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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson and Joint Secretary (East Asia) (January 23, 2014)

January 23, 2014

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for coming this afternoon. I have here with me Joint Secretary (East Asia), Mr. Gautam Bambawale. You know why he is here and that is because we will focus today’s briefing on the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister of Japan.

What I will do is make a few opening remarks on the visit of the Prime Minister of Japan. Subsequent to that the floor will be open for any questions that you may want to ask on that part. After that, as is usual, in case any of you have interest in any other thing, I will be willing to respond to that. Let us begin with the forthcoming visit.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will be on an official visit from 25thto 27th of January. Prime Minister Abe will be accompanied by Mrs. Akie Abe. They will arrive on the afternoon of the 25th of January. On the same day he would call on the President. He will also have meetings in a restricted format and with delegations on the same day with the Prime Minister. Subsequent to that Prime Minister will host a banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary.

On 26th January, Prime Minister Abe will be the Chief Guest at the 64thanniversary of our Republic Day. Earlier on 26th, I understand that Prime Minister Abe will have meetings with business leaders in India. And on 27thmorning he is scheduled to depart for Tokyo.

This is Prime Minister Abe’s second official visit as Prime Minister to India. He had last visited India in 2007 for the India-Japan Annual Summit. India and Japan have a strategic and global partnership which is marked by regular high-level exchanges. You are aware that prior to this visit we had the landmark visit of the Emperor and Empress of Japan last month.

Apart from the system of annual summit meetings that we have with Japan we also have regular meetings at different levels. For example, we have regular Foreign Ministers’ meetings annually; we have regular Defence Ministers’ meetings annually. In additional Japan is the only country with which we have what is called a 2+2, that is the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary on the Indian side with their counterparts on the Japanese side meet regularly.

All this indicates that we have a multifaceted relationship with Japan with engagements across a wide spectrum of issues. These include political consultations, issues relating to cooperation in energy, science and technology, infrastructure development, and defence cooperation.

Last year our bilateral trade with Japan was in the vicinity of about 18.5 billion dollars. We foresee vast potential for growth of this trade given the complementarities that exist between our two countries.

Currently Japan ranks fourth in terms of investments into India. And it is estimated during the period of April 2000 to 2013, approximately US$ 15 billion were invested from Japan into India through FDI and equity flows. This accounts for about seven per cent of the total investment in India through those mechanisms.

Increasingly we notice that a large number of Japanese tourists are availing of the visa on arrival facility. In fact, the largest number of people who are availing of this is from Japan.

Japanese companies have been increasing their presence in India. My understanding is that in 2008 there were 555 sites where Japanese companies were functioning. In 2011 this number increased to a little more than 1400. And it is expected that by 2015 this number would reach 2500. Currently there are about 1050 Japanese companies who have their representative offices or operations in India.

Japan has been graciously extending Overseas Development Assistance through loans and grants, and currently there are 66 projects which are underway in India from using those loans and grants.

During the visit of Prime Minister Abe India and Japan are expected to review all aspects of their wide-ranging bilateral relationship. They will also discuss regional issues and ongoing cooperation in the international arena including efforts to reform the UN and its Security Council through the G4 framework.

It is expected that a Joint Statement will be issued at the conclusion of the discussions between Prime Minister Abe and our Prime Minister. And we hope that the visit will lead to a deepening and strengthening of our strategic and global partnership.

That is by way of background information for you. Now the floor is open if you would like to ask any questions.

Question:Akbar, on this ongoing cooperation in international arena between Japan and India I just want to know whether there are any plans to discuss this cooperation between India and Japan in Africa in a big way. That is because there is a talk of it, and when Mr. Abe came to India sometime back in his lecture at the ICWA he talked about the close cooperation between India, USA and Japan.

Joint Secretary (East Asia) (Shri Gautam H. Bambawale):Let me say that India and Japan have regional dialogues on several parts of the world and one of those dialogues is on Africa. But that dialogue takes place between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries, and it takes place at the level of Director General and Joint Secretary. So, we have a very intensive discussion between our two governments on the question of possible cooperation in Africa. We also coordinate some of our activities there. We also exchange notes on what each of the countries is doing in Africa.

Whether it will come up at the Prime Ministerial level, I can only say that it depends on the two Prime Ministers. If they wish to discuss this subject, they will do it; and if they do not, it may be due to the lack of time. But I am sure that they will brief all of you about what their discussions were about in the media interaction that they do immediately after their meeting.

