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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary during visit of Prime Minister to China (April 28, 2018)

April 28, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon friends and welcome to this special briefing from Wuhan on the informal summit between Prime Minister and President Xi. Since the arrival of PM to Wuhan on early morning of 27th April the two leaders had several rounds of meetings and to brief us on the visit as well as the discussion that took place I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India. I also have our Ambassador and Jt. Secretary (East Asia). Without any further delay I now invite Foreign Secretary to brief you all.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Thank you Raveesh. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, thank you for waiting. As you know Prime Minister is in Wuhan for the informal summit with President Xi Jinping. I believe some details of the program have already been shared with you. In total there were six events. Four of them were one to one meetings and yesterday evening there was also a restricted meeting which in keeping with the nature of the informal summit went beyond the budgeted time. As I had said earlier in Delhi there are no agreements and announcements but both sides would do their briefing as to inform major results of this summit.

The basic objective of the informal summit was to have an overall discussion on the overarching issues of bilateral and global importance. It was also intended to elaborate on the respective visions and priorities of both leaders for national development in the context of the current situation.

The two leaders therefore agreed that India and China as major powers with strategic and decisional autonomy will pursue peaceful, stable and balanced relations and such a relationship will be a positive factor of stability amidst the current global uncertainties.

The development of sound bilateral relationship between two countries which have about 40% of the world’s population would also be conducive for the development and prosperity of the region. This was the view of the two leaders and to that end they decided it was important to strengthen the closer development partnership between the two countries.

Development, as I mentioned earlier, was reviewed from the strategic and long term perspective. A number of areas where we have convergence were identified and it was decided that through the established mechanisms, we have about 20 such mechanisms at various levels, we would try now to build on these convergences and it was also the view of both leaders that the two countries have the maturity and the wisdom to handle all our difference through peaceful discussion within the context of this overall relationship and bearing in mind that we would respect each other’s sensitivities, concerns and aspirations.

On the issue of the India-China boundary question, the two leaders endorsed the work of the Special Representatives in their efforts to find fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement and two leaders also underscored that in the meantime it is important to maintain peace and tranquility in all areas of India-China border region and to this end the two leaders decided that they would issue strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication, to build trust and understanding, to implement various confidence building measures which have already been agreed upon by the two sides and to strengthen existing institutional mechanisms to prevent and manage situations in the border areas.

Bilateral trade and investment formed an important part of the discussion.The two leaders underlined that the trade should be balanced, it should be sustainable and that we should take advantage of the complementarities between the two economies to enhance the trade and investment.In that context the Prime Minister also mentioned the importance of balance in trade and spoke about few possibilities of Agricultural exports and Pharmaceutical exports to China and it was decided that through the existing institutional mechanisms both sides would continue to discuss matters relating to trade and investment.

One of the other areas on which some discussion took place was how to promote greater cultural and people to people exchange.Both leaders felt that while these exchanges were going on, these were still fragmented to some extent and there it was important that the trust and understanding between the two governments, between the two leaders should also find their way to the people, to the public.And in that context, I believe yesterday the Prime Minister's proposal or suggestion to which president XiJinping agreed-upon in which he spoke of a number of initiatives that both sides could take which is captured in the word strength was something on which both sides found common ground.

Essentially I would like to repeat the proposal included moving ahead in trying to find ways to collaborate in the areas of spirituality, trade,technology, tradition in terms of building relationship, in terms of entertainment including films and here president XiJinping actually said that he has seen a number of Indian films, both Bollywood and regional, and that it would be a good idea to expand this and more Indian film should come to China and more Chinese film should go to India.

They agreed that nature preservation, environmental preservation is important. President Xi Jinping over dinner shared his experience in terms of the preservation of the Yangtze River. He said one of the objectives to come to Wuhan was also to look at how the program was going and of course our Prime Minister shared his own experiences on the question of the cleaning of the Ganga River.

They discussed how to promote sports and games. The Prime Minister mentioned that he looked forward to learning from China in this regard as India’s various sports men and women were, including their performance in international and regional meets. Tourism was also discussed including how to strengthen tourism on the Buddhist circuit and Holistic health was discussed in terms of strengthening collaboration to ensure that the traditional system of medicine in both countries was given greater prominence in international health care.

