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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary in Ufa on Prime Minister's ongoing visit (July 8, 2015)

July 08, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): …(Inaudible)… with President Xi. The meeting has just ended. We have with us today Foreign Secretary and Secretary (West). Foreign Secretary will brief you on the two meetings that Prime Minister just had. Secretary (West) is also available in case any of you are interested in the two visits that Prime Minister did before reaching Ufa today. With that I will turn it over to Foreign Secretary.

Foreign Secretary (Dr. S. Jaishankar): Good evening everybody. I just want to brief you on the two bilateral meetings which have just happened.

Soon after his arrival in Ufa, Prime Minister met President Putin. After that meeting he had a meeting with President Xi Jinping of China. As JS (XP) told you, we came out of Kazakhstan, Astana. We had a very successful visit. There were talks this morning with President Nazarbayev in Astana. There was a Joint Statement that was released after that. So, if you have any issues from that visit, which was a very substantive visit, my colleague Secretary (West) would address those issues.

In terms of the meeting with President Putin, the meeting was of approximately 90 minutes, obviously there was a review of the totality of our relationship with Russia. Prime Minister thanked President Putin for the arrangements that he had made for the BRICS summit. There was a fair amount of discussion on economic issues including issues pertaining to trade, to market access, to investments by each other, to some of the process challenges including liberalization of visa, and a discussion on the progress on the FTA with the Eurasian Economic Zone.

The two leaders also did a fairly comprehensive review of our defence cooperation. So, different issues dealing with that came up for discussion.

On the nuclear side, as you know Russia is a very important partner in relation to our civil nuclear energy cooperation, they reviewed the state of the cooperation and discussed the further possibilities in that. This is an issue. We have a fairly ambitious nuclear programme. The programme has acquired even greater relevance in the context of climate change challenges that we face. So, there was a lot of attention paid to accelerating our civil nuclear energy cooperation. There was some discussion on our space cooperation.

Staying on the theme of energy, there was a discussion on hydrocarbons. We have longstanding cooperation with Russia in the field of hydrocarbons. So, both upstream and downstream activities in that field were discussed.

Among the items that did come up for discussion was the issue of connectivity, in particular the International North-South Regional Transport Corridor.

Traditionally there is an annual summit between the Russian President and the Indian Prime Minister which would take place sometime at the end of the year. So, there was some discussion on that. Those were broadly the topics that were covered.

I should add, since we started our discussion our Ambassador Mr. Raghavan has joined us. So, on some issues pertaining to Russia he would also be coming in.

Following that meeting, Prime Minister met President Xi Jinping. That meeting was also roughly about of 85-90 minutes. This was the fifth time in the last year that Prime Minister and President Xi are meeting. Obviously a lot of the conversation was, they were looking back on the visit which had happened in May. They discussed various events which had both their memories of Xian. So, it was a very warm I would say. Both of them had a lot of things to say about that particular visit, various events which took place there, the events in Beijing and Shanghai.

Then they also looked at progress since May in the relationship, and we have had some progress both on the economic side, in industrial parks, in terms of investment. They looked at some dialogues which are likely to take place and preparations being made for that. They welcomed the fact that the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra through Nathu La had started off. This had a very good impact. Overall I think there was a sense that there was a new energy, a new enthusiasm in the relationship.

There was some reference to their forthcoming meetings. Usually our leaders do meet at the East Asia Summit and the G20. Then, since they were both here for the BRICS, there was a reference obviously to the cooperation we are doing in BRICS, the New Development Bank of which the first head is Indian, Mr. Kamath. There was some talk about the AIIB of which we are the second largest shareholder. This is of course a common theme with both Russia and China, the possibilities of increasing our cooperation within the framework of the SCO.

The talks also covered border issues, the work which the Special Representatives have been charged with, the possibilities of their making accelerated progress, peace and tranquility issues, confidence-building measures including the possibility of more meeting points. And then some global issues came up specifically in the case of China - UN Security Council, our NSG membership quest, and some issues pertaining to counterterrorism. There was also some mention of how we are approaching the challenge of the reconstruction that faces Nepal.

