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South and Central Asia: Interview With Times Now

Times Now: Nisha Biswal, welcome to Times Now.

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Thanks Srinjoy, pleasure to be here.

Times Now: First of all, after your ambassadors visit to Gujarat, how do you see the Modi factor? Would you welcome Narendra Modi, CM of Gujarat to the US? Is he welcome in America?

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Well listen, we have welcomed every democratically elected leader of India and we will continue to do so. We have such deep admiration and respect for this democratic society and we have such respect for leaders that are produced through this process. So absolutely, we will welcome a democratic leader of India.

Times Now: Well, he has been elected 3 or 4 times in Gujarat, He has also the possibility of becoming the Prime Minster of India. You have seen all the election polls, you have seen that this is election season in India. If he is the next prime minister of India, which he could well be and I am sure you have factored it in, how do you see relations between India and America? Will it be any different?

Assistant Secretary Biswal: You know, I believe that this is a relationship that is valued and supported across the political spectrum in both countries. And we have had very strong relations with the UPA government, and we have had very strong relations with the NDA government. And we continue think that that will be the case. Similarly, in the U.S., Democratic governments and Republican governments alike have placed great importance on this relationship. And so I am confident that as the election moves forward in this country that the relationship between our two countries will continue to grow, to expand and become ever more important to both of our peoples and both of our societies.

Times Now: There is a general feeling that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assuming he becomes one, will be in the United States sometime in September or October for the U.N. session. Now, how will that play out?

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Well, you know I don’t want to get into hypotheticals, we have a very important process that is unfolding in this country which we watch with admiration and fascination and respect. And we certainly welcome India’s engagement at the U.N. General Assembly. We have had very important consultations in that context. So you know, like I said I think, let the process unfold and I am confident that we will continue to have strategic partnership with India, moving into the future. We have so many things we want to do between our two countries, such extra ordinary potential to grow and expand this relationship in ways that benefit the Indian people, in ways that benefit the American people and frankly advance issues across the globe.

Times Now: There are still human rights organizations which have not cleared Narendra Modi, Yes you can say that he has been cleared by the courts in India, would America go by what the courts have said? And also are you keeping in mind what all these human rights organizations are still saying about these massacres in Gujarat.

Assistant Secretary Biswal: You know, I think we have expressed consistently over the years, our concerns and our views about the unfortunate and tragic events that unfolded in Gujarat in 2002. We certainly have been consistent on that policy. We also recognize that we will have a very broad and comprehensive set of issues between our two countries. Many areas where we have a great degree of convergence and areas where we may have different perspectives and differences of opinions, we will work through those. And we will engage in that spirit.

Times Now: You spoke about Pakistan, you spoke about greater links between India and Pakistan, do you see any difference, because America will monitor this very carefully, and America has some interest here. An NDA government, and this NDA government that could come in the near future, how different do you see this NDA governments view of Pakistan compared to Manmohan Singh’s government, and how will America…

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Again, I think you are getting into hypothetical that I don’t think are particularly useful to engage in. I think we will engage with an Indian government irrespective of what political party wins the election. In all of the broad areas of interest between the two countries, we have a deep interest in seeing a region that is integrated and trading with each other. We think that is of interest of the people of India, we certainly think it’s in the interest of the people of Pakistan. It also is in the interest of the broader region. So if there are opportunities between the two countries to expand trade, we would support that. Certainly, it has always been our opinion that these issues need to be worked out bilaterally between the two countries.

Times Now: How damaging has the Devyani issue been for India and America?

Assistant Secretary Biswal: I think that the issue played out in a way that certainly raised a lot attention and touched an emotional nerve in this country, for very understandable reasons. Our Secretary responded by expressing his personal regret at the manner in which the events unfolded, and I want to convey my own regret at that. But frankly, we are working very closely with the government of India to address issues between our two countries to ensure that we have a clear understanding about the individuals and institutions that we each have in each other’s country and how we can ensure that they are in compliance with each other’s laws and what accommodations can be made within the context of each other’s laws. So I think we have a process moving forward that is an important one. More importantly, I think we have a commitment between our two countries, between our two governments, on working through issues like this because what is at stake here is a relationship that is deeply valued and deeply important to both countries. And we ought not to lose sight of that fact.

Times Now: Finally, how do you see the situation in Pakistan? India is worried about all the tensions, because things have got worse and worse over a period of time.

Assistant Secretary Biswal: You know we have been working very closely with our Pakistani friends on ensuring that we can help meet the aspirations of the Pakistani people, for a safe, secure and prosperous society. And, we have been working with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and supporting his vision for a Pakistan that is stable and prosperous and provides hope and opportunity to all of its citizens. We think that that is a vision that is a powerful one and we want to do everything we can to help him succeed in that vision.

Times Now: Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Thank you.