Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. Mr. Fernandes and I have had good discussions
today. It is not our first meeting. We met in India some months back.
Needless to say, I thank the minister for the very strong support that India has
provided for the war on terrorism since September 11th. Both of our nations know
firsthand about terrorism. We have a common interest in defeating terrorism in
Afghanistan. And needless to say, the United States' stand against terrorism is
principled. We think about terrorism against India in the same terms that we
want India to think about terrorism in the United States.
We discussed the crisis and the tension in the region between India and
Pakistan. President Musharraf's speech last Saturday and the actions he's taking
to implement the steps that were outlined in the speech, we are certainly
hopeful will go a long way towards lowering tensions and promoting a
constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan. President Bush, of course, has
been in touch with the prime minister of India and the president of Pakistan.
Secretary Powell has just arrived, I think, right now in India --
Rumsfeld: -- and will be conducting meetings there and have forcefully
expressed the hopes of the United States that the tensions will be reduced and
that discussions will take place.
Today Minister Fernandes and I signed a U.S.-India Bilateral General Security of
Military Information Agreement, paving the way for greater technology
cooperation between the United States and India. And we discussed the good
progress that our two countries are making in our security relationships.
We began -- I began, with the Bush administration, my contacts with India in
February, less than a month after I arrived at the Pentagon, and there have been
a series of meetings since at all levels -- ministers of defence, foreign
ministers and at various other levels of the two departments. In the coming
months, we have an ambitious schedule of meetings on counter-terrorism, on
service-to-service exercises, further strengthening the friendship and
cooperation between the two -- the world's two largest democracies.
Mr. Minister, welcome.
Fernandes: Thank you.
Well, I'm grateful to Secretary Rumsfeld for his gracious invitation and for the
intensive discussions our delegations just had. The purpose of my visit has been
to discuss the issues of defence and security cooperation between India and the
United States, which has not only been revived but expanded considerably over
the last one year. My delegation has found our discussions today very fruitful
and an important milestone in this expanding relationship.
Today this relationship is qualitatively different from the days of the Cold
War. After Secretary Rumsfeld's visit to India in November, 2001 we held a
successful meeting of the Defence Policy Group. And this meeting took place
after a break of four years. We expect to continue these meetings in the times
to come. And we believe that we are on a forward movement insofar as
strengthening our relations and also insofar as dealing with all the challenges
that we are both facing in our respective areas of concern.
Secretary Rumsfeld just mentioned about his visit to India, which was a very
brief visit -- not even a full day, he spent half a day. He just came. He sat
with us. We had a very serious interaction on various issues, and he left. So I
have -- (laughter).
Rumsfeld: It's the story of my life. (Laughter.) Many of these people
were with us on that trip, and -- it was, I think, six countries in three days
Fernandes: Yeah, I know. And so, I have today extended a formal
invitation to him and suggested that he should visit India at the earliest
possible opportunity. And I leave the decision about the date to Secretary
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.
Fernandes: Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Charlie, we'll start with you, and then we'll come over.
Question: Mr. Minister, might I ask, as Defence minister are you doing
anything, or is anybody doing anything to stop or back away from your military
build-up on the border with Pakistan? And are you disappointed all in United
States pressure on Israel not to transfer AWACS and other weapons to you for the
Fernandes: Well, I do not think that the United States had put any
pressure on Israel as far as I am aware. Just before I left to Delhi, I was
confronted with this question by the media, because of some report which they
said had appeared in the Washington Post. When coming here, I was told that the
Washington Post didn't have any such story. And who has ever used that as some
sort of an anchor to give credibility to it was doing disservice both to the
United States and to India, and also, for that matter, to Israel. So there isn't
any substance as far as I am concerned in this report.
Your first question was about our troops being in the front lines. It is true
that troops on both sides are on the front lines. We -- in light of what
happened on the 13th of December, when there was this attack on our parliament
house -- and that attack was not on the structure of the parliament house alone,
that attack, we have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, was designed to eliminate
the entire political leadership of the country, whether of the ruling coalition
or the opposition. And it is luck or providence, I believe, that saved us. And
not just saved us, but saved the country, because the implications of this axis
of that suicide mission would have been impossible to really imagine the
consequences of it for the entire country and, for that matter, for the entire
So against the backdrop of that, one had to take some really strong steps. And
again, we had noticed earlier also that the Pakistani army after doing some
exercises had chosen to stay in some of the areas which they considered as soft
areas for us. And in the aftermath of that 13 December incident we decided that
we need to immediately safeguard our frontiers, and we prepared for any
eventuality. And that's where both sides are at the moment.
Question: Mr. Secretary, is --
Rumsfeld: What I'd like to do, we only have about 15 minutes. And rather
than people ask two questions at once, if we could do one question, and I'm
going to alternate between the U.S. side and others, if I can.
Question: Mr. Secretary?
Question: First of all, sir, I just want you to know that you are doing a
great job. There's no question about it.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, sir.
Question: And number -- my question is that -- are you asking India or
have you asked Mr. Minister to remove the Indian forces from the tension border,
where both forces are aiming at each other and clouds of wars are still there?
And finally, the future of India-U.S. military relationships, sir.
Rumsfeld: Let me respond this way: I think the United States and India
have a growing and healthy relationship on a military-to-military basis, which I
value and I know that India values. And we look forward to seeing it evolve over
With respect to the situation on the Afghan-Pakistan border, which is of course
something that is of considerable interest to us, because we are most anxious to
see that the terrorists in the Taliban and the al Qaeda do not escape out of
Afghanistan into Pakistan, I don't think it's in anybody's interest that those
folks end up in Pakistan, whether -- it's not in Pakistan's interests, it's not
in our interest, it's not in Afghan -- Afghanistan's interest, because they can
come right back across that border, and it's certainly not in India's interest.
