like India...if you do not rein in the increasing temperatures.
The last time you were in India, you came as first lady of the US. This time you are coming as secretary of state. Any memories from that visit?
Well, of course, the last time I came I was a senator from New York and I was last in India in 2005 and have wonderful memories from that trip as I do from my previous trips, once representing our country at the funeral of Mother Teresa in Calcutta and of course the trip that I took with my daughter, which was so memorable and just leave me with many positive and warm feelings about India and the people of India.
We look forward to having you here in India and hope we have a positive outcome from your visit.
I am very confident of it. We are going to deepen and broaden our relationships on so many fronts. And I am excited to see the growth and the potential of India being realized.