Official Spokesperson: We will put out a media itinerary and opportunities for the media shortly after this briefing.

Question:Sir, yesterday in an interview to FT Prime Minister Abe had said that China and Japan are in a similar situation to UK and Germany before 1914. Do you think that is worrisome for the region, and can India play a role in resolving any tensions?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): The Official Spokesperson and I are looking at each other because our answer is going to be exactly the same that we do not want to comment on relations between two other countries both of which have very strong and positive and expanding relations with India. So, we do not want to comment on that.

Question:The Japanese Prime Minister has indicated that he wants to amend the Constitution to allow a greater role for defence industry, export and all that. How early could that happen and what are the prospects for India?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): I guess you should ask that question of the Japanese Government and not the Government of India. So, I would point to you in that direction. We have no idea how quickly it will happen. It is for the Government of Japan, for the people of Japan, and the Japanese society to decide on this question. So, I think you should direct your question there.

Question:Sir, any progress…(Inaudible)…

Joint Secretary (East Asia): What I can share with you is definitely the two Governments are talking with each other, discussing with each other, negotiating with each other on a bilateral India-Japan agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Since those discussions and negotiations are ongoing, I do not want to go into the details of the negotiations. I think this is something which is of great sensitivity in Japan as well as it is a subject which is of great sensitivity in both Japan and India. So, I will reserve my comments. I do not think I have anything to say about the ongoing negotiations on this subject.

Question:…(Inaudible)…

Joint Secretary (East Asia): Thank you very much for that question. I think…(Inaudible)…Akbar has already shared with you that we have expanding defence cooperation with Japan. He mentioned that the Defence Ministers have a regular dialogue. In fact, you know that Defence Minister Onodera of Japan had visited India a few weeks ago. He had excellent discussions with our Raksha Mantri. He had also called on Prime Minister. From December 19 to 22, Japan held their second bilateral naval exercise, this time off the coast of India. You will remember that the first exercise had been held in the summer of 2012. The two Prime Ministers have agreed earlier to have regular joint exercises between our Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force.

You also know that we have been discussing with Japan the possibility of purchase of an amphibian aircraft called the US-2. And a Joint Working Group had been established in May of 2013 when Prime Minister had visited Japan. That Joint Working Group held its first meeting here in Delhi and is likely to meet again in this year a little after Prime Minister Abe’s visit to India. So, we will see how that progresses. It will take a bit of time I am sure because defence equipment is always something which is difficult to transfer and also the terms and conditions take time to work out.

So, I think there is a whole amount of defence related cooperation between India and Japan. The very fact that the Japanese Prime Minister for the first time in the history of independent India will be the Chief Guest at our Republic Day celebrations I think speaks for itself.

Question:There has been a lot of controversy about the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to the…(Inaudible)…which includes war criminals, and the Foreign Minister has also commented on that. Now besides China, while this will take us closer to Japan there are countries other than China in East Asia where a lot of sensitivities have been aroused by this. Have there been any feelers or issues that cropped up including during the recent visit of the South Korean dignitary?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): Let me say that we are aware of the fact that there are certain tensions amongst nations in Northeast Asia but India is not involved in these issues. India is expanding its relationships with all these countries in East Asia including of course countries which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, so the entire region. I think this is a mark of the success of India’s Look East Policy that we are able to expand our relations with each of these countries as we move ahead into 2014.

Question:This is a very basic question. Regarding the nuclear agreement, why is India focusing on concluding the deal with Japan? What is the expectation from India’s side to Japanese technology and all?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): We are aware that in the area of nuclear technology there are certain advantages which rest with Japanese industry, in large-scale forgings for example. And for India’s civil nuclear energy programme to move ahead, especially in that segment of the nuclear programme the civil nuclear energy programme where India is soliciting international cooperation, it is very important for Japan to be a partner in such international cooperation. That is why we are looking forward to and negotiating an agreement on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with Japan.

Question:Sir, what are the three priorities areas for India vis-a-vis Japan? And also, we are engaging so heavily with Japan and certainly that makes China a little worried and we all also keep saying that this is because of the great balance we are trying to achieve. What would you like to say to that?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): Three priorities the way I would put it and I think this is also the priority of the Government of India. First of all we want Japanese technology; secondly we want Japanese capital, investment into India; and thirdly we want Japanese modern management practices. So, as someone said, it is the economy which is the crucial part of India-Japan cooperation.

