So you mentioned the defensive units and acquisitions part and the S-400 plays into that, but I wanted to start with something more immediate perhaps and the oil
from Iran and getting down to zero by November 4th. The Secretary mentioned that that’s going to come up, but are we looking for any specific commitments on that coming out of this particular 2+2?
Senior state department official: I’m sure it will be discussed today. We are asking all of our partners, not just India, to reduce to zero the oil
exports — or oil
imports from Iran, and so I’m confident that will be a part of our conversation with India. In the past we’ve seen India take steps during the previous round of JCPOA sanctions where they did — their private oil
companies did work towards that goal.
Q: But Indian officials have said that the November 4th deadline is not practical, so —
Senior state department official: There are very detailed conversations taking place between the U.S. and India on just the technical issues related to going to zero. Those conversations will continue.
Q: Do you expect a deal on this military communications cooperation or partnership? Is that something that could come out of these meetings today? I guess the —
Senior state department official: Yeah, we are making good progress to concluding some of these key agreements.
Q: That was — yeah not confirming. Just saying –
Senior state department official: Right. We’re making good progress.
Q: We’re making good progress, but DOD will address that?
Q: Okay. And then on other agreements from this, do you – I mean, I know talking about sort of the broader strategic relationship, but in terms of like a concrete deliverable, is there something going to come out of this where you’d say okay, we are putting our signatures on certain documents? Would either that —
Senior state department official: There’ll be a joint statement issued later today that will encapsulate what’s been accomplished over the course of the year, and that will be newly heralded today. I mean, already you’ve seen some of the building blocks. The STA-1 licensing status that was given to India is a significant one as well.
Q: Okay. But in terms of like a firm commitment from them like to not buy the S-400, I mean, is that something that you would press for out of these meetings, or are those more like a dialogue that would happen —
Senior state department official: The S-400 continues to be a dialogue, and it’s a dialogue we’re having not just with India but with all of our partners in the region.
Q: You mentioned CT, and there’s been an increase of violence in the Kashmir region with kidnappings of police, family, and more militance on the Pakistani side than we’ve seen in decades. How much is that a concern to you, and how much is that playing into the discussions today?
Senior state department official: I’m confident that there’ll be a conversation on counter-terrorism cooperation, and we share India’s concerns over cross-border infiltrations and violence.
And with respect to — with respect to Indo and Indo-Pak relations, we welcome efforts by both countries to speak with one another and to engage one another. There’s obviously been a DGMO channel that has been used over the last several months. We saw a commitment by the countries, I believe in early June, a commitment by Pakistan to reduce levels of violence along the Line of Control. I think there’s been a reduction in the historic levels, but it’s certainly not the level of reduction that we need to see.
And so I can’t comment on the Secretary’s meetings yesterday, but as an ongoing element of our conversation with Pakistan is the need to end all support for terrorist proxies whether on the eastern border or the western border.
Q: One thing on the — it just seems like the optics between the visit yesterday and the meetings today are so much different. I mean, when he was — landed in Islamabad, he was met by like a protocol officer. He comes here, and the external affairs minister greets him at the airport with a bouquet of flowers and shows him into his car. And the things that you guys are saying about Pakistan now seem essentially identical to what you were saying when the State Department cut security assistance last January. It just doesn’t seem like anything’s changed in that relationship with Pakistan and the Secretary saying exactly what Secretary Tillerson said.
Senior state department official: But I would say the more important point is what you started with. It’s a mistake to try to hyphenate India and Pakistan. These are relationships that are utterly separate: a strategic partnership, burgeoning strategic partnership with India, one in which we’re laying out foundations for what you can see down the road is going to be an increasingly robust military, economic, diplomatic relationship; whereas, with Pakistan, we’re confronting existential questions about the relationship and about what Pakistan — what role Pakistan is prepared to play in the international community.
Q: But I know that you guys are in part reluctant to do this, but I mean, is there some point at which you say with Pakistan this just isn’t working out, we’ve got to take other measures, whether it be sanctions or some sort of punitive —Senior state department official: I think under the South Asia Strategy what you’ve seen is a series of measures that have been taken with respect to Pakistan. And that dialogue and that effort to engage constructively with Pakistan continues, as you saw with the Secretary’s visit yesterday. Since I wasn’t a part of that visit, I can’t comment on it.
Senior state department official: But I would go back to the original point. Our relationship with India stands on its own. It’s a partnership that has global implications, and today you’re going to see additional evidence of how well we can work together.
Edited excerpts from a special briefing by a Senior State Department official to press travelling with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, New Delhi, September 6