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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson and Joint Secretary (Disarmament & International Security Affairs) in Washington on Prime Minister’s visit to USA (April 1, 2016)

April 02, 2016

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): This is not going to be the main briefing, the main briefing will be at 2:15. I am just going to brief you on the bilateral that Prime Minister has just had with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Aman is here to brief you on Prime Minister’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit last evening and what to expect today.

Prime Minister’s first bilateral engagement of the day was a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. You will recall that Prime Minister when he visited Canada last year had a bilateral meeting with Mr. Trudeau who was then the Leader of the Opposition. He had also met Mr. Trudeau’s daughter Ella-Grace at that time. And this was their first meeting since Mr. Trudeau became the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Prime Minister began the meeting by congratulating him on his fantastic win in the elections. He said that ever since Mr. Trudeau had taken over the post of Prime Minister, Indo-Canadian relations had got new energy, dynamism and speed, and the subjects that Prime Minister had discussed with Mr. Trudeau during their last meeting in Canada were all now being implemented on the ground.

The possibilities on the economic side were immense, Prime Minister said. He also lamented the fact that Indo-Canadian economic relations had not reached their full potential yet. And he reiterated what he had said earlier also that India and Canada are two countries which are literally made for each other. He said that Canada has all the natural resources in the world, India has the need for those resources as well as the manpower.

Prime Minister also recalled his meeting with the heads of the Canadian Pension Funds and said that since that meeting many positive developments had happened and Canadian Pension Funds were already investing more than USD 8 billion in India.

Prime Minister Trudeau complimented Prime Minister on his excellent intervention last evening at the White House dinner. He said that India and Canada can both be leaders in nonproliferation arena in the world.

Prime Minister said that we had had very fruitful partnership with Canada in the area of climate change and environment. In this context he referred to their working together closely in the lead up to and during COP21. Prime Minister mentioned that India had set very ambitious renewable energy targets, in particular the target of reaching 175 GW in terms of renewable energy. He says within that our focus would be on nuclear energy which, as you know, is clean energy. He said that our relationship with Canada in this area has been progressing very well.

You will recall that when Prime Minister had gone to Canada last year they had signed an agreement for the supply of uranium which has since happened. Prime Minister has also alluded to the fact that India, the land of Buddha and Gandhi, is also totally committed to nonviolence.

Then Prime Minister referred to some of his flagship programmes. He talked about the 500 cities where, as you know, renewable energy infrastructure is to be built in terms of waste management, converting waste into energy. He also talked about the smart cities project, the project to bring metro transport to as many as 50 cities in India, and said that all this will lead not only to better quality of life for Indian citizens but also the introduction of ecologically friendly technologies. And he said that Canadian companies stand a very big chance in bagging contracts if they were to invest in these sectors in India.

He also said that considering that 800 million people in India are below the age of 35, skilling our youth is a top priority for the Government, and there also Canada can contribute a lot. You will recall that when Prime Minister had gone to Canada last year, several MoUs were signed with Canadian community colleges and polytechnics.

Prime Minister then mentioned the fact that Canada also has a surplus of human resource capital. He said that Canadian professors and teachers including retired faculty members could consider coming to India during the harsh winter months in Canada and teaching at Indian universities for periods ranging from three to six months under the GIA and Vigyan programmes, and this would allow India to receive quality education and that would certainly receive a big boost.

Mr. Trudeau said absolutely, he totally concurred with this suggestion and said that he had been a school teacher himself and many of the school teachers during his time had been overseas. In fact he said that unfortunately as many people who could have gone to India did not go to India. So, there is a real potential he said for harnessing the opportunity of helping so many young people in India get better skills and Canada would also be happy to provide education and infrastructure support.

He talked about Canadian expertise in environment friendly technologies, in dealing with climate change, in anti poverty strategies and innovations which could help the global economy as also the planet. Prime Minister said that yes poverty alleviation is an important plank for his Government and till the benefits reach the last person in the society we cannot say that we have been successful.

Prime Minister then talked about a very important initiative that has been announced in the last budget. This is the announcement of very progressive policies for the hydrocarbons sector in particular for deep sea and high temperature exploration. He said that these sectors have now been opened up, the sector will be entirely market driven, and the policies would allow top companies from abroad to participate in the Indian market now in this sector.

Canadian companies, he said, have a lot of expertise in exploration and they could be partners for us in technology as well as in investment. As you know, this hydrocarbon policy has come into effect from today, the 1st of April.

Prime Minister also mentioned that India has the third largest coal reserves in the world but fossil fuels pose a challenge to the environment and that is why India had already started working on coal gasification and underground mining again for which Canadian companies have the requisite expertise and they could participate in the Indian sectors.

