Public Diplomacy Public Diplomacy

Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary and India’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the United Nations on Prime Minister’s Bilaterals and Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro

June 21, 2012

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends. Thank you very much for coming to this briefing. We have here with us Foreign Secretary who will brief us on Prime Minister's bilateral meetings. After that, if any of you would like any information on the ongoing Summit, we also have with us Mr. Manjeev Puri who is Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, who has been involved in the entire process for the last several months on the Rio+20 Conference.

With that I will now first ask Foreign Secretary to brief you about the bilaterals that Prime Minister had.
Foreign Secretary (Shri Ranjan Mathai): Prime Minister had bilateral meetings with Prime Minister of Nepal Mr. Baburam Bhattarai and with President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa. During the session yesterday he also briefly spoke to President Waheed of the Maldives.

There is a possibility we are going to have a pull-aside both with the President of Maldives and with Prime Minister Thinley of Bhutan during the session this afternoon. As soon as I get something on those I will find the time to speak about them but I thought I will just mention the two meetings which took place first with Nepal.

Prime Minister and Prime Minister Bhattarai recalled the good meetings they had held last year both during Prime Minister Bhattarai's visit to India and the meeting they had on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit which was in November in Addu. Prime Minister Bhattarai did mention that subsequently after those two very productive meetings there had been a preoccupation with domestic politics in Nepal. But he underlined that they continue to attach very great importance to taking forward the bilateral relationship with India.

Referring to the internal security in Nepal, Prime Minister Bhattarai noted that on what is called the peace process and integration there had been great progress and the issues had been more or less settled. But the drafting of the Constitution was not completed by the May 27 deadline, and hence they had no option, since the Supreme Court had said that the Constituent Assembly could not be extended, so the decision was to seek another election.

As far as our Prime Minister is concerned, he reiterated that India wants the success of democracy in Nepal. And he expressed the hope that all parties would show the wisdom to work together so that acceptable arrangements are made to complete the Constitution-making process on time.

In terms of the bilateral relationship, PM said that as a friend of Nepal we are committed to support it in the development process and we would support Nepal in a manner which is sought by the Nepalese people, but we in India do have a vision of the working together.

The Prime Minister of Nepal referred to negotiations with Indian companies for hydropower projects. And our Prime Minister said he recognized that this is an area of particularly great importance in our relationship. But at the moment we are in the process of helping Nepal deal with some development challenges which include supply of power from India to Nepal. It was agreed that the Joint Commission which is chaired by the two Foreign Ministers should meet as soon as feasible and look at all areas including power, railways and other areas of our interaction.

The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Bhattarai also reviewed security matters and the working of our mechanisms to deal with security cooperation. Prime Minister Bhattarai recalled that he had invited PM to visit Nepal, and PM said that he would be very happy to visit at a mutually convenient time.

The two leaders also discussed the conference which is under way here, and had the sense that outcome was, as they could see it, favourable in terms of how both countries looked at it.

With President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, PM started first with a one-on-one discussion and then in delegation-level meeting. They covered all bilateral relations. On security related issues, they noted that our dialogue would be taken forward on the 29th June when the National Security Advisor Mr. Menon would be visiting Colombo. There was a substantial discussion on our economic relations, and the Power Minister of Sri Lanka gave an update on Sampur Power Project which is one of the very big projects being undertaken in Sri Lanka as a joint venture between the Ceylon Power Board and the NTPC.

In terms of the overall relationship, both felt that the scope for progress was very great and we must now concentrate on dealing with those areas where we can make good progress.

The President also referred to the situation within Sri Lanka and mentioned the continuing discussions on the issue of devolution. But the large focus was on what is being done for the rehabilitation of Internally Displaced People. He quoted the figure of about 3,000 who now continue to remain in the camps compared to 300,000 when the war ended.

He also noted that the resettlement process was under way, and electrification of the Northern Region, the Power Minister being present mentioned, was also making very good progress. They said that as much as 95 per cent electrification had been restored in Jaffna, and in the other areas in the Northern Province it was between 50 and 70 per cent.

Prime Minister once again underlined the great importance we attach in India to the ability of the Tamil people to lead a life of dignity and as equal citizens of that country. We expressed our intention to continue our assistance programmes. The housing project which India is undertaking will start actually disbursing funds to the beneficiaries for the houses in Sri Lanka by sometime next month because …(Inaudible)… And we also reiterated our intention to continue all our bilateral assistance programmes in the economic field.

That is about it. If there are any specific queries on it I will answer them. Otherwise, Manjeev will talk about the Conference.

Question: Sir, one question. There is a very big possibility in Nepal to produce power through hydro technology. Experts say that more than 40,000 MW can be produced. So, there is a good talk between our Prime Minister and Nepalese Prime Minister regarding the power also. Is there any possibility of any deal to construct any joint venture project to produce power? We are here in Rio+20, we are talking about the Green Economy and the way we are focusing on nuclear energy, these sources are really easy and really solvable.
Foreign Secretary: I fully agree with you. They are a tremendous resource. The Prime Minister mentioned that some discussions have already started with the Indian companies which are involved in specific project proposals. You are aware that even a few years ago some of the Indian private sector companies had gone in, and some of the public sector units had also started negotiations. But because of the security situation and the uncertain political climate, no progress was made.