As far as your second question is concerned, I thought I have already answered it. We have a strong and growing partnership with many countries in the East and Southeast Asian region. I think that is testimony to the success of India’s Look East Policy.

Question:You did outline the fact that there is intense discussion on regional issues. And keeping in mind that India has also been part of the donors, if I am not mistaken, when it comes to Afghanistan, is there going to be some sort of a discussion on this looking forward to what is going to be now happening in Afghanistan?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): Yes, I think you are absolutely right. When the Prime Ministers of India and Japan meet for their annual summits there are discussions on regional and global issues as was mentioned by Akbar at the start. And given the transitions which are taking place in Afghanistan, I would venture to suggest and venture to think that this subject would be discussed by the two Prime Ministers because it is of great importance to the international community including India and Japan.

Question:At the Republic Day Parade I am sure there will be a display of many kinds of weapons including Agni-V and other weapons with nuclear capabilities. Are you sure Japanese people would not be getting some kind of bad feelings with their Prime Minister’s presence?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): Let me put it this way that the Republic Day Parade of India is a military-cum-civilian parade. There is a military component to it but there is also a very important civilian component to it. So, it is not purely a military parade, it is also a civilian parade, it also shows off the social and cultural aspects of India. The fact is that we have a Chief Guest for this parade every year over so many decades and this year we invited Prime Minister Abe to be the Chief Guest and we are delighted that he has accepted this invitation at a time which is not completely convenient to him because we know that his own internal Parliament and Diet is in session. But we are delighted that he has been able to accept the invitation extended to him to be the Chief Guest for our Republic Day celebrations this year in 2014.

Question:Gautam, have the current Indo-US tensions impacted the Japan-US-India trilateral? When is the next likely date? And is there a move to restore the strategic quadrilateral initiative involving Australia as well?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): I can tell you that the last round of the India-Japan-United States trilateral dialogue was held in Tokyo in November of 2013. And as per schedule, the sixth round will be held in Delhi in the middle of 2014. So, I think we are on track for that. But I cannot comment on what exact dates it will be held on. But I am pretty confident that it will be held more or less as per schedule.

Question:Can you give us any kind of a timeframe by when we will sign this civil nuclear agreement with Japan?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): Let me say that both sides have been working very hard at it and both sides would like to do it as quickly as possible. But giving a timeframe in diplomatic negotiations is something which is very difficult to do. Therefore, I would not like to venture on a timeframe by when this agreement will be done.

Official Spokesperson: If there are no further questions on this, are there any questions on anything else?

Question:Sir, a French warship has apparently rescued 11 Indian members on Shaan-e-Hind. Has the French side communicated to us whether all the crew members were okay and not harmed by the pirates because apparently they were taken hostage by them?

Official Spokesperson: Maha, coordination on anti piracy matters is handled by the Director General of Shipping which is the nodal point in India for working this out. I would suggest that you could direct those questions to the Director General of Shipping.

Question:Akbar, this is regarding the forthcoming visit of the German President Joachim Gauck from the 4th of February onwards. Are there any details available about his itinerary here? And apart from the routine ceremonial practices and visits, is anything really exciting?

Official Spokesperson: You will have to wait to get the exciting news because right now we are focused on something which Gautam mentioned and that is the excitement regarding the Republic Day. As I said, all exciting news has a time and place. We will confirm or say anything on this once we finish this visit. And we have told you on many occasions that we move at a pace which you are not comfortable with I do understand that. But that is the pace at which we move and we will move sequentially and respond to any other visits after this visit is over. So, right now we are focused on this.

Question:…(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: I cannot answer that question because I will confirm a visit by announcing it. If I have not, then I cannot confirm it.

Question:Tamil Nadu fishermen were a little happy when simultaneously India and Sri Lanka released fishermen. But the problem is still continuing. So, can you once again confirm the date and the steps that have been taken by India and Sri Lanka?

Official Spokesperson: This is a humanitarian issue of fishermen both from India and Sri Lanka having problems. It does impact on their livelihood. The Government of India is obviously concerned on this matter. It is in touch both with the State of Tamil Nadu as well as with the Sri Lankan colleagues across the Palk Strait. Now the issue was that before the Joint Working Group meets there was to be a fishermen associations meeting. That meeting has not yet taken place because the Government of Sri Lanka has requested some time for preparing for that meeting. And we are in touch now with the Government of Tamil Nadu for new dates. Actually the meeting was to be held on the 20th. That meeting did not take place. We are now working on fresh dates.

