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Media Availability with Deputy Secretary Lynn in New Delhi, India

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III
November 06, 2009

       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  Thanks very much.  Good evening, everyone.  Thanks for coming.


       Let me start by taking the opportunity to thank Defense Secretary Kumar for the very warm hospitality that we’ve received here in New Delhi.  As you know, I’m here to co-chair with him the Defense Planning Group.  I’m the head of the US defense delegation for our top level security dialogue.  This is one of many groups that help guide our bilateral relations across the full spectrum of India-US relations.


       As we prepare for Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Washington in late November I’m delighted that we could meet in advance of his trip to discuss our bilateral defense relationship.  It’s a key element in the overall US-India relationship.


       As you all know, the United States and India have made great strides in our defense relationships as strategic partners over the past five years.  Our relationship is strong and growing.  Today we have accomplished things that would have been difficult to imagine back then.  The sale of major US defense equipment, frequent military exercises and increasing cooperation on issues of global security have become more routine in just a short period of time.  The world’s two largest democracies working together on defense issues sends a powerful message.


       Along those lines, we discussed a wide range of topics in a frank and open environment.  We hope to build on the common interests that we identify to move our relationship forward.  We want India to succeed as an anchor of regional and global security.  Our commitment is one based on mutual respect and mutual trust.


       I think most importantly, we agreed to start a process that will review the 2005 new framework for the US-India defense relationship by looking at the progress we have made over the past five years and determine together where we think it would make sense to explore further cooperation.


       In my meetings during the past two days I also discussed a host of regional security issues where the US and India have shared interests.  These include South Asia and the Indian Ocean.  As Secretary Gates said, we look to India as a partner and as a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond.


       We of course also discussed Afghanistan and I reaffirmed the United States’ deep and enduring commitment to the stability, security and prosperity of Afghanistan and the entire region.


       It’s been a very constructive two days of meetings and talks.  We share many interests in common regionally and globally.  It is only logical that we should look for ways to continue to broaden and to deepen our relationship across the full range of issues.


       I’m happy that we could come here to New Delhi to talk about just how to do this in the realm of defense cooperation.  I expect that the importance of our defense relationship will be noted as well during the state visit of Prime Minister Singh to Washington later this month. 


       That’s the end of the formal statement I have.  I’m happy to take whatever questions you have.


      Question:  I’m Vishal Thapar from CNN IBN.


      What was the nature of your discussions on Afghanistan?


      Deputy Secretary Lynn:  On Afghanistan we discussed the ongoing review that the US has of our strategy in Afghanistan.  Made of I think three critical points.  One is that we have a continuing and enduring commitment to Afghanistan and to the whole region.  Part of that commitment is, as the President said, we want to dismantle the al-Qaida effort in the entire region.


       Second, this is more than a military exercise.  There are three legs to the stool of our policy in Afghanistan.  There’s the military leg which we’re reviewing now, but equally important are the political and economic legs.  Part of our strategy will be to synchronize those three efforts.


       Finally, the third point we made is the interrelationship between what’s going on in Afghanistan and what’s going on in Pakistan.  They have to be treated as a whole.  We have to fight terrorism not just in Afghanistan but as it seeps over the border into Pakistan as well.  We need to strengthen both sides of the border in this fight against terrorism.


       Question:  Pakistan has been using every available forum in the recent past to blame India for its internal problems.  It has even accused India of funding the Taliban.  Also recently here both the Home Minister of India and the Army Chief have said if there is any more attack like 26/11, it is going to be retaliated, there is going to be retaliation by India.


       What is the US view of the ratcheting up of the rhetoric on both sides?  And India’s assertion that it will retaliate if there is another 26/11?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  We think that it’s critical that we have peace in the South Asia region.  Any conflict should be avoided, and that it would be, we need confidence building measures I think on both sides and we’re confident that both governments can take those steps.


      Question:  Is there an occasion to review the tenure of framework for the India-US defense relationship?  Did this issue crop up in the discussions?  Or is it on the agenda of the Defense Policy Planning Group of the two countries?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  As I said in my statement, one of the purposes of our meeting today was to review the progress we’ve made on the 2005 defense framework and to look for means that we might build on that progress, whether it’s in joint exercises or in defense trade or in exchanges on issues of common interest.  So we’re looking to build out that framework in all of those directions.


       Question:  Does that mean you actually discussed its extension beyond ten years?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  We didn’t have formal discussions of the tenure and the timelines.  We discussed ways in which we would build on the progress that we’ve already made.


       Question:  My name is Rahul Singh.  I work at the Hindustan Times.


