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'America cannot live in isolation'

September 12, 2006 13:13 IST

How did 9/11 change the India-US equation? Are the two nations now really on the way to become strategic partners? Do they really see eye-to-eye on the war on terror?

As the world marks five years since the terrorist strike that shook the world, Geoffrey R Pyatt, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in New Delhi, discussed where the two nations are headed, and why, in an exclusive chat with rediff.com readers.  

For those of you missed it, here is the transcript:


Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy says, Thanks for having me. This is an important anniversary for all of us, and it's a good occasion to look back on how far the US and India have come in our relationship over the past 5 years. The anniversary of the September 11 attacks is a reminder of the inhumanity of terrorist murderers who the world must confront and the shared challenge we face as an international community to defeat an ideology that promotes hate, destruction and death. The anniversary is an occasion for the international community to reaffirm our absolute condemnation of all acts of terror. No faith condones the deliberate targeting and killing of innocent civilians, and no cause or grievance -- no matter how legitimate – can ever justify it. The victims of September 11th were citizens of more than 90 different countries and adherents of many faiths. Terrorism affects all of us. It has brought tragedy, destruction, death and terrible grief to innocent people across the world, including far too many attacks here in India. Since Osama Bin Laden declared war on America ten years ago, thousands of people of many nations, religions, races and beliefs have been murdered as a result of his instigation or incitement of acts of terror. I look forward to answering your questions today.

