After Clinton, Holbrooke to visit India next week

The Obama administration had put "intensive focus on the challenge in South Asia," Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Philip J.  Crowley told reporters on Friday pointing to Clinton's current visit to India to be followed by one to Pakistan in autumn and the coming Holbrooke trip.

Asked what efforts the US had made to engage India and Pakistan in diplomacy and reduce tension between them since President Barack Obama announced in March that he proposed to do so, he referred to Thursday's meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

"Well, obviously, I think what's important to start off is to recognize the joint statement that was reached in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday, where both India and Pakistan itself pledged to deepen cooperation, exchange information on terrorism," Crowley said.
"And that is a vitally important step," he said. "Obviously, the Secretary is going to India on this particular trip, as she indicated earlier this week.  She will also be travelling to Pakistan later in the year."  Richard Holbrooke too will be leaving  early next week for stops in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Belgium.

"So I think in the first six months of the Obama Administration, obviously, not only is the Secretary and the President focused on these, but you have, through Richard Holbrooke and others within the State Department, intensive focus on the challenge in South Asia."
"And we recognize that it is ultimately greater integration among these countries, working on common challenges, regional challenges, finding new structures to be able to expand this cooperation," Crowley said.

"That will be how the region ultimately overcomes the challenges that it's facing.  And obviously, the United States  stands ready to assist in any way we can," he said.
Later at the State Department, spokesman Robert Wood said Holbrooke did not accompany Clinton on the trip to India as he was still preparing for his visit and Clinton was going to India alone.

Holbrooke "is very focused on Pakistan and Afghanistan," Wood said.  So he "is preparing for his visit.  He's got a lot of challenging work to do.  And he felt that being back here and preparing for this visit was the best thing to do."

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