Mr. Trudeau acknowledged that yes Canada does have a strong energy sector and he wanted to work with India in ways which were less harmful to the environment. And he said Canada will be very happy to cooperate with India in both coal gasification as well as underground mining.

Then Mr. Trudeau also referred to the possibility of moving forward on the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Finally, Prime Minister extended a very warm invitation to Prime Minister Trudeau to visit India. He said we are looking forward to welcoming Mr. Trudeau in India. Mr. Trudeau immediately accepted that. He said he would love to visit India and would also love to bring his family too.

That was the readout on the Prime Minister’s bilateral with the Prime Minister of Canada. I will turnover to Aman now to brief you on Prime Minister’s intervention yesterday. As you all know, I have already tweeted about that, many of you have already written about it but Aman was there yesterday and he can probably add some more insights as well what to expect from Prime Minister’s participation today.

Joint Secretary (D&ISA) (Shri Amandeep Singh Gill):
Thank you Vikas.

India’s participation at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit got off to an excellent start yesterday evening. The programme began with Prime Minister Modi’s participation at a working dinner hosted by President Obama at the White House. Prime Minister was one of the lead speakers on the topic of the dinner which was the Threat Assessment. As you are all aware, this summit is about the threat of nuclear terrorism. So, Prime Minister shared his thoughts on the broader threat assessment that underpins the discussions at the summit.

You are also aware that before coming to Washington, Prime Minister was in Brussels which has unfortunately suffered a horrific terror attack. So he shared with other leaders his thoughts, his analysis of the contemporary nature of the threat from terrorism. And he underlined that we as governments need to catch up with the tools, the technologies and the methods being deployed by terrorists in contemporary times.

He also appreciated the initiative that President Obama has taken by convening this summit and by raising awareness on the threat of nuclear terrorism. And he offered some thoughts on how to ensure that President Obama’s legacy on nuclear security endures in the years ahead.

These discussions would continue today at the plenary sessions. The first plenary session is on National Actions, where Prime Minister is going to underline some of the contributions that India is making or proposes to make. I would just highlight a few points from the Indian national actions that would also be formally part of India’s National Progress Report submitted to the NSS.

Firstly, PM is underlining the continued priority we will attach to nuclear security at home by continuing to strengthen the institutional framework, by strengthening the independence of our regulator, by devoting resources for training people in nuclear security, and by continuing to reflect our international obligations in our national actions.

Second, PM will underline the continued priority we attach to the technology dimension of nuclear security. This means that we will advance the technologies behind the reprocess to reuse philosophy, the development of proliferation resistant cycles, and the shift away from vulnerabilities associated with radioactive sources. An example I could give you of that is that we have stopped using Cesium-137, which is a highly radioactive source, in powder form or in liquid form and we would only be using vitrified forms of Cesium-137 in medical applications.

Moving on to what we propose to do with the IAEA, India will make another contribution of a million dollars to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund. You would recall that we had made a similar contribution at the Seoul Summit in 2012. So we are following up with another contribution to the IAEA. And significantly, we are going to engage with the IAEA on its Nuclear Security Advisory Service which is called IPPAS. So we will hold a seminar with IAEA exports on a future IPPAS review of India’s nuclear security measures.

There are a couple of other things that could be of interest to you from this exposition of India’s national actions. We will be joining the so-called trilateral initiative which is the Joint Statement of the previous three Co-chairs of the Nuclear Security Summit and which has been circulated at the IAEA in the form of a document called INFCIRC/869. So this group of countries which India is joining is committed to holding the bar high on nuclear security.

We will also be joining three other gift baskets in priority areas of counter-nuclear smuggling, the sharing of best practices through centres of excellence such as our own GCNEP, and finally the follow-up to the NSS decisions through a contact group in Vienna. And there will be some other meetings that India intends to hold in the coming days to strengthen international cooperation - one with Interpol on countering nuclear smuggling and another hosting a meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in 2017.

So, as you can see, we would like to maintain the momentum on nuclear security issues. As Prime Minister pointed out yesterday, this is the time to maintain our vigil on nuclear terrorism, not to lower our guard.

Let me stop here.

Official Spokesperson: Now the floor is open for questions. The questions to me should pertain to the meeting with Mr. Trudeau. My larger briefing will be at 2:15. Please be there and at that point in time I would be able to answer some other questions as well. And you can ask Aman any of the questions pertaining to the Nuclear Security Summit.

Question: Aman, if you could differentiate between the two speeches – one that he made yesterday and one that is made now – what are the highlights of the two? Will he be kind of building on what he said yesterday? This is just to set those two speeches apart.