Separately, there is a six-member Committee which has been formed between India and Sri Lanka, three from each side, where they will try and see issues relating to the 2008 Memorandum of Understanding and how to progress further on that. That is where we are on the diplomatic front on both those issues.

Question:…(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: I said that the January 20 meeting could not take place. We are now in consultation with the Government of Tamil Nadu to work out a fresh date because it is hosted in Tamil Nadu. So, once the fresh dates are decided upon we will certainly share it with you.

Question:Akbar, can you share some more details about EAM’s meeting with John Kerry other than what you have put out?

Official Spokesperson: We have put out something but as far as we are concerned, India and US have a broad-based relationship which both of us consider as very important. This relationship entails cooperation and consultations on a wide array of subjects through established dialogue mechanisms. But it is also a fact that in the last few weeks we were faced by a situation that we think should never have happened and we therefore need to address and resolve the issues that relate to that situation.

If you have to try and formulate what was the takeaway from this half an hour long meeting between the External Affairs Minister and Secretary of State Kerry, I would try and summarise it as that there is an understanding of both the importance that is placed on the relationship and the need to resolve matters that have caused us distress and led to stresses in the relationship during the past few weeks. That in sum is the takeaway from that meeting.

Question:This is regarding the two Italian soldiers arrested almost two years ago. There was some report regarding the sanction given by Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the application of the SUA by the special police, the National Investigation Authority. Can you confirm it please?

Official Spokesperson: Maria, I think you are aware that this matter came up during the Supreme Court discussions on Monday. And the Attorney General, who is the highest legal officer in India, did inform the Supreme Court that he requires 14 days to try and resolve issues on this matter and will submit the information on this to the court. It is four days since that happened. The Attorney General, therefore, has another ten days by when has to resolve issues on that. And he will bring the Government of India’s views to the court at the conclusion of that period.

Question:Sir, this is on the Kerry-Khurshid meeting. There is a line in the thing which said that he raised the issue of trafficking visas issued by the US to Indian nationals. Could you give us some clarity on that?

Official Spokesperson: I think it is fairly well known that there have been visas issued to Indian nationals who are related to people who may have been trafficked, and the numbers are available in the public domain. Now our concern is that in a democracy where there are established avenues for resolving these issues, why does a country require resort to evacuating people from that country to another country? And that is what the External Affairs Minister had raised during his meeting.

Question:Can you give some update on resolving this standoff at the border with Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson: What I can say is that the two Foreign Offices are in consultation. But I would also like to clarify that there is no modality that exempts a person alleged to be involved in a criminal activity from facing the full force of Indian law. The spirit of confidence-building measures relating to trans-LOC trade and travel is to bring about humanitarian benefits to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, to us it is surprising that these confidence-building measures have been chosen by Pakistan to be held hostage for the sake of persons indulging in drug trafficking.

Question:Pakistan has said that the driver has diplomatic immunity. What is India’s position?

Official Spokesperson: This is the first time I hear that drivers have diplomatic immunity. But let me tell you again, I just mentioned it but I can repeat, that there is no immunity that exempts a person in that category who is alleged to be involved in a criminal activity; and he will face the full force of Indian law.

Question:Sir, Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia has made a very serious allegation that Indian troops were deployed to contain the communal tension in certain parts of Bangladesh, which has been reported in some sections of Indian media too. Recently, early this week, a group of Indian officials from MEA have visited Dhaka. Were the communal tensions in Bangladesh discussed or this issue was discussed or referred to in any of the dialogues?

Official Spokesperson: I do not have any readout on the meetings. But I think that allegation has been responded to also and we do not have to add to it because there has been an allegation directed from one quarter to another and has been responded by that quarter.

Question:Sir, Delhi Government’s Law Minister Somnath Bharti is accused by some foreigners especially from Africa and Uganda. How serious is it? Is it being looked into by MEA?

Official Spokesperson: I would not be the right person to get involved in what is happening and which is a matter of legal discussions right now. If you have a question relating to the diplomatic aspects of this, I am willing to answer.

Question:Could you give us more insight on the meeting the Minister had with the Ambassadors of the African countries regarding this issue?