In the case of both Russia and China, Prime Minister made a special mention of the activities that took place in both countries on the International Day of Yoga. He was very appreciative of the fact that events took place in multiple cities with a lot of popular participation. So, I think particularly with the Russian President this was a subject of some warm references in this regard.

That I would say is really in a sense the headlines of what was discussed. I do not know if Ambassador or Secretary (West) would like to add anything further and then perhaps we could take questions. Okay, then we take questions straightaway.

Official Spokesperson: Please note that this press conference is specifically in the context of the two bilateral meetings that Prime Minister has had and the two visits he has done prior to this. With that, I will open up the floor for questions.

Question: You mentioned counterterrorism in the context of the dialogue between Prime Minister Modi and Xi Jinping. Did the Prime Minister also mention the issue of China’s support to Pakistan in the UN over the release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi? Secondly, can you finally confirm that Prime Minister Modi is going to have a bilateral meeting with Nawaz Sharif on Friday?

Foreign Secretary: The answer to the first question is, yes the issue did come up and Prime Minister did raise our concerns, and it was discussed at some detail, and we expect those discussions to continue between the two governments. As regards any bilateral meetings that the Prime Minister will have in Ufa, we will confirm those meetings when we are in a position to do so.

Question: You said that India is the second largest stakeholder in AIIB. It is at a time when the New Development Bank is also being established. Why is there a need of two separate banks having many convergence issues? Is it not conflicting to the interests of both BRICS and other developing nations who want to join these Banks?

Foreign Secretary: I think if you look at the history of the two institutions, you will in a sense figure out the answer. I think the NDB arises from the discussions that the BRICS had and it was something that was arrived at through a consensus in the BRICS. The AIIB has a different history. But the fact is today the development requirements of the world are very substantial, and there is no particular logic to the fact that all development needs have to be channelled through a particular institution. In fact there are other institutions in play as well. The Asian Development Bank already pre-exists, the World Bank exists. So, I think this is just a large enough space for multiple institutions to operate.

And where India is concerned, we are very open minded about it. Our interest is in advancing development across the world, particularly of course in our immediate regions, and we find merit in participating in both.

Question: Iran ke baare mein …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: Abhi tak toh hamaare meetings jo hain jo hum keh rahe hain, vo BRICS leaders ke saath hain. Jab hum log taiyar honge baaki meetings, kyonki hum tab tak announce nahin karna chahte jab tak vo timing fix nahin ho. Log abhi bhi aa rahe hain, thoda upar-neeche ja raha hai. Jaise hi meetings fix ho jayengi, hum aap logon ko bata denge.

Question: Do savaal hain mere. Bharat aur Cheen ke beech mein seema vivad ko lekar tarakki kahan tak badhti dikhaayi de rahi hai, baat-cheet kis disha mein aage badhti dikhegi? Dusra, Roos ke saath raksha saudon mein kin saudon par hum zor dete dikh rahe hain? Kya paramanu pandubbi kharidne par bhi baat-cheet chal rahi hai?

Foreign Secretary: Cheen ke saath jo hai, unka kaafi detail mein border situation par baat hui. Aur donon SR bhi thei saath, hamaare National Security Advisor thei, unke yahan se unke State Councillor joh SR hain vo bhi saath thei. Aur jab hamaare Pradhan Mantri ki pichhli mulaqaat jo President Xi se hui thi Xian mein, tab bhi yeh mudde kaafi detail mein unke aapas mein discuss hue. Unhon ne jo tha usko aage badhaye. Us se zyada detail mein main aapko nahin kah sakta.

Russia ke baare meinnormally I think there was a total, broad review of defence cooperation, but specifically what is under discussion, what is under progress, normally when people are ready to announce things they announce things.

