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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson in Fortaleza on Prime Minister’s ongoing visit

July 15, 2014

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good evening friends. Thank you very much for being here.

As you are aware, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived a few hours ago in Fortaleza. Within three hours of his arrival here he had his first meeting with President Xi Jinping of China. Coincidentally, President Xi Jinping also arrived here just shortly before the meeting. Therefore, both went straight into their first meeting here indicating the importance that both give to this relationship and to their discussions.

It was a meeting which, as many of you are aware, was scheduled for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. It went well beyond the schedule. In fact, it was a meeting which lasted approximately 80 minutes.

Since this was the first meeting between the two leaders, obviously the effort was to have a freewheeling discussion whereby they could exchange their views without any constraints. Therefore, the focus was on establishing a personal rapport. And I think that worked very well because both the leaders seemed to have prepared very well for this meeting.

For example, Prime Minister referred to President Xi’s experiences and speeches prior to assuming his current post, and President Xi on his part referred to the focus that Prime Minister had on development, etc., during his previous tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat. In essence, both leaders were very well prepared with background information of each other, and that helped them to break the ice before moving to much more formal aspects of the agenda.

As far as the agenda was concerned, the discussion centred on all aspects of the bilateral agenda as well as on regional and global issues. In fact, President Xi said that when India and China meet, the whole world watches, and that I think sums up the areas that were covered. These were not only something that both countries were focused on in terms of bilateral relations but also on regional and international issues, and I will come to that.

If I were to try and summarise what this meeting could be, perhaps I could do so in the sentence –Baat bhi achhi hui, mulaqaat bhi achhi hui.That in sum and substance summarises the 80-minute meeting. I will tell you why I have used those terms.

Let us take the bilateral aspects first. There was a discussion about the civilisational linkages between India and China, the heritage that binds the people together, and in this context the Buddhist linkages between India and China. It was felt that these linkages need to be focussed on to reinforce our ties at apeople-to-peoplelevel.Prime Minister emphasised on economic linkages between the two countries. He spoke about infrastructure cooperation. References were made to industrial parks, and the need to address the trade deficit.

On his part President Xi did acknowledge that for trade ties to be sustainable, there needs to be a much more balanced approach to trade. He acknowledged that there were possibilities of enhanced trade in services from India, possibilities of expansion of Indian exports and Chinese tourism to India as being areas of opportunities for deficit to be reduced in terms of our bilateral economic ties.

In this context Prime Minister referred to the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra and the possibilities of China providing an additional route that could make this travel much easier for Indian pilgrims. He indicated that should this opportunity arise through an additional route, the numbers would certainly swell given the difficulties that the present route poses. President Xi did accept this as a suggestion, and said that China will certainly consider an additional route for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra.

On other issues, there was a discussion about exchange of visits. As you know, in the six weeks that the present government has been in office this is the fourth high-level meeting between the two countries. Let me recall that Foreign Minister Wang Yi had come as a Special Envoy of the Chinese President to India. Subsequently, Vice-President Hamid Ansari had visited China both on a bilateral visit as well as to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Panchsheel. Subsequently after that the Army Chief had visited China. And this meeting is the fourth meeting.

Not being satisfied with this, both leaders felt that there needs to be continuing engagement at the high level. AndPrime Ministerrecalled that an invitation had been conveyed to President Xi, and President Xi did say that he had accepted this invitation and they are working to finalise dates for his visit in September. He also invitedPrime Ministerto visit Beijing at an early date for a bilateral visit.Prime Ministersaid he would be glad to do that. He recalled his earlier visits to China. The dates will now be worked out through diplomatic channels.

In this context, President Xi also mentioned that China is hosting an APEC meeting in November this year. He said that meeting is focused on "partnership and connectivity”, and he invitedPrime Ministerto attend this important APEC meeting that China is hosting.…(Inaudible)… We did not get the dates but I think that is in November.

There was also discussion about other international fora. In this context there was a reference to India deepening its cooperation with SCO, this reference was made by President Xi that he looked forward to this. And thePrime Minister said that India, as you are aware, is currently an Observer in the SCO, and should the SCO membership want greater Indian engagement India stands ready to accept that responsibility too.

There are two other important references which I will touch upon. One relates toPrime Minister’s reference to terrorism. He said that India and China should work together in terms of addressing terrorism and extremism in the region. In this context he also referred to our common civilisational heritage and the possibilities of that common civilisational heritage helping us in addressing this menace of terrorism.

Finally, of course any India and China discussion also takes into account the unresolved issue of the boundary question. Prime Minister mentioned that there was a need to address this. He said there was a need to find a solution to the boundary question, and maintenance of peace and tranquillity on the border was essential even while both India and China work towards resolving the boundary question.

I think those were the broad contours of the discussion. As you can see from this narration that I have just now made, it was a substantive meeting but it was also a meeting which was very cordial, very warm, based on personal rapport, understanding of each other’s previous experiences, and it was a meeting which augurs well for the future of India and China.

It was a meeting in which President Xi said he acknowledged Prime Minister’s deep understanding of the bilateral relationship. It was a meeting in which both agreed that tomorrow when they work in the BRICS they will work together at the international forum. And it was a meeting where all aspects of bilateral relations were discussed. Therefore, I had used that term at the beginning where I said –Baat bhi achhi hui, aur mulaqaat bhi achhi hui’.

I will stop on that note. I am willing to answer any questions that any of you may have.