The Prime Minister said that he hoped - the fact that there now the Constitution-making process is at a very advanced stage – he did believe that the investment climate would improve. It was also noted that between India and Nepal, we have entered into both a Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement and a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement. These were done only end of last year, and they have been ratified. So, this would increase the confidence of potential investors. So, they expect to make some progress in this field and there was no specific project mentioned.

Question: There was a whole set of agreements between Bhattarai and the Prime Minister in the two meetings there, especially in Bhattarai's trip to Delhi. Bhattarai's Government is now in a severe danger of collapse given that the Madhesia Party and the Maoists have both split under their primary components. Is there any concern or any reassurance that the agreements that we have done with Bhattarai and the promises we have made to him or both sides have made to each other will stand even after his Government falls?
Foreign Secretary: There was no specific reference to the agreements which we signed apart from, as I said, the Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement and the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement. Those are in place and they would be expected to continue. The point is that they at the moment are in a state where an election has been announced by the Prime Minister for November. Whether that election actually will be held on that date is still to be actually confirmed because the Supreme Court had actually made the conclusion of the Constituent Assembly on May 27, and an issue has been raised through a petition to the court that under the interim Constitution under which they were functioning, there is no provision for holding such an election. That the courts will decide on it. So, what I am trying to say is that there is a degree of political fluidity right now which I think we need to get through this period. But as far as all the bilateral mechanisms at the official level are concerned, those continue. As far as we are concerned, the agreements which have been signed are government-to-agreements, and those will be maintained.

Official Spokesperson: Since there are no further questions, I will ask Mr. Manjeev Puri to make his opening remarks, and then if there are any questions he will take them.
India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri):M Akbar, thank you very much.

I think most members of the group here were briefed yesterday by the Hon. Minister of State for Environment on the salient features of the Outcome Document which is likely to be adopted tomorrow here. I am quite prepared to answer anything in addition, if you wish to know.

But I think it is also instructive to note if any of you have followed the statement of the President of Brazil when she inaugurated the Plenary yesterday where she pointed out that in this particular conference, it is extremely important to note that developing countries have been able to re-emphasise not only the Rio principles but bring to the fore that in the year 2012 poverty eradication continues to remain our overriding priority, and that we need to do all that we can to tackle this particular thing especially in the context of MDGs and the future development goals.

I think it is also very important to note that we have an agreement which is a good and balanced agreement, perhaps the best that was possible under the circumstances that the world faces today and which are fairly well-known to all of you.

I want to stop here now. If there is something very specific which the Hon. Minister may not have addressed yesterday, please go ahead. Thank you very much.

Question: The question really is as far as the earlier goals of funding being made available to developing countries for meeting certain goals. Now there is no funding. The earlier commitments have not been met. Therefore, on what basis are we concluding that there is a significant success because the reportage from the developed world is actually slamming this entire exercise?
India's Deputy PR to the UN: I think we need to be of course very cognizant that we are meeting at a time when there are serious economic challenges in the world, and certainly you are well aware and familiar with what the developed countries are going through. The Rio Conferences in the past too, what have they reaffirmed in 1992 is the set of principles and the mechanisms. In this particular conference we have agreed in terms of the draft outcome document to set up two mechanisms - one to deal with the area of financing and the other to deal with the area of technology. This is a significant breakthrough especially considering the circumstances. These are the mechanisms which will then look at ways and means by which we can reach either figures or ways and means of reaching those figures.

So, this is a document which obviously has a certain degree of balance, certain degree of being rooted in the realities of the world today. But it is a document which recognizes very clearly that the developing world could do much more provided it was assisted both in terms of technology and in terms of finance.

In terms of what you are hearing from the developed world, again I think you need to recognize this, and I can perhaps just tell you what Dr. Pachauri said to me just a few minutes back when I saw him in the corridor that look when they could afford it, they were not willing to do anything, now that they cannot afford it, what is it that we can really expect. This is Pachauri to me but do not quote it as it is to you.

Question: Why are we saying that the document reflects a lack of political will on the part of developed countries when the document says that developed countries will part with 0.7 per cent of GNP? It also says that South-South cooperation will be complement to North-South cooperation and not the substitute to it? And will SDGs have specific goals like MDGs?
India's Deputy PR to the UN: The lack of political will is perhaps best reflected in the question that your colleague here just asked. This is a document which is in the process of negotiations. In these particular negotiations to get these paragraphs of old commitments on 0.7 per cent itself took a great deal of doing. So, these are reiterations. To hold people to their old commitments itself was a significant achievement on the part of the developing countries and the G77. In terms of political will, surely political will could have been shown by, as you have heard, promising funding or being much more broad on technology transfer. But best that could have been achieved at this stage was the setting up of mechanisms. The reasons are of course fairly obvious, rooted in the realities of today as you see it.