ramananda asked, Good afternoon, Mr Pyatt, and welcome to the rediff chat. First off, are the US and India truly strategic partners yet?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, Strategic partnership rests on a variety of pillars, including our strong convergence of interests on counterterrorism. The nuclear agreement gets most of the headlines, but there are a variety of other important areas of progress, to include the Agricultural Knowledge Initiative, our Energy dialogue, and importantly, the flourishing business relationship.
Koustubh asked, Mr Pyatt, Why is it that even after finding out that we do have terrorist training camps in Pakistan that the US still gives pakistan a kid glove treatment?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I wouldn't say the US gives kid glove treatment to terrorism anywhere. It is true that the United States and Pakistan have cooperated closely in the common fight against terrorism, including along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pakistan has captured more than 700 al-Qaida operatives, facilitators, and associates since September 11, 2001. Pakistan's military is also playing an important role by providing intelligence and support to Coalition forces operating on the Afghanistan side of the border. The President has made clear at all times that terrorism against innocent civilians anywhere in the world is unacceptable and to be condemned. He has made this clear to Pakistan and encouraged that country to make further efforts to reduce and eliminate the activities of terrorists. Pakistan has been cooperative in many ways with this effort, but we recognize there is more to be achieved. Some of the important inroads against global terrorism have been achieved with the cooperation of Pakistan. When terrorism occurs in India, we are as firmly opposed to this as anywhere in the world, including in the United States. The United States and Pakistan are in agreement that there should be no safe havens for terrorists. We continue to work with Pakistan regarding how best to achieve this goal.
nuclearwinter asked, Mr Pyatt, welcome. Sir, what has been the most significant change in India-US relations post 9/11?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I think the biggest change has been in the quality of the government-to-government relationship. People-to-people ties have always been strong. Now, we in government are catching up!
shilpa asked,  Mr.Pyatt, according to you, how do you feel that india can help in this war against terrorism and what partnerships and support usa wants from india?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, A perfect example of India's support in the war against terrorism is the 650 million dollars India has pledged to help with reconstruction in Afghanistan. India's model of a democratic, tolerant, multi-cultural society points towards what we all hope Afghanistan will become, so that country can never again be a platform and breeding ground for terrorism.
CALCUTTAPA1 asked, Q from M.S. Hossain, Principal, Cartouche School: Shouldn't the younger generation be made more aware about the roots of 9/11?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I agree. Five years is not a long time to you or me, but to my daughter, it's almost half of her life. It's important for all of us to teach our children about the hateful thinking that lay behind the 9/11 attacks.
chatter asked, How are Muslims treated in the U.S.? We hear that they are facing discrimination - but is that the case?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, Muslims in the United States enjoy the same rights and freedoms of all Americans. These include both civil liberties and religious freedom, not to mention the outstanding economic opportunities which have attracted many people, including Muslims, from all over the world. The Muslim population in America is a peaceful population that contributes positively to America. Indeed, the support of the American Muslim community and their cooperation with U.S. law enforcement authorities has been one important factor in helping to avoid further catastrophic attacks inside the United States.
arun asked, why america is not promoting democracy in pakistan
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, We support democracy in Pakistan and have made clear our interest in seeing Pakistan move towards further democratization. We also are committed to assisting Pakistan to improve its economy so that it is able to lift significantly the prosperity of its people. We will continue to work closely with Pakistan and believe the rest of the world has a strong interest in improving Pakistan's economy and advancing democracy in that country.
sghosh asked, Hello Mr.Pyatt!!..Why US is not taking any action knowing the fact that Osama is camping in Pakistan and probably having a ball out there?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, There are people in our intelligence community who spend every waking hour looking for Osama Bin Laden. It's obviously difficult to find somebody who is trying to remain hidden in very isolated terrain and avoiding any open communications. We need to remember also that the war on terrorism is not just about finding one individual, it's about stopping an evil ideology and supporting voices of tolerance and moderation.
SAJALJI asked, Sir don't you think USA want to Captured all oil stations in Middle east and near above areas because they know present oil would be finished after 50years
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, Our policy today in the Middle East is focused on supporting tolerance, moderation, and political modernization. Energy policy is not the principal US concern in that part of the world. Indeed, the United States gets most of its oil from Venezuela.
ram asked, Are the Intelligence agencies in India and US working closely. In the past these agencies were ways apart because of India's closeness to Russia. What effort has been done in recent times to share intelligence between India and US.
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, As Ambassador Mulford said today in Mumbai, "The U.S. and India are rapidly expanding our anti-terror cooperation. We will do all we can to help India bring to justice those who commit acts of terror like those on 7/11 here in Mumbai. We are sharing sensitive information and police and investigative best practices in forensics, threat protection and the disruption of terrorist financing. This will save lives."
Suryamurthy asked, Can democracy be exported, just because US believes that it is the form of government people should have across the globe?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, India's history teaches us that democracy must come from within a people, but it also shows that democracy is not the exclusive property of the West or developed countries. India and the United States are working closely together in the United Nations to help build democracy in countries that ask for our help under the umbrella of the U.N. Democracy Fund. We are also together founding members of the Community of Democracies and, as I said earlier, India is playing a leading role in helping to bring democracy in Afghanistan.
Ranjan asked, Sir Good Morning. Its a sad day for humanity today. 9/11 had completed 5 years. I pray for the blessed souls, "May their soul rest in peace". Still we donot have a clue on Osama Bin Laden! Sir what is the solution?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, As Secretary Rice said recently, Usama Bin Laden is very anxious to have people go out and martyr themselves, but he hides in caves. And it's difficult to find a single person if they intend to hide. But from the very beginning, we've understood that the search for Usama Bin Laden was important, but breaking up al-Qaida was also critical to making us all safer.