So it is correct that the United States at various levels -- and certainly the
minister and I have discussed this subject from time to time, and I'm sure the
minister and his government is sensitive to that, just as we are and -- now,
from the U.S. side. Yes, Bob?
Question: Can I ask you a question about Guantanamo Bay and the detention
situation there? Those who are not -- those detainees who are not put before a
military tribunal -- will they be held there indefinitely, then, or will they be
returned to their home countries? Have you decided that?
Rumsfeld: The situation is that there are people who have been fighting
and killing people in Afghanistan, who are now being held, in some cases, in
Pakistan, where they have crossed the border into Pakistan and Pakistan has
captured them; in some cases, in Afghanistan, in two or three locations,
including Kandahar, where the largest detention center is; and increasingly in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with a couple of exceptions aboard ship -- U.S. ships, for
a variety of reasons, medical or whatever.
The issue as to what happens to those people will follow the interrogations and
the process of getting as much information out of them as we can, so that we can
stop other terrorist attacks.
Then a decision will be made as to their disposition. Some may or may not end up
in a military commission. Others conceivably could end up in the U.S. criminal
court system. Others could be returned to their countries of nationality and end
up being prosecuted there.
It's conceivable some could be kept in detention for a period while additional
intelligence information is gathered, or if they simply are dangerous -- and
there's no question -- there are a number down in Guantanamo Bay who, every time
anyone walks by, threaten to kill Americans the first chance they get; these are
quite dangerous people -- they may just be kept in detention for a period. And
those issues are all being sorted out by lawyers and experts and people
knowledgeable about international law and conventions, which I'm not.
Question: Mr. Minister, there is a report in the -- for both of you,
there is a report in the Wall Street Journal today that while some action has
been taken against terrorists in Pakistan, no action whatever has been taken in
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, what they call Azad Kashmir, and also -- (inaudible)
-- training have not been closed down. And I want to ask both of you whether
you're committed to what Nawaz Sharif and President Clinton signed, namely, the
sanctity of the Line of Control.
Fernandes: Well, such action -- call it terrorist action, call it by any
other name -- is something that we have been living with for a long, long time.
We are a part of the global coalition today, and as a part of this coalition, we
have been cooperating with each other in addressing this particular problem.
As far as the border itself is concerned, nothing has changed. This morning when
I was about to leave my hotel to proceed to Arlington, I got this piece of news
which said that yesterday in Jammu the same terrorists attacked civilians with
-- by exploding a bomb -- one person died -- a report which I get almost on a
twice daily basis when I am back home. So we have this problem, and what was
agreed with Nawaz Sharif may not hold with the establishment that Pakistan has
today. But against a backdrop of the recent developments, I have reason to
believe that sooner or later these issues will now be on the way to resolution.
Rumsfeld: We have two more minutes. We'll take two questions. We'll take
two questions. And the questions can be of either of us, but not both --
(laughter) -- and can be one question. We'll start with you.
Question: Mr. Minister, as the U.S.-India military relationship expands,
would India like to buy U.S. military equipment, and are you optimistic that
Secretary Rumsfeld would approve that?
Fernandes: Yes, we have had that kind of relationship with the United
States for many, many years. Unfortunately for a brief interregnum, if I may use
that term, that had come to more or less a standstill. I am very happy that
today we have been able to revive that -- today meaning not as in date, but much
earlier -- we have been able to revive that relationship, and we look forward to
much greater cooperation between the United States military and our military,
and also procuring such of these items that we need to procure from here.
Question: Could you list a few items?
Fernandes: Well, I can't just now spell out the various items that we
would like to have -- (laughter) -- but we need -- I'll make a point. We started
a project together, the Light Combat Aircraft project, together almost two
decades ago. And we need the engines for that. We were to have gone ahead
together on this project. But then we parted company, and now we have again
joined hands. That's just one of the many that one can cite. But this to me is a
very, very important one.
Rumsfeld: And last would be someone from the Indian press, possibly? Yes.
Question: This is for Secretary Rumsfeld. Well, you have given very
handsome praise to General Musharraf's speech, saying that everything would be
changing. But after having faced 10 years of proxy war and having lost 53,000
innocent lives, do you think that there is reason enough for India to dismantle
its military buildup?
Rumsfeld: Well, I generally leave these questions to the president of the
United States and the secretary of State, Colin Powell. And so to really
paraphrase them, the United States, needless to say, did feel that President
Musharraf's speech was forthcoming. And I believe that the comments I've heard
from senior officials of the Indian government suggest that they, too, felt
that, and that the next step, then, is for actions to take place, and that -- I
am personally persuaded that General Musharraf is moving within his government
to take actions, to follow up on the speech that he made.
The long and the short of it is that India and Pakistan have to make these
decisions. It's not the United States that makes these decisions. It's not any
other country. I do not believe it is in either of their interests to stay for a
long period at a state of high mobilization. I think the tension is unhelpful to
them, unhelpful to the world, and I'm hopeful that the leadership of those two
countries will continue on the path they seem to be on to attempt to find ways
to either directly or indirectly discuss these matters, and that over the coming
weeks and days we will see a relaxation of that tension and some dialogue take
place that will lead to a peaceful resolution of the variety of issues that
stand between those two countries.
Question: What kind of action, Mr. Secretary? What --
Rumsfeld: We -- we -- we thank all of you for being here. (Laughter.)
We're going to excuse ourselves.
Fernandes: And thank you.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, sir.