RUMSFELD: After you Sir.
MUKHERJEE: I had very useful discussions with Secretary Rumsfeld about our bilateral relations, which are going on very smoothly. Since last June, we’ve signed three more treaties with USA in all. Our cooperation is going on smoothly. I also briefed him about the prevailing situation in our neighborhood and developments which have taken place there. And of course, when we meet, we exchange our views on development issues of common interest. That’s all.
RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. I was pleased to hear the Defence Minister’s remarks this morning to the Assembly, and we had an opportunity to discuss in more detail his assessment of the region and the events that take place in this region. It’s always been a pleasure to have a chance to visit with you, and I thank you very much. We will be happy to respond to a couple of questions. If you have some easy ones, I’ll take them; if you have some difficult ones, then the Minister from India will take them, right?
Question: There have been reports from the past couple of days about another incident allegedly involving killing some civilians in a place call Ishaqi?
RUMSFELD: I don’t have anything for you on it.
Question: You don’t know anything about an inquiry?
RUMSFELD: I don’t have anything for you on it. You can talked to Eric Ruff and see what he has, or General Pace possibly. He’s right over there, and you can talk to him afterwards.
Question: Mr. Secretary, how do you characterize in political terms the evolving defense relationship between the United States and India? Do you see India as just a dialogue partner, or a potential ally, or simply a friend?
RUMSFELD: And who are you addressing that to?
Question: Secretary Rumsfeld, yourself...
RUMSFELD: I don’t know all the code words that diplomats use, but I can say this: that over the past five or six years, the relationship between the United States and India, from a military to military standpoint, has been on a steady improvement and it is a relationship that we value a great deal. It is multifaceted at this stage. It involves exercises. It involves working together on problems of common interest. And it is something that the Department of Defense and the government of the United States values greatly. We certainly expect to see that our areas of common interest will continue to bring us together from a military to military standpoint in the months and years ahead.
Question: Secretary Rumsfeld, this week the United States clearly ramped up its diplomacy in terms of dealing with the nuclear proliferation issue in Iran. Do you think that makes the possibility of military action against Iran more or less likely at this point?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don’t know that I want to get into that. What’s happened is clear. The progress with respect to the EU3 and their discussions with Iran had arrived at a point where it seemed not to be moving forward. And the President made a decision to work with them, and to work with Russia and China, and attempt to offer a choice to the Iranian government. The information has just been communicated to them and it seems to me that the appropriate thing now to do is to wait and see which path the Iranian government will take. And we certainly hope that they will recognize the seriousness and the substance of what President Bush has put forward and which the other countries have all joined to put forward.
Question: I’d like to follow up on Haditha. I know you said that the investigation is going on and that everyone has to wait to see what it comes up with. Could you foresee any circumstances in which it might affect your position?
RUMSFELD: I’m not going to speculate, of course not. But I’m not going to speculate about Haditha at all. The investigations are taking place and I’ve responded to that question. I’ve responded to all those questions on this subject. And as I’ve indicated repeatedly, being in the chain of command, it is incumbent upon me to not say things about this that in any way could be considered “command influence” and have an effect on people’s rights or the outcomes of whatever might occur. So I don’t intend to, here with you. And for those traveling with me, I don’t intend to with you. And I know it’s the biggest disappointment of your life, but you’ll just have to get used to it.
Question: Minister Mukherjee, do you think it is appropriate for Iran to participate, even as an observer, in the meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?
MUKHERJEE: We have observer status and will continue as such for some time.
Question: But what about Iran? Should Iran participate with observer status in this organization?
MUKHERJEE: It is for them to decide. Who am I to decide on their behalf?
Question: Sir, this morning, Secretary Rumsfeld talked quite a bit about U.S. concerns on transparency towards China’s military buildup. I am curious whether you share those concerns. There is also a U.S. report about concerns that there were some surprises over the last year in terms of the equipment they’re developing. Obviously, as a neighbor, that would come of some concern to you. Could you discuss whether you share those views on the Chinese military build-up?
MUKHERJEE: In fact I visited China very recently and we had a very wide range of discussions. We have a very long border with China and we have provided the institutional arrangements to carry on the border talks between two special representatives of our respective Prime Ministers. We reviewed the situation and we also shared our perceptions about the overall improvement of relations and in that context, certain issues came up for discussions and sharing information and we emphasized that we should engage ourselves in dialogue and try to understand each other’s point of view.
RUMSFELD: Thank you very much folks.
MUKHERJEE: Thank you.