CALCUTTAPA1 asked, Q from Saghir Ahmed, General Secretary, West Bengal Minority Council: America is the only Super Power in the world today. The entire Muslim world doesn't agree with its policies in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. Why isn't the US doing enough to communicate its policies in these region to the Muslims properly?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, One of the ways we try to communicate with Muslim communities is webchats like this, so thank you, Mr. Ahmed, for coming into the American Center. Our Consulates and Embassy in India are all working hard to reach out to India's important minority communities so that people have a clear picture of U.S. policies and we can have a clear picture of your concerns.
indu asked, Sumit Kumar, Pioneer: What purpose Guatanamo bay and rendition camps serve when it is being used as a propaganda by fundamentalists to hire their cadres?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I hope you read the news that the President has now announced the transfer of 14 individuals from the CIA to DOD custody at Guantanamo for possible prosecution by military commissions, and that no detainees remain in this CIA program. This decision reflects the President's intention to bring these individuals to justice. The detainees transferred include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, two of the most notorious members of al Qaeda. Questioning of the 14 individuals have yielded vital intelligence that we have shared with our allies, and stopped numerous plots, including in Karachi, Heathrow Airport and the Canary Wharf in London, and in the United States. This has saved lives around the world.
ramananda asked, Mr Pyatt, do you endorse the Clash of Civilisations theory?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I read the book a long time ago, and have the highest regard for Professor Huntington, but theories are never a substitute for real world experience. So the short answer is no.
krish asked, Hi Georffery the recent development between Indo-Us relationship is tremendous in various field. Why US is so much keen in investing things in India? the best example is the successful of Indo-Us nuke deal
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, We see India as a major rising power in Asia and beyond, whose interests complement those of the US on a range of issues from terrorism and non-proliferation to opening markets and protecting the environment, so this really is a natural partnership.
S. Murthy asked, You talked about spreading democracy, but when Hamas won the election in Palestine and Israel did not recognise it, US did little to force the government in Jerusalem to accept the peoples' verdict. Is this not a position of convenience?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, The policies of Israel's government are not something the United States can control. The Bush Administration's support for democracy in the Middle East, as elsewhere, has been strong and consistent. In this context, I would particularly encourage you to read a speech that Secretary Rice delivered last year at the American University in Cairo. The full text is at www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/48328.htm
chat asked, Mr Pyatt what will you do today to honor the victims of 9/11?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, This is a good question, so thanks for asking it. Ambassador Mulford traveled to Mumbai today to honor the victims of 9/11 and 7/11, making the point that terrorism is unacceptable, whether it strikes in New York or Mumbai. We will also host a small remembrance ceremony here at the Embassy, and we had 250 students at the American Center today to watch a film about 9/11.
Pradeep Sam asked, Sir, Good evening. A recent report of your Senate says that Saddham had no connection with Al-Qaida and on the contrary, tried to apprehend its leaders. In the light of this report, how would you justify going to war in Iraq? Don't you think you should have collected more credible intelligence before embarking on such a big war. And my second question, The BJP says that the nuclear deal is not binding on future governments, what would be the future of the deal if the BJP comes to power in 2009? Have you and other officials, thought about this? Thank You.
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, Secretary Rice answered this question in a TV interview last night, making the point that the Senate report talked about postwar intelligence. As she said, before the fall of Sadam, "Iraq had been designated a state sponsor of terror going back into the '90s.  The Abu Nidal organization operated out of there.  We know that Zarqawi ran a poisons network in Iraq.  We know too that he ordered the killing of an American diplomat from Iraq.  And we know that in testimony of the Director of Central Intelligence at the time, and as a matter of fact even in the 9/11 report, that contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq had been going on going back for more than a decade."
sudeshna asked, Subhojit Ray, Advocate: Emphasising waht already asked by Sumit Kumar, Pioneer, I request Mr. Pyatt's response for the glaring terrorist developments in Bangladesh, which not only threaten India, but other nations as well.
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I agree. The situation in Bangladesh is something both India and the U.S. need to watch carefully. To address the problem of radicalization that you ask about, we are working with the government to help them with training that would improve the security force's ability to get at the terrorists and extremists that might be undermining their society, and going back and forth across the border. We are also helping the Bangladeshis to achieve a healthier society and a healthier state of political economy.
ravin asked, Invicible AMERICA suffered 9/11 assault.Do you guarantee that it will not be repeated?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I don't think anyone can make a guarantee, but clearly the international community is working together much more closely than it did in the past to defeat the threat of trans-national terrorism. And in the United States, as anyone who has traveled there knows, we have taken great strides to make our borders more secure while preserving the open society that is the foundation of our prosperity.
ramananda asked, Sir, would you like to elaborate on the thinking behind President Bush's call to promote India as 'great power'?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I'm running out of time, so I'll have to be fast. We see the fulcrum of international politics and economics moving quickly to Asia. And within the Asian region, India is one of our strongest partners with the converging interests and international outlook that I discussed earlier.
S. Murthy asked, You might have visited WTC before the attack and the Ground Zero after 9/11. What kind of feeling you get standing there in silence?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, I did visit the World Trade Center before, but I have never been to Ground Zero. Looking at photos of the altered Manhattan skyline, I have the same feeling that I got when visiting Bombay and looking at the Western Line soon after 7/11... a sense of anger, combined with a resolve to ensure that such crimes do not repeat themselves.
S. Murthy asked, Can you tell in one sentence what 9/11 changed as regards to Americans are concerned?
Geoffrey Pyatt, DCM, US Embassy answers, This is an excellent question, and I'll take it as my last one, since my hour is up. For many Americans, what 9/11 changed was the sense of distance from the rest of the world. It reminded us that America cannot live in isolation, but must seek to build partnerships with those who share our values and hopes for the future. I've enjoyed the opportunity to exchange thoughts with you, and look forward to doing it again.