India to have `pre-eminent` role in S Asia: Blake

The US on Saturday acknowledged that India will always have a pre-eminent role in South Asia.

Updated: May 08, 2010, 12:21 PM IST

Washington: The US on Saturday acknowledged that India will always have a pre-eminent role in South Asia where it can be a very important force for stability and said it
looks forward to its first strategic dialogue with the country in June at the level of Foreign Ministers.

"The first strategic dialogue between India and the
United States next month is going to be a very important event
in our bilateral relations," Assistant Secretary of State for
South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, told a news agency.

This would mark the first time the two sides would be
holding a strategic dialogue at the level of Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister
SM Krishna, Blake said in response to a question.

"We understand that the External Affairs Minister Krishna
would be bringing a high-level delegation with him, we look
forward to not only a comprehensive review of the progress we
have made in ... our cooperation, but also to reviewing some
of the very important regional issues that are on our
bilateral agenda," he said.

"And we would also look forward to the President`s
(Barack Obama`s) visit to India later this fall. So this is a
very welcome opportunity and would be another strong
affirmation, strong friendship and strong partnership between
the United States and India," Blake said.

Blake, who was in China last week for the Sino-US
strategic dialogue on South Asia, said both the United States
and China are sensitive to Indian concerns in the region.
"India will continue to have a pre-eminent role in the South
Asian region, and it is in all of our interest to work very
closely with our friends in India to achieve our common
objectives," he said.

Noting that the Chinese have a growing role in South Asia
and around the world, Blake said his principal message to them
was that the United States would like to coordinate more and
better with Beijing, since they have growing assistance
programme and investment in South Asia.

"In many cases, we have similar interest in many parts of
South Asia. So it is in our interest therefore to coordinate
with them on assistance so that we do not duplicate our
efforts in important places like Afghanistan," he said.

Observing that there is a need to work with the European
Union, China and a lot of countries that have interest in
various parts of South Asia, Blake said: "But, I think, India
will always have the pre-eminent role.

"We understand that, the Chinese understand that India
can be a very important force for good and for stability in
this part of the region. So it is important for all of us to
work with India."

Blake also said the Nuclear Liability Bill tabled in the
Indian Parliament yesterday is certainly an important part in
continuing the implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear

"We welcome the commitment of the Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh and his Government to tabling the legislation and as I
have said before the timing and management of that bill is
something that we would certainly leave to the judgement of
the Prime Minister and his team," he said and refrained from
making any comment on the opposition to it in India.

"They are in the best position to judge how to manage
that and when to move forward. And we trust their judgement,"
Blake said.

The US official said the cooperation in the
counter-terrorism field post-Mumbai attacks is one of the
strongest part of Indo-US cooperation.

Referring to last year`s visit of Home Minister
P Chidambaram to the US, Blake termed it as a very positive
visit. "We have been implementing the various parts of the
undertakings that we had during that visit."

"We remain in very close touch and very close
coordination on many of the terrorist threats that India faces
and we work in closest possible fashion to share information
to prevent terrorists from carrying out attacks inside not
only India but also against Americans too," Blake said.