The two leaders also then had some discussion on regional and global issues and what they essentially agreed that there was a need to strengthen strategic communication between two countries through greater consultation on such matters and they felt that this sort of communication, this sort of discussion would have a positive influence on enhancing mutual understanding and it would contribute to regional and global stability.

Of course each of the two leaders agreed that other had made important contribution to global peace and prosperity, that both countries would focus on acting as engines for global growth and that in the purpose of growing economically we were in fact helping rest of the world to grow. They also reiterated the importance of building an open, multi-polar, pluralist and participatory global economic order. They agreed that their own development i.e. the development of India and China would contribute to the elimination of poverty and inequality in the world and they spoke of their respective effort to contribute to regional and global economic development.

A number of global challenges were discussed. These included climate change, sustainable development and food security and they also discussed importance of reforming multi-lateral financial and political institutions to make them more representative and responsive to the needs of the developing countries. More importantly they discussed the ways in which India and China could join hands in offering innovative and sustainable solutions to some of the challenges faced by human kind in the 21st century.

Both leaders felt that we have both capacities and experience in handling these issues because we are large countries with substantial population and they discussed how we could join hands together, for instance, in global healthcare in combating disease, in disaster risk reduction and mitigation, in addressing climate change, in ushering digital empowerment. These were issues which were common to both countries and it was felt that we could bring our respective experiences to see if we could come together to assist others, to show the way to others in this regard and the two leaders therefore agreed that we could pool our expertise and resources in such areas and look at the possibility of creating global networks which would benefit human kind on how to address such challenges.

Of course both Prime Minister and President of China also recognized threat posed by terrorism,both reiterateda strong condemnation of and a resolute opposition of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and both committed to co-operate for the countering terrorism.At the end of the meetings both leaders also felt that the informal Summit has resulted in direct and candid exchange of views and it was a very forward-looking dialogue.Both leaders agreed that they would maintain strategic communication about prospective priorities of the respective countries and they would continue to discuss how to forge a common understanding of the future direction of the India China relations.

So in a nutshell these were the discussion between the two leaders and I am sure you have seen the visual this morning of the informal one to one meetings which were held in the East Lake and voting on the EastLake itself.Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you sir. We will be issuing a press release before Prime Minister’s departure that will be available on our website. We have to leave for the airport very soon but we have time for very few questions.

Question from Times of India: Could you expand a little more on what were the key take-aways for India from the summit in terms of India getting China to address some of its key concerns, be it the issue of terrorism or trade deficit. I know this wasn’t meant to be about specifics but did the Indian Prime Minister, even in passing, mentioned the issue of NSG or Masood Azhar or CPEC?

Question: You said that both leaders will be giving strategic guidance to the militaries, can you expand on that, will they ask the militaries to refrain, can you throw some light on it?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: I believe you answered your question when you said that the two leaders were not going to get into the specifics on such issues but when you talk of takeaways I think the important takeaways here are that this kind of arrangement between the two leaders of informal meetings where they discuss issues of common interest will continue. I believe you heard the Chinese President yesterday when he said we look forward to maintain such contact subsequently and the other important takeaway is the agreement between then that a greater strategic communication at the leadership level and at the level of the two governments allows for a free and frank discussion on all matters of interest. I believe to that extent, these are important takeaways.

In addition both leaders also decided that the existing mechanisms would be improved, they would be made more effective, they would be made more efficient and through these mechanism we would address some of the issues that you have raised.

So far as other question is concerned I think I dwelt on some length at that and I would like to repeat, I think the two leaders underscored the importance of maintaining peace and tranquility on India-China border regions. They decided that they will strengthen communication between the two militaries in order to build trust and understanding, that a number of confidence building measures already agreed upon by the two sides would be implemented and the information sharing arrangements will be improved to prevent and manage situations along the border areas.

I believe, in a sense, this should more or less make it clear that both sides agreed that it was important to ensure that greater efforts on ways to maintain peace and tranquility and there is a commitment on both sides to suggest to the two militaries that they need to ensure that the existing confidence building measures in place and the existing institutional mechanisms in place are utilized more effectively.

Question: Was there any mention of NSG and Masood Azhar?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: FS has already answered the question.

Question from CNN-News18: Was there any reference, even if obliquely, to the Belt and Road initiative because that falls in President Xi’s long term perspective of connectivity in the region?