Question: Talking about India-Pakistan bilateral talks, you said there is no confirmation but will India factor in the issue of Indian Naval Defence Attache being denied visa, as also the Pakistani Defence Minister saying and almost threatening India with nuclear war. Will the strong statements that are coming from Pakistan and the Indian officer being denied visa be factored in when you are considering talks with Pakistan?

Foreign Secretary: Let me convey the position accurately. I did not say I am not confirming or confirming. I just told him that when we are in a position to tell you that the meeting is taking place, we will tell you.

As regards any other issue in that relationship, I think this would not be the right time for me to talk about it.

Question: In the discussions with Russia, was there any progress on initialling the contracts for the third and fourth reactors at Kudankulam?

Foreign Secretary: There was a fairly detailed discussion about our civil nuclear cooperation including the Kudankulam units. Maybe the Ambassador would like to come in on this.

Indian Ambassador to Russia (Shri P.S. Raghavan): The Kudankulam 3 and 4 contracts have already been signed. There is a General Framework Agreement which has been signed. There is what is called the Long Cycle Supply of Equipment which is a contract that has been signed. So, it is in the process of implementation. That is what the Prime Minister and President Putin noted with satisfaction as progress in the nuclear energy cooperation since the time of the summit in itself.

Question: On civil nuclear cooperation with Russia, one of the concerns Russia has had over the past few years is the fact that the site that we had picked earlier in Haripur has not being working out and they wanted it replaced. In the last summit we had mentioned that that would be expeditiously done. Has there been any progress on that?

Foreign Secretary: I think that was actively reviewed and positively considered. I want to give you in a sense a flavour of that meeting. The meeting between President Putin and Prime Minister was a very positive meeting in the sense a lot of things have moved since December. And the reason why that meeting went on for 90 minutes was really that they went down a very long list of issues in fairly great detail. And the overall sense was whether it was civil nuclear, whether it was space, whether it was trade, whether it was defence, pretty much in every sphere, the two sides have been working very hard. Obviously, between now and the end of the year whenever we have our annual summit, we would progress things to a point where we would like to go public on a lot of that. So, the long answer in a sense to your question was, yes progress had been made but I think you will have to wait a bit.

Question: Since the BRICS Bank has been established, and you talked about AIIB as well, are we are looking at a situation where there would be specific projects that the AIIB might be getting into as far as India is concerned because you did say that we are investors in it as well, the second largest stake we have in there as well? Then of course the BRICS comes in a little later perhaps next year or next to next year.

Foreign Secretary: I am sorry, I did not get the purport of the question there.

Question: Investments in the country in the context of our flagship programmes like Make in India ...

Foreign Secretary: Investments from AIIB into India?

Question: Yes.

Foreign Secretary: I suspect these are early days to look at that. I am frankly not confident of commenting on the direction in which AIIB would go because these are still very early days there. But I can tell you this insofar as China is concerned that there are two Industrial Parks which we are discussing with the Chinese – one is in Maharashtra, one is in Gujarat; when the two leaders, President Xi and Prime Minister, met they took very positive note of the fact that since the May visit there has been further movement on those two parks and the things are progressing; and the outlook for investments is more positive.

Question: You have spoken about the issue of India raising Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi to the Chinese leadership. Could you share a few more details of whether they accepted India’s position on this issue? Secondly, was there anything on India raising concerns on the sale of Russian weaponry to Pakistan?

Foreign Secretary: I do not know how much more I could give you on the first issue. I can tell you that the issue was discussed in some detail; Prime Minister made our concerns known very clearly on this; and I am sure that the Chinese side was impressed by the clarity and directness with which he communicated our concerns. And as I conveyed to you, it was felt that we should continue talking about this.

On the other issue, I do not believe it came up because essentially the meeting today, there has really been so much to show in terms of where we have gone bilaterally in our relationship with Russia, that frankly most of the talk was on the bilateral relationship and we sort of went into overtime and the next meeting was waiting. I think that is really where we left off.