Official Spokesperson: Okay. First of all, this was a meeting held by Secretary(West) in the Ministry of External Affairs Mr. Dinkar Khullar. You need to understand the background to that and that is that our relations with Africa are rooted in history, a history of a common opposition to colonialism and apartheid. Please let us not forget that the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi honed his passive resistance tools on African soil. Therefore, racism is anathema for us.

So, what was done at that meeting was to immediately assuage any concerns that there may be that an incident which is now being investigated into has any racist overtones or the Government of India in any manner has a view which is not conducive to our relationship. Therefore, we had indicated that this was an incident which was condemnable; we had also indicated that this could not be condoned; and we had hoped that this was an aberration and does not reflect our relationship with Africa.

Now, what is our relationship with Africa? Our relationship with Africa is one which is held up as a beacon of South-South friendship. Our relationship with Africa is one where we have grown in terms of our linkages in an economic manner from say less than a billion in 1991 to today which is more than 70 billion dollar trade that is going on. And we target 2015 as the date when we could exceed a 100 billion dollars. Our relationship with Africa as is being worked through the India-Africa Forum Summit process indicates that we have provided 1500 scholarships to African students every year under the ITEC programme which is extremely large.

Our relationship with Africa is where we are working with various African states to enhance capacity building. And in that we have committed that we would build 100 institutions in Africa for capacity building at various levels. This is bilateral, national, sub-regional and regional. Our relationship with Africa is that during the last decade, out of approximately ten billion dollar lines of credit that we have provided, more than six billion are addressed towards Africa.

Africa to us is a major partner. What has happened does not in any reflect our relationship with Africa. That was the sum and substance of our response to that incident.

We have also assured our brothers and sisters from Africa that once the details are available, we will provide them with the details of the facts of the case and we have also written to the concerned authorities on this that it is our commitment that we will pursue this matter and provide them the details because several of them were certainly concerned about it.

Question:Have any of the Ugandan authorities or civilians yet contacted the MEA on the allegations of drug trafficking and prostitution? Have they denied it before the MEA?

Official Spokesperson: I would like to clarify that in the meeting on Saturday there was no representative from the Ugandan High Commission simply because there were no diplomatic officials of the Ugandan High Commission present in Delhi on that day. Subsequently, our colleagues who handle that region are in touch with the Ugandan High Commission and have been told that one of their officers has returned and we have asked the specific question to them whether there have been any interactions between them and any government authorities in India. And we were told that they had not been in touch with any government authorities in India of any hue or colour. This was since the incident. So, that is where we are.

We understand that more senior officials will be returning sometime next week and we are committed to communicating with them and responding to them if they have any issues on this matter.

Question:This is back to the truckers’ issue. Is there any update on the condition of these truckers in Pakistani detention, and has any consular access been sought? The families of these truckers say that there is no word about their condition. Could you please update us on their present situation?

Official Spokesperson: Vishal, this is a difficult situation that they are facing, we all understand. From whatever feedback that has come, the conditions are obviously not to the satisfaction of anyone. The issue of consular access is not an issue here because consular access is provided if somebody is arrested etc. This is a situation where they are not allowed to return.

We are working with the Pakistani Foreign Ministry on this. All we can do is to hope that diplomacy can find solutions to this.

Question:On the allegations against Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti, has that embarrassed the Ministry of External Affairs, our diplomats in Africa? Has this been an embarrassing episode?

Official Spokesperson: Obviously our response on a holiday and immediate need to communicate our situation does indicate that this is a matter of concern. We have indicated this and this was also communicated to us by our African colleagues who met there. There were more than 20 of them and they were interested in knowing the facts of the situation. They did understand that the Government’s view was very clear. They appreciated our swift response. They were satisfied with the reiteration of our position on this, which is familiar to them and that there was no deviation from that.

That said, there were also concerns of any tendencies which were being reported in the media and that is why they have asked for a more detailed report on this based on facts. And we will try to provide them that after collating all the facts from the concerned authorities.

Question:Akbar, I just wanted to have some more information regarding the next visit of Mr. Khurshid to Africa.

Official Spokesperson: My understanding is that the External Affairs Minister will be travelling to Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan. I will provide you the details well before he starts and we will send them across to you. I do not have the details right now because the officials concerned are actually the same officials who are in Geneva handling the Geneva-2 Conference. But we will provide you that information about the dates of his visit and who he is likely to meet along with any other information that you would like to know.

Thank you very much.

(Concluded)

For the video of this media interaction, please visit:



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