       You said you discussed regional security issues in the context of South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.  China has emerged as a very big player in this region and has, it wants to, [inaudible], some say that it has global power aspirations.  Did China figure in your conversations?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  Indeed, we did discuss China.  China’s obviously a significant country in the region.  It has an important role.  Both India and the United States have important relationships with China and we discussed both our mutual perceptions of China and frankly, ways we could build on the relationships we have with China to improve those relationships.  I think both nations would like to build stronger relationships with China.


       Question:  There was a report I think last month in the New York Times about --  Sorry, Alistair Scrutton at Reuters.


        There was a report last month I think from the New York Times about US arms sales to Pakistan being channeled towards anti-India operations.  What do you know about that?


        Deputy Secretary Lynn:  I didn’t see that report.  The arms sales that we’ve been making to Pakistan have been focused on the counter-terror effort, part of, as I said, our regional effort to fight al-Qaida and its associated organizations in the region, and that’s been the focus of our efforts in Pakistan.


         Question:  I’m with the Hindu.


         I understand the DPBG was held in September, so --


        Deputy Secretary Lynn:  No, the DPBG was held earlier in the week.


        Question:  Okay.  So what were the items on the agenda that were discussed over here?  In terms of both defense [trade] and a conducive policy for defense trade.


        Deputy Secretary Lynn:  On defense trade, the DPPG which is the sub-group to the Defense Policy Group that deals with defense trade met earlier in the week, and then they reported to us today.


       The discussions that we had revolved around issues of mutual interest. On the Indian side there’s interest in how do we smooth and make more transparent the export control process.  As I think I mentioned, the President’s actually undertaken, the President of the United States has undertaken an effort in the United States to streamline that export control process.  Not just for India but more broadly for all nations. 


       Going back to the DPG, on the US side we discussed what the end use monitoring agreement and the successful resolution of that issue, and the other issues that as we go forward that we need to resolve to expand the defense trade relationship.


       Question:  Srinjoy Chowdhury from Times Now, a television channel.


       You spoke of the al-Qaida and Taliban.  The fact of the matter is that most of the Taliban attacks are on the other side of Pakistan, and do you believe that Pakistan is doing enough to ensure that these attacks do not persist?  And secondly, there have been some Predator attacks.  Are you planning anything on the ground?  Is that something you would rule out or is that something you would consider?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  As I indicated, our approach to defeating the al-Qaida is a regional approach.  It is not limited to just Afghanistan.  We need a full partnership with Pakistan in defeating the al-Qaida.  We have been working with Pakistan and I think over the past 12 and 18 months we’ve seen new and greater efforts on the part of the Pakistani government to fight terrorism on the Pakistani side of the border.


       Question:  Sir, I’m Sridhar Kumarasway from The Asian Age.


       How do you view the recent tensions between India and China?  China has protested against the visit of our Prime Minster to our northeast frontier state, Arunachal.  And in this context, how do you view the forthcoming visit of the Dalai Lama?  Do you believe that it could further lead to tensions?  What is the view of the US on this?  Because China has objected to the forthcoming visit.


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  I don’t know the US would have views on visits between China and India.  That’s something for your bilateral relationship.  But we think it is a good thing for the whole region for China and India to have a positive relationship; these are the two most substantial powers in the region.  It is going to be a far more stable situation if there’s a positive relationship.  So things that can be done to make that relationship positive are certainly things that we are interested in supporting.


       Question:  Manu Pubby from The Indian Express newspaper.


       Two questions.  One, we heard that there was a discussion on some maritime issues today.  Have you talked about any areas about specific cooperation in that area?


       And secondly, we all heard in the morning about [inaudible] in the United States [inaudible].  Did that take part in any of the discussions on that?  We have our own issues and seeing that your forces have also joined in Iraq and Afghanistan [inaudible]?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  The answer to the second question is no, the incident at Fort Hood was not discussed.  Obviously the terrible loss of life there is to be lamented and we’re just I think coming to understand what the circumstances were.  So I can’t really elaborate on that.


       With regard to maritime security, that issue did come up.  This group is focused on the structure of the defense relationship between the United States and India with regard to trade and exercises and information exchange.  It is not the operational group that focuses on our efforts with regard to piracy.


       So we talked about how do we improve communications equipment to allow greater collaboration between our two Navies in the counter-piracy area.  We talked about logistic support between our two navies.  But we didn’t get into the specifics of the operations.


       Question:  Did you talk about LSA and CISMOA?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  Both of those agreements were discussed.  Absolutely.


       Question:  Rajat Pandit from The Times of India. What was the Indian response to LSA and CISMOA?


      Deputy Secretary Lynn:  Well, I think it would probably be better addressed to the Indian government, but I think they’re still under consideration.  They I think are looking at these agreements, but in terms of the specifics I think you have to address that to them.