Question: …(Inaudible)… more clarity on this counterterrorism issue being discussed with China. What was the Chinese response? When we say that we will extend our discussions, what will be the format of this discussion, how are we going to carry forward this discussion, specifically the cooperation in UN on the counterterrorism issue?

Foreign Secretary: I think where we left off was a fact that the officials would further pick up on what the leaders said. It was not that they identified a particular mechanism but I think that is a fairly obvious answer because the Foreign Ministry talks to the Embassy and the other way round in Beijing, our Embassies talk to each other in New York at the UN, we have other mechanisms including counterterrorism and the Special Representatives. So, there are a range of mechanisms here. But I think the point for your relevance is that the importance of this issue, how strongly India feels about it, that was made very clear.

Question: Aapse jaanna chahunga ki China ne jo stand liya tha vo yeh kaha tha ki Bharat ke paas sabut nahin hai aur Bharat ne poori information nahin di hai. Dusra savaal mera yeh hai ki sabne puchh liya Bharat-Pakistan ke baare mein, main jaanna chahta hun aapse ki koi sambhavna hai ki nahin?

Foreign Secretary: Dekhiye, sambhavna toh hoti hai. Ab hai ya nahin, jab hoga main aapko bataunga.

Jo aapka pehla prashn hai ki unka jo kehna hai, ab aap jaante hain aur duniya jaanti hai ki Lakhvi ka kya role tha. Itne saare desh hain us Committee mein, ab unke bhi positions hai. Agar maan lijiye sabut hamaara kamzor hai, to vo log hamaari position par yakin kyon karenge? Toh yeh mujhe nahin lagta ki yeh sabut ki baat hai. Is par kaafi detaile se baat hui. Hamein ab aage dekhna hai ki hamein kaise isko aage le jaana hai.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: To me, who approached whom is not a particularly relevant matter. We have bilaterals, usually when you meet on BRICS or you meet on sidelines of any multilateral event, SCO, different countries approach. Say we would approach China or Russia or, Russia is the host of course, Brazil whoever. So, I think that is a process point which is not of particular importance.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: I do not think it is a particularly important issue. As I said, when we have something to say on that, I assure you we will share it with you.

Question: About the Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi thing, did Chinese President concede to our concerns? Unka response kya tha? Kya aapko unke gesture se yeh laga ki vo yeh maante hain ki galti hui hai?

Foreign Secretary: There was a fairly detailed talk, as I said, the way the Prime Minister expressed our point of view, our concerns, how people saw this in India. And then there was a conversation on the issue and how the two sides should communicate further. So, I do not want to get into the question in the manner in which you did.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: Insofar as that Corridor project, it covers Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Our concerns were expressed when Prime Minister went to China, and our concerns were reiterated today.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: Usually every country expresses its position, the other country expresses their position, it goes up and down. I think it would be fair for me to brief you of the substance of the discussion; and the substance of the discussion was that where China is concerned they talk about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, where India is concerned we highlight the fact that insofar as that corridor passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, it is a matter naturally of concern for us.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: My expectation is some of the international issues will actually come up at the BRICS meeting. In the case of Russia it was both the Prime Minister calling on the President to thank him as a host as well as to discuss India-Russia issues. With China, it was India-China issues. So, they did not really get into international issues which did not have a very direct bilateral consequence, but I am sure it is something that will come up.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about our request …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: Insofar as any developments that may take place in the SCO, you really have to wait for the SCO to make those decisions, if they do and announce those decisions thereafter. But it is of course well known that the Foreign Ministers meeting of the SCO had recommended that India, and also Pakistan, could be considered for beginning the process of the membership. But, if I understand the position correctly and Ambassador may confirm or not, that is a recommendation which the summit would have to consider.

Indian Ambassador to Russia: The first part of President Putin’s remarks was open to the media and the media covered that. You have heard what President Putin said. He said very clearly, I think he used the words that we congratulate you. Basically he said that. So, essentially President Putin said this as confirmed fact, and this is what you saw on the media.

Official Spokesperson: This concludes the press briefing. Thank you.

(Concluded)

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