So, it is a balancing act. But I think from the perspective of developing countries it is a good balancing act because policy space for developing countries has been clearly recognized. Differentiated burden sharing and on the basis of equity has been clearly recognized, and the fact that mechanism for international cooperation have also been initiated. We need to now take this process further from here.

On SDGs, what has happened is the process has begun whereby the UN General Assembly will set up an Expert Committee, we will start discussing on how SDGs would look like. Just to recap, where the Millennium Development Goals, these were actually drafted by experts, the Secretary-General, and actually have never really been adopted, although they are accepted in common parlance and all of us are working towards them. For the Sustainable Development Goals, the idea really is that we would work in this for the post-2015 development agenda but in an inter-governmental setting. So, all of us, governments etc., would be deliberating within the framework of the United Nations General Assembly. How they pan out, how do they work out, difficult to say at the moment. The kind of broad areas are obviously food security, energy access. These are the kind of important critical areas for sustainable development for all.

Question: My question would be to you or to the Foreign Secretary. Could you give us a sense of Indian industry in this summit? They have been looking at various themes. So, industry being now very important and they are talking about poverty eradication and funding and other things. So, could you give us a sense of the participation of top industrialists and what are they committing, or what kind of delegation is here?
India's Deputy PR to the UN: At the opening time you may have heard Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan spoke on behalf of global industry, and he has been around here. The Conference itself the way it works, is that major groups have an opportunity to speak and private sector is one of them. So, we have been very well represented in having an esteemed member and a very venerable member of the Indian industry speaking out here in terms of what the industry wants. Let me just remind you of what Mr. Gopalakrishnan said. He said that we are looking forward to contributing and working towards inclusive green growth. In terms of what Indian industry is otherwise doing here, the conference of course is primarily inter-governmental with civil society and others participating including major groups. But I think Indian industry is rather active here in Brazil, rather active worldwide. And we see on our domestic side on various other aspects there has been a tremendous amount of positive response of the Indian industry as such towards sustainable development, towards environment protection, while working towards growth and inclusive growth in the country.

Question: What we are hearing here is just general kind of assurances and commitments. There are no concrete targets or something like that being set up. You yourself are saying that they are only reiterating the old commitments, they are again reassuring that they will be committed to all central points. What is the new theme being added in this conference?
India's Deputy PR to the UN: In this conference the principal gain for the developing countries is a reaffirmation of the Rio Principles, and the commitments which were already there. There has been a great of effort and a great deal of action to try and dilute the commitments, to try and perhaps walk away from them, or as your colleague here mentioned, try and substitute them by something else whether it is South-South cooperation or any other form of this kind. What has this conference done? This conference has reaffirmed the validity of the Rio Principles, the validity that the cooperation amongst South-South countries is one of partnership, partnership in which both are equals and they work towards national priorities of the others, distinct from the aged paradigm of North-South which retains its validity and its importance. And what this particular conference has done is, it held them to their promises. We need to work to get those promises implemented. You are absolutely right. Critical deficit has been a deficit of implementation. But that is a deficit which we will have to recognize. The fact that we have been able to hold them to those promises itself is a particularly successful outcome of this particular negotiation process, and the fact that we were able to keep them together.

Question: In many ways US and Germany actually they …(Inaudible)… moneybags. Now in the absence of Mr. Obama and Chancellor Merkel through the Conference, how does India view it? A disappointment? Lack of responsibility? How does India view this particular thing?
India's Deputy PR to the UN: The facts are of course there for you to see. People give several reasons for it. The President of the United States is engaged in his elections, the Chancellor of Germany with the Eurozone crisis. I think in some senses what you are saying certainly does have a certain amount of validity. But let us remember, the Untied States is likely to be represented by the Secretary of State. The United States has been very active in the negotiations here. They have a high-level delegation here led by their Special Envoy in the State Department. And they have been extremely active in all elements of the negotiations which have taken place here. Similarly Germany. Not only as part of the European Union at its negotiating team here, the Germans have been here in their own way at a very high level here. So, I think the way I would look at it is that for whatever reasons the leaders may not have been able to come but Germany and the United Sates have been very actively engaged in the process, and actively engaged in the negotiations, and actively present politically in this particular meeting out here.

Question: You spoke about technology as one of the mechanisms. But then how do you look at resolving the IPR issues? And you spoke about this kind of developing centres of excellence. Will the centres be run on the CG model?
India's Deputy PR to the UN: It is the India's position for a long time that we need to have a kind of fair use of the IPR regimes, and allowing the best use of the existing modalities of the IPR regimes under the WTO in the TRIPS. We have also been very strong on collaboration. And you are right, the CG model is something that we often allude to and try and have that brought into place. Our efforts here have basically been that the mechanism that we set up to work on technology are such that these models, the CG model as well as what we can do with IPRs gets brought into the fore and that we are able to discuss them in the context of sustainable development, not just in the very specific context where they have currently moved in the WTO. So, these are certainly areas that we will work on. These will be priority areas for our delegation as we work through the transfer of technology mechanisms which are due to be set up.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this interaction.

(Concluded)

Rio de Janeiro
June 21, 2012



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