Question:On boundary question, were there any assurances, any indication of a timeline within which it will be resolved? Obviously this was a first meeting, but what was Chinese response?

Official Spokesperson: I think you have answered the question yourself by saying that obviously in a first meeting we cannot go beyond our initial references, on this. Therefore, what I have said is what our stated position is. If you would like to know what our interlocutors’ stated position is, I suggest that you talk to them. Because I represent the Government of India, it would not be fair for me to try and encapsulate their view. But their view has been what it was in an articulation that they have made. I would suggest that you seek the response from them.

Question:You said that India expressed a desire to work more deeply in the SCO? What was the Chinese response?

Official Spokesperson: I think you got me wrong. I said that the Chinese President mentioned that he looked forward to India working more deeply with the SCO. Then I said, Prime Minister said that India is currently an Observer with the SCO, and it stands ready to assume greater responsibilities should the SCO membership desire this.

Question:Does this thing about peace at the border involve the apprehensions of Indian Government over the incursions?

Official Spokesperson: Peace and tranquillity on the border is a well-known phenomenon, and that means that there should not be anything that undermines the trajectory of our relationship. Obviously if there are incidents and events, they do tend to undermine a relationship which is focused on reviving our historical context, enhancing our economic ties, and working together in international fora as two developing countries with large populations and common concerns.

Question:The Prime Minister in the run up to elections had mentioned in his speeches a lot about Arunachal Pradesh and the incursions that were an issue of worry. Did that come up as a specific boundary issue or among general issues that were discussed?

Official Spokesperson: The boundary is never a general issue. When we say boundary, there are clear specifics of what we mean about the boundary. Therefore, let me be very clear and categorical, in an 80-minute meeting where we cover a lot of issues, when we mean the boundary it means our concerns on that.

Question:Hindi mein poochh sakta hun?

Official Spokesperson:Ji bilkul. Vaise main Dakshin Bharat se hun toh main tooti-phooti Hindustani bolta hun. Lekin koshish karunga.

Question:Jahan tak Cheen ka savaal hai joh balance of trade hai Cheen ki taraf zyada hai. Aur saath hi saath colonial trade jaisa pattern hai Bharat aur Cheen ka. Bharat raw material bahut zyada beich raha hai aur bana hua maal Bharat mein zyada aa raha hai. Yeh masla kya specifically uthaya gaya, aur kya javaab Cheen ke taraf se aaya?

Official Spokesperson:Dekhiye, in shabdon mein toh nahin uthaya gaya jinmein aapne abhi describe kiya. Lekin adverse balance of trade ek vaqayi asliyat hai aur isko Pradhan Mantri ne raise kiya hai. Aur Cheen ke President ne yeh kaha ki voh maante hain kifor trade to be sustainable it needs to be more balanced.Aur unhon ne kaha ki do-teen cheezein hain jismein shayad pragati ho sakti hai. Yeh do-teen cheezon mein unhon ne ek bataya ki trade in services. Kyonki jaise ki aap jaante hain services ke sector mein kaafi possibilities hain Bharat se export karne ki, jaise ki computers mein, for example computer software as a service.

Dusri baat unhon ne yeh kaha ki possibility of tourism, tourism can be a big money earner. Both the Prime Minister as well as the President of China acknowledged that tourism could be a possible means of addressing this issue.

Question:Was it specific to the Buddhist Circuit or otherwise?

Official Spokesperson: There were no specifics discussed in this sort of a framework. This is for the specialists to work this out. But Prime Minister did refer to the Buddhist lineage of both the countries. He also referred to his own experience. He said thatHiuen Tsang had come across to his hometown more than a thousand years ago. He referred to Chinese tourism and he referred to in this context of travellers from China coming as far as Gujarat and he referred to this instance there. So, tourism was another issue that was referred to.

Question:There was one remark which you attributed to the Chinese President that when India and China meet, the whole world watches. Was it a casual remark during the meeting, or was it in the context of larger global issues that the two countries were talking about?

Official Spokesperson: I think the spirit of the entire discussion was of two major developing countries engaging with each other, both from our side as well as from the Chinese side. Chinese President referred to the total populations of the country. Prime Minister Modi referred to the development challenges both of us face, the possibilities of cooperating in those development challenges so that the aspirations of our people could be met. He talked of skill, speed, and scale. He referred to his own experience when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when he had gone to China where responses were very superfast. He then said that his entire election campaign was based on development. And he said that for him any assistance or any linkages which will boost development are a priority.

So, it was both in terms of development of two countries as well as two very big populous countries who just by virtue of their populations attract global attention. And the possibility of their working together in the BRICS forum was the third element in terms of international relations and engagement there. So, I think the entire conversation was imbued with that spirit. This was not just a passing reference, not just a matter of fact reference.

Question:Can you elaborate on the invitation?

Official Spokesperson: It is normal in diplomatic parlance when invitations are immediately issued that we consider these because we need to check what the dates are, what will be the priorities during that. As you are aware, November is a very busy month - there is the G20 summit, there is the SAARC summit. And of course this is an important invitation because this is the first time India has been invited to an APEC meeting. So, obviously we take this as a very serious and important invitation. However, no dates were mentioned. This is not for the President and Prime Minister of India to work these out. These will be worked out by diplomatic channels, and we will work on these. But let me assure you and not leave you in any doubt, we think this is a significant gesture, this is an important invitation that has been extended to India, and this will be given very serious due consideration.

I think I have answered all questions. With that we come to the end of this interaction. Thank you very much.



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