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'I am honoured to be called a friend of India'

By Robert D Blackwill
June 27, 2006 17:08 IST
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Robert D Blackwill was the US ambassador to India from July 27, 2001 to July 30, 2003 when he cut short his tenure, to resume his career in teaching. On his return to Washington, DC from India, he was appointed deputy national security adviser for strategic planning and presidential envoy to Iraq.

He quit in November 2004 to join Barbour Griffith & Rogers International, a lobbying firm which now representsIndia.

Known for his closeness to President George W Bush, he is credited with greatly improving and strengthening India-US relations under strain since India's May 1998 nuclear tests and helping to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan. He is also said to be one of the architects of the India-US nuclear deal.

In an exclusive Rediff Chat with readers of, he discussed, among other things, the India-US nuclear deal, Washington's problem with India's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Iraq, Iran, outsourcing and the state of the American economy.

The transcript:

click asked, mr blackwill u dont think that US is mounting pressure on india in other matters through the nucleur deal
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, Not that I am aware of. What do you have in mind?
sapan asked, Greetings Mr Blackwill! Since USA has started considering INDIA as an emerging force in South Asia, why is it then averse to backing India's candiature to Permanent Membership of UNSC with the same Veto powers that the current 5P nations enjoy?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, I personally support India's permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council. However, the Administration must balance supporting such a roll for India, with many other countries that want the same treatment: Brazil, South Africa, etc. So the Bush team has instead indicated that they will consider new Security Council peremanent members only in the context of basic UN reform. And that, unfortunately, seems a long way away.
bopodi asked, Good Evening Mr. Blackwill, please tell us whether there will be any US slowdown or recession by this year end ?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The US economy is performing in an excellent way. GDP growth in the first quarter of 2006 was 5.3 per cent. So no recession this year.
sapan asked, greetings mr. blackwill, what is the progress of the indo-us nuclear co-operation, especially in the light of senator Byron Dorgan's statements ? also, if the US government planning to step up its afghan efforts?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The legislation implementing the July 18 civil nuclear agreement between the US and India will be considered in detail in both the Senate and the House this week. I am optimistic that the outcome will be positive.
sapan asked, What's the stand of your government on Outsourcing? And, what are the conditions that USA Congress is expecting India to fulfil before giving it's assent to the Civil nuclear deal?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers,  The Bush Administration has been very clear on the outsourcing issue. It argues that outsourcing is good for the American consumer and further opens global trade. I believe that the legislation that emerges from Congress will set no new conditions for India, other than those in the July 18 agreement.
ramananda asked, Sir, What is your response to the non-proliferation lobby's argument that the nuclear deal with India will encourage proliferation?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, I can think of no nation that now is not pursuing nuclear weapons that will change its policy and decide to do so on the basis of US-India civil nuclear cooperation. So I think that argument has little merit.
ramananda asked, In a speech at the FICCI in New Delhi in August 2003, you mentioned being friends with writer Paul Theroux some 30 years ago. Are you still in touch
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, Not recently. But I just finished reading his new novel, "Blinding Light". It is terrific.
sridhar asked, Hello Mr. Blackwill. There is a theory in India that the nuke deal is just a first step to initiate India into the American Camp. A committment by India, without any significant gains to toe American foreign policy line. Do you think the Nuke deal in itself is worth all the trouble for India? China does not seem to bothered. Pakistan will soon be the recepient of some largesse.
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, It is up to India, not me, to decide if the civil nuclear deal with the United States is in India's interest. The majority of Indians seem to think that it is.
vikram asked, Why your government is taking so much time to give the nuclear aggrement fina nod, since it was agreed upon way back during president bush last visit
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The civil nuclear agreement must be approved through legislation by the US Congress, which moves methodically in such matters. But it nearing the end of its deliberations on the issue.
pankaj asked, Is is not US intention to capture all the oil resources in the world in the name of terrorism, first US captured Kuwait & Afghanistan, then IRAQ and now US is targetting Iran.
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, No.
Raghunath asked, Good evening sir, What to do you think about the reasons behind India still not a developed country with many problems like poverty, etc.Do you attribute this to its geographical conditions or to its people?.. Please answer. Thanks.
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The reason lies in its history, its culture and its politics. But no country in the world is bringing its citizens out of poverty more rapidly and it greater numbers than India.
ramananda asked, In your interactions with the Indian bureaucrats and politicians, could you please recount any once incident which left an indelible impression?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The attack by terrorists on the Indian Parliament.
sapan asked,  sir why US is against the Iran-Pakistan-India Proposed Gas pipeline
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The Administration worries that Iran will use the revenues from such a pipeline to further its nuclear weapons program; increase its current support for international terrorism; and destabalize the Gulf area and beyond.
deep asked, is india wasting its money on india caucas?? they enventually do nothing of substance for india anyway....
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The India caucus in the Congress costs India no money.
gulati asked, Greetings Mr. Blackwill , how does it feel to be called a " friend of India " and what do you think should be the " US next steps " to intensify US engagement to wipe out the Taliban in Afghanistan
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, I am honored to be called a friend of India.
deep asked, are you ashamed of what your nation has done to iraq??
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, No. Despite the many ensuing difficulties, I am proud of America's role in overthrowing the terrible tyrant and mass murderer, Saddam Hussein.
Shirish asked, What America will do in its capacity to prohibit Pakistan signing Nuke aggrement with Other country ?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, I do not believe that the Nuclear Suppliers Group will permit that to happen.
deep asked, why can us the only nation that has used atomic weapons have loads of them and other nations cant even try to aquire them???
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, The President of Iran has said it is Iran's objective "to wipe Israel of the map." Why would anyone want such a government to acquire nuclear weapons?
Brown asked, Ambassador Blackwell, Greetings from Baltimore. Before I ask my question let me commend you for your efforts to improve US-India relations. Now the question: there is so much contradictory news on US-India ties that it is difficult to believe anything. Such tactic may be understandable to the strategic community but an ordinary person like me is left with a spinning head and giddiness. Indians don't like mixed messages because of their cultural background. When can we see more honesty and transparency in US-India relations?
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, A good question, best put to the mass mdia.
deep asked, who are you rooting for in the world cup???
Ambassador Robert Blackwill answers, I am not a soccer fan. Cricket, yes. Soccer, no.
Ambassador Robert Blackwill says, I am off to a meeting. Thank you for the chat. RB

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