       Question:  When are any discussions about this $10 billion fighter contract that is up?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  Again, a little bit like the maritime security answer.  We discussed kind of the foundational trade agreements that would be important in any defense export by the United States to India.  We didn’t discuss the elements of that fighter competition or get into discussions of specifics.  This was a general discussion of what things do we need in place to move forward with greater defense trade cooperation between our two nations.


       Question:  I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself, but I’m with the Telegraph.


       Just like the end user monitoring arrangement was about three years in the making before it was finally signed, before the tax was finally frozen earlier this year, what do you say that the talks on CISMOA and the LSA are somewhere at a compatible state?  That you're getting to sign it?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  Again, I think you’re going to have to turn to the Indian government.  Both have been discussed over the course of several years so there’s been I think a pretty full exchange on the elements of those agreements, the benefits that could accrue from signing them, and the importance in terms of expanding our defense  trade relationship.  But in terms of action by the Indian government, that’s going to have to be a question to the Indian government.


       Question:  What kind of action are you looking at apart from signing it?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  That’s the action I mean.


       Question:  NDTV.  It’s a news channel.


       Does the United States favor the foreign military sales route to give hardware to India?  Or do they prefer competition?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  I think we’ve pursued both the foreign military sales and the direct commercial sales, and I think it depends on the particular piece of equipment and the circumstances that surround it.  There are benefits to both pads and it’s a matter of matching those potential benefits with the particular piece of equipment that’s being sought.


       Question:  What about the Indian response or Indian inclination?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  That didn’t come up, actually.  We didn’t get into preferences on that side.


       Question:  Shiv Aroor from TV Today.


       India and the United States have just finished two series of separate joint exercises, the Yudh Abhyas and Cope India exercises.  Some of us had a chance to visit both places where the exercises happened.


       Did you discuss the exercises, the outcome of the exercises?  And more importantly, is there still any meaningful discussion about the possible contribution of Indian troops to any American operations either in Iraq of Afghanistan or elsewhere?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  We didn’t discuss that item.  The discussion we had on the exercises, we have a Military Coordinating Group that oversees all of these exercises and they reported, just as you said, on those two exercises plus several others.  I think we’ve seen they’ve been uniformly successful.  I think both India and the United States have come away with new insights and new training opportunities because of these exercises and we’re looking, as I said, part of today’s meeting was to look on how do we build on and deepen that experience for both sides.


       Question:  Sir, two quick questions.  One is a follow-up to his questions, the two sides over the years, the two militaries have built up a certain confidence for operating together and one of the recent exercises Yudh Abhyas fairly high level, the scenario was played out.  But do you actually see these scenarios being employed anywhere in the near future?  Do you see the two militaries in operational roles together in any particular mission?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  I think you have an example right now off the coast of the Horn of Africa where both nations are acting side by side to counter piracy.  That involves coordination.  It’s not a joint operation per se, but it’s a coordinated operation where both sides communicate with one another and discuss operations and try and share the burden, as it were.


       Question:  Surely that’s a low end of the kind of capability with the two sides of buildup, and that’s really soft coordination.  Are we really looking at hard [inaudible] scenario?  That’s question number one.


       Number two, when you’re looking at the framework and your vision for the continuation of this framework agreement, are we going substantially beyond what was envisaged in 2005?  What is the big picture?  Where is this military cooperation headed?


       Deputy Secretary Lynn:  I think we think what we would like to do, I think, is to deepen each of the areas that we’ve built on in the 2005 agreement.  In other words in the defense trade area, in the joint exercise and operations area, and in the exchange of information on a variety of topics of mutual interest.  What we’d like to do is expand and deepen each of those areas and I won’t get into now, but each side has brought ideas about how we would do that and we’ll spend the next few months evaluating those ideas so that we would have a proposal for the two governments by the 2010 timeframe.


       Question:  Former US President Bush was here in Delhi recently, and presented a lecture.  He said that --


      Deputy Secretary Lynn:  This is President Bush, W. Okay.


      Question:  He said that he actually asked for India’s participation in Afghanistan to win that war against terror.  Is this the official view of the Bush administration?  Do you subscribe to the Obama administration?


      Deputy Secretary Lynn:  I guess it’s the official view of the Bush administration.  [Laughter].  India already participates in the Afghan operation, in the substantial development assistance. I think it’s $1.2 or $1.3 billion at this point that India provides Afghanistan.  As I said, the Afghanistan operation is more than military.  It’s military, it’s development assistance, it’s political.  The Indian government is making an enormous contribution in the development assistance area and it’s a contribution that’s critical to the success of the mission and it’s deeply appreciated by the American government.


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