Question from Indian Express: Has the Prime Minister got specific assurance that Doklam like incident will not happen this year or the next year? Number two, both countries have been competing each other in the neighborhood and in the region and in different part of the world, has there been an understanding that both will not against each other’s interest?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: As far as first question is concerned, I think both sides spoke of their respective efforts to contribute to regional and global economic development.

With regard to next question, I think I made it clear what was discussed in relation to the boundary question and that is to maintain peace and tranquility and I have nothing further to add to that. As far as what you mentioned about competing in the region in concerned, the two leaders were very clear that we have converging interests, we have our respective vision of domestic and foreign policy, that we will work together and use strategic communication in order to ensure that we are able to improve the situation regionally, internationally and wherever we can work together we would like to work together.

I believe the key point I mentioned was to identify the number of areas of convergence. The leadership do not go into fine details, it is now for the existing mechanism that we have to go into those details and work out how and where we can collaborate.

Question from The Hindu: Regarding the border, do we understand that the focus remains on the management of the border and peace and tranquility or is there a strategic direction being given to resolve the border to new formulations under the SR mechanism or otherwise?

Question from PTI: Going by the caveat that no specific issues, do you think this will have a very different and big impact on the future course of India-China relations considering that now the two leaders have agreed on informal format for summit diplomacy?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: While one of the areas was to focus on peace and tranquility, I think the work of Special Representatives on finding a solution to the boundary question will continue unabated. As you perhaps are aware there is a new Special Representative on the Chinese side, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be the Special Representative, so I think the work will continue and in due course, I presume, there will be a meeting between the Special Representatives on that issues. The parameters are more or less established already in the agreement we have in 2005 and it is on those parameters that the discussion will take place on the second stage, which is what the process that we are undergoing at the moment.

As to the second question, I think it is important to bear in mind that this is a new kind of diplomatic arrangement between the two countries, that President Xi Jinping has not received another foreign leader outside the Capital, that both leaders are trying to find new ways to communicate with each other and I have no doubt that this will have a positive impact on India-China relations, on moving ahead on a number of issues and it is now up to the mechanisms established by two sides to deal with individual issues and to take them forward.

Question from ABP News: Aap ne point of convergence ki baat ki, kya is baithak ke baad aap aashwast hain ki aatankwaad ke mudde par jab agli baar baatcheet hogi ya jo bhi international mechanism mein aayega jo Bharat Masood Azhar ki banning ko lekar ya jo bhi kadam honge, usmein China ab virodh nahi karega, kya is baithak ke baad aap confident hain, ye kehne ki sthiti mein hain ki ab China is cheez ka virodh nahi karega?

(You have talked about point of convergence, so after this summit are you confident that whenever on international forums when India will raise the issue of Masood Azhar then China will not oppose, are you in position to confirm that?)

Question from Republic: As a build up to the summit there was a momentum going on and a lot of strong good vibes from the Chinese side in the Foreign Ministry as well as the top leadership, what has changed in the last 3-4 months post Doklam that has led to these vibes?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Jahan tak aatankwaad ka mudda hai ek general level par discussion hua hai kyonki jaise maine kaha specific muddo par is star par baatcheet nahi hoti hai.

(As far as terrorism is concerned, it was discussed on a general level because as I mentioned earlier that at this level specifics are not discussed.)

India and China both sides maintain that there will be no tolerance for terrorism and that it is in the interest of both countries to collaborate. As I said beyond that it is a matter of discussion and there is continuing discussion between both countries on how to collaborate in this area.

As far as second question is concerned, I believe that the BRICS Summit in Xiamen was important. From that period onwards it was agreed between the two sides that we will find ways to work together to converge our interest to improve the atmosphere for the relationship and while I agree with you that there have been positive vibes, as you call it, from the Chinese side and I am sure you will agree that there have been equally positive vibes from the Indian side.

I think there has been a great effort from both sides to ensure that the relationship is positive and I think that the informal summit, you have seen the visuals, suggests that our leaders have certain comfort level, they have a certain comfort in being able to communicate frankly, candidly and we are confident that as we move ahead we will be able to ensure that the mechanisms that are in place work to build on those convergences.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you friends. Thank you for joining us and thank you Foreign Secretary.

(Concludes)

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