U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
New Delhi, India
October 25, 2017
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, let me begin by thanking Prime Minister Modi and Minister Swaraj for their very warm welcome to India. It is a real pleasure to return to India, a vibrant democracy that shares so many values with the United States.
India and the United States have had close relations now for more than 70 years and we are natural allies, in the words of Prime Minister Modi. We are grateful for his friendship and his vision of a closer U.S.-India relationship and a vision we certainly share. The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region. In this regard, we are willing and able to provide India advanced technologies for its military modernization efforts. This includes ambitious offers from American industry for F-16 and F-18 fighter planes. I’m grateful to my friend and colleague, Secretary of Defense Mattis, that he was able to visit India last month, and he and I both look forward to the inaugural 2+2 dialogue early next year.
In August, President Trump announced a new strategy for South Asia, one that redoubles our commitment to Afghanistan, and with it, to peace, stability, and the greater South Asian region. India plays an important role in this effort. In the fight against terrorism, the United States will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with India. Terrorist safe havens will not be tolerated.
We acknowledge with gratitude India’s generous contributions to development in Afghanistan, including construction of the Salma Dam and the Afghanistan parliament building, and the $3 billion it has provided already in development assistance. We also look forward to further cooperation in the broader Indo-Pacific region as we both promote a rules-based approach to the commons and a transparent and sustainable approach to economic development. We’re glad to be joined in this effort by our close mutual partner, Japan, and I was honored to participate in a trilateral discussion on these topics with my friends, Minister Swaraj and Minister Kono, in New York last month.
In addition to our partnership on regional and global stability, India and the United States continue to benefit from our strong economic bonds. Our two countries have a history of trade that dates back to the 18th century, long before the independence of either of our nations. We are pleased that recently, we celebrated an important milestone of our deepening economic relationship. The first shipment of American crude oil arrived in India at the beginning of this month, marking the first U.S. oil export to India in more than four decades. Continued oil sales have the potential to boost bilateral trade by up to $2 billion per year.
In fact, the U.S.-India trade relationship, which reached nearly $115 billion last year, touches many parts of the lives of both of our citizens. U.S. companies and products are an everyday presence in the lives of Indians and we see increasing investments from Indian companies in America, including a Mahindra vehicle plant that will open this month in Detroit, the first ever Indian automobile manufacturing plant in the United States. India and the United States also share a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation, including the dynamic Indian American community. We’re proud to cohost the Global Engagement Summit in Hyderabad next month, where the spirit of private enterprise will be on full display. GES, the first ever to be hosted in South Asia, will be an important opportunity for India and the United States to showcase the entrepreneurship of our people, advance women’s economic empowerment, and harness the power of young innovators in both of our countries.
But at the core of our strong bond is our shared values. Our democracies were founded on a commitment to individual liberty and the rule of law. It’s this foundation that underpins all that we work together on, from combating terrorism and safeguarding a rules-based Indo-Pacific region to increasing free and fair trade even as we look for more areas of cooperation. As President Trump said during Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the United States in June, and I quote, “The future of our partnership has never looked brighter.” India and the United States will always be tied together in friendship and respect. We look forward to an even brighter future. Thank you very much, Excellency, for hosting me and for the very fruitful and useful dialogue we’ve had. Thank you.
QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with – oh. Jonathan Landay with Reuters
Mr. Secretary, in 2016, India and Afghanistan signed an agreement for India to develop the southern Iranian port of Chabahar and build a railway line to southern Afghanistan, creating a trade corridor that would free Afghanistan from reliance on Pakistan’s port of Karachi, to which India has no access. India is investing millions in the project, which will allow it to expand trade and assistance to Afghanistan, a key pillar of your administration’s new South Asia policy, yet the Trump administration also has embarked on a new strategy that takes a more aggressive stance towards Iran in order to blunt its expanding influence in the Middle East. Isn’t there a major risk that the two U.S. strategies will clash in Chabahar, that Iran could put the brakes on that project, seriously undermining India’s ability to fulfill the role envisioned for it in the Trump administration’s plan for stabilizing Afghanistan? How do you prevent that from happening given the serious tensions between the United States and Iran? Thank you.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: With respect to the recently announced policy of the United States towards Iran, I think it’s important to keep a few things in mind. That policy, as you know, had three important pillars to it. One is dealing with the nuclear plan of action. The second important pillar of that policy, though, is to deal with Iran’s other destabilizing activities – their ballistic missile programs, their export of arms to terrorist organizations and their destabilizing export of foreign fighters, involvement in the revolution in Yemen, Syria, and other places. And the third pillar, though, which, again, doesn’t get talked as much about, is a support for moderate voices inside of Iran, that we know there are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government. They live under this oppressive revolutionary regime, and we do not want to harm the Iranian people. Our fight is not with the Iranian people. Our disagreements are with the revolutionary regime.
So with that context, as we are taking actions to impose sanctions on the regime – and, in particular, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – it’s our objective to deny financing capacity and to disrupt the activities related to these malign behaviors. It’s not our objective to harm the Iranian people, nor is it our objective to interfere with legitimate business activities that are going on with other businesses, whether they be from Europe, India, or agreements that are in place that promote economic development and activity to the benefit of our friends and allies as well. We think that there isn’t – there’s no contradiction within that policy and, in fact, we’re calling on some of these same counterparties to join us in imposing sanctions on Iran’s activities, and in particular, the activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and their subsidiaries to punish them for the destabilizing activities that we see Iran carrying out in the region.
So we do – we don’t see a contradiction there and we have very open dialogue and discussions with all of our friends and allies around the policy to ensure it’s well understood. But also, if we see areas of concern, we’ll engage with our friends and partners on ways that we believe they can help put the pressure on Iran to push back on the destabilizing activities of Iran that I think are of a concern to many in the world.
QUESTION: Thank you (inaudible). Good afternoon, excellencies. I am Ashish from India TV. My question, Secretary, for you is that you just mentioned that safe havens of terror won’t be tolerated, but we have seen off and on how Pakistan state has been harboring terrorists and supporting cross-border terrorism. So – and whenever the complicity is pointed out to them, sir, they very easily get – giving some tactical condition or some false assurances. So since you have just come from Pakistan to India, how do you look forward to deal with this issue, to solve this issue, which is very crucial to us?
SECRETARY TILLERSON: In our discussions with Pakistani leadership yesterday in Islamabad we had a very open, frank exchange around the concerns the United States shares with other regional partners and allies – India, but also Afghanistan – that there are too many terrorist organizations that find a safe place in Pakistan from which to conduct their operations and attacks against other countries. We have extended to Pakistan certain expectations we have of their government and their leadership to deal with, in particular, these organizations, the leaders of these organizations, and we are attempting to put in place a mechanism of cooperation through information sharing, but not just information sharing; action – action to be taken to begin to deny these organizations the ability to launch attacks against others.
Quite frankly, my view – and I expressed this to the leadership of Pakistan – is we also are concerned about the stability and security of Pakistan’s government as well. As these terrorist organizations have enlarged their numbers and have enlarged their strength and their capability within Pakistan’s borders, this can lead to a threat to Pakistan’s own stability. It is not in anyone’s interest that the Government of Pakistan be destabilized. And so we think we have a mutually shared interest in not just containing these organizations, but ultimately eliminating these organizations. I think all of us have to commit ourselves to the eradication of terrorism, of violent extremism in whatever form it takes. And this is going to require international and global efforts and a common view and a common objective and mission.
And so these are the expectations that we have put in place with the leadership of Pakistan. We want to work with Pakistan in a positive way because we think this is in their interest as well longer term.