Vikas, on the bilateral, did Canadian Prime Minister bring up the Sikh challenge that he had talked about that he has more Sikhs …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: No, he did not.

Joint Secretary (D&ISA): The two speeches are very different in the sense that the first intervention yesterday pertains to what is India’s assessment of the nuclear security threat. And today what PM is speaking about at the first plenary session is national actions to tackle that threat. So first we have to be clear about what is the threat that we are trying to address and from that flow the national actions, the international cooperation initiatives that need to be undertaken by States within the Nuclear Security Summit process and the States outside.

I also pointed out some highlights of what PM said yesterday to the extent we can because this is an ongoing conversation, so all details cannot be shared at this time. But I shared the broad details of what he said on the terrorism related issues yesterday and what he is saying today on India’s national actions on nuclear security.

Question: Has Prime Minister made any references to concerns about nuclear security in Pakistan in particular …(Inaudible)… nuclear weapons? And in the bilateral with Canadian Prime Minister, has the issue of the US Presidential campaign come up particularly the remarks Donald Trump is making that India is taking away jobs and that sort of thing?

Official Spokesperson: It did not come up.

Joint Secretary (D&ISA): Nor did this other issue come up. The Nuclear Security Summit is focused on the nuclear security challenge. It does not go into issues of arms control, nuclear weapons deployment, disarmament, non-proliferation.

Question: Aman, was the Prime Minister or the Indian Delegation aware of the sanctions that US and Saudi Arabia imposed on Pakistani entities today, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and …(Inaudible)… associated with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba particularly since the Prime Minister’s next stop is Riyadh?

The second question is, the Chinese President is also present. Did the Prime Minister, my sense is that he did not name the countries but when he said the reach and supply chains of terrorism are global but genuine cooperation between nation states is not. Was there a context to this considering that China sort of blocked India’s efforts to sanction Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad at the UN?

Official Spokesperson: Chidu, on the China question I will probably have a response at 2:15. So please wait for that, we will put out something at that time. We have seen those reports of the US-Saudi cooperation against terror entities in particular Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. I have seen media reports on that. We do not have any official word on that but we are trying to ascertain it. If indeed this is true, then it is certainly a very welcome development, countries working against terror entities, particularly entities which have targeted India repeatedly. I think it is a welcome development.

Joint Secretary (D&ISA): All that I will add to this is that Prime Minister was very clear at the dinner discussion yesterday that while terrorists seem to be globally networked, while they seem to be deploying technologies from the 21st century, as governments we are still catching up with that. So we also need to be equally nimble, more than that, and we need to strengthen our cooperation to fight this common threat.

Question: Yesterday Prime Minister made a remark regarding the state actors who are working with the nuclear traffickers and the terrorists. Was it referring to the AQ Khan Network? And can you please elaborate more on this point as to what he was referring to and what more he said there?

Joint Secretary (D&ISA): You are aware that there is a familiar threat concern in the context of nuclear security, it is called the insider threat. So Prime Minister expounded on that. He elaborated the contemporary aspects of the insider threat that there may be a situation in which there is a familiarity with terrorists, there are sections of the state structure which had a certain familiarity with terrorists and that compounds, that multiplies, the insider threats. While no specific examples were taken, I think this is an important contemporary feature of the nuclear security threat that needs to be taken into account.

Question: Could you throw a little more light on this additional contribution which India is making, to what purpose and is this specific amount of USD 1 million or more than that? And on the National Action Plan you said that one of the points PM is underlining is about strengthening its own institutions. But the criticism has been of not having an independent regulatory authority. What is India doing about it?

Joint Secretary (D&ISA): First on the contribution, it is exactly USD 1 million and the contribution is to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund. That contribution would be used by the IAEA to train nuclear security personnel around the world to strengthen the capacity of IAEA member states to uphold nuclear security. Our previous contribution was similar and that ended up also in the placement of an Indian cyber security expert at the IAEA to help IAEA train countries around the world in strengthening cyber security at nuclear facilities.

To your second question, India has had an independent regulator, a regulator who is functionally independent of the operator since 1983. That is the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. There is no doubt that it is functionally independent of the nuclear operator. What we plan to do is to give a statutory base to this independence through the proposed Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill (NSRA Bill). You should note that this Bill also has provisions related to nuclear security. So it is not just safety but it is also safety and security. This Bill lapsed at the end of previous Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament, and the Government is committed to taking it forward in this Parliament.

Official Spokesperson: I think we will have to cut it short here because I have to now go. Prime Minister is now meeting Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK now.

Question: Just one question, Sir. Has the Pakistan Delegation sought an appointment with the Prime Minister?

Official Spokesperson: Not to my knowledge.

Thank you.

(Concluded)

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