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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (East) during visit of Vice President to Guatemala

May 09, 2018

Speaker 1: Good afternoon friends. After the high level meetings that Hon’ble Vice President today had with Guatemala Leadership, we have this media briefing and for that I welcome Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran, Shri Partha Satpathy Jt. Secretary (LAC) and Shri Sajeev Babu Kurup, our Ambassador to Guatemala. I would request Secretary (East) to make an opening remark and after that we will open the floor for questions.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Thank you and good afternoon dear friends. I will just run through the day’s events that happened. As you today started with Hon’ble Vice President’s first official overseas visit with a trip to Guatemala which is the largest country in Central America both in terms of its economy and population. Guatemala as you know is very well poised strategically in Central America connecting north to South as well as connecting Pacific Ocean to Atlantic Ocean so this is very strategically located in terms of our economic interests.

The fact that our Vice President chose to start his visit of South Central America with Guatemala is something which was deeply appreciated by the leadership in Guatemala. He has had three substantial meetings today starting with the President of Guatemala. After that he met with the speaker of the Parliament and then he was hosted for a full bilateral delegation level meeting with the Vice President who actually became the acting President of the country because President of Guatemala soon after his meeting with Hon’ble Vice President left for Costa Rica for the swearing in ceremony of the new government in Costa Rica.

As I mentioned earlier the entire leadership expressed deep appreciation for the fact that Vice President chose to visit Guatemala at this stage with a high level delegation including the Minister of State for Tribal Affairs and a multi-party delegation of parliamentarians representing different political parties. There was a great deal of appreciation for India’s strong democracy and they say that they really laud that they could really learn from India’s both political democratic pluralist structure as well as its economic growth story.

The President’s meeting, he was accompanied by the Vice President and the Foreign Minister. In his meeting with the Vice President there were other senior members of his delegation representing both the Vice President’s Secretariat as well as the Foreign Office and with the speaker of the Parliament. The delegation from the Guatemala side comprised of the entire executive board of the Parliament.

I will cover some of the broad common aspects of the issues discussed and then I will come to specifics. So in terms of the specifics discussed I think the most important element that was reiterated by the leadership on both sides was the fact that India and Guatemala share very strong economic linkages. The leadership of Guatemala congratulated India for its very strong democracy, its diversity, its rich Indian culture and its economic growth.

As I mentioned earlier they reiterated that Guatemala is well positioned for increasing trade links with India and for that context they really appreciated the presence of Indian companies that are operating here in Guatemala specifically the President of Guatemala referred to the success story of Bajaj motorcycles which have done exceedingly well and while there were other Foreign companies that have also sold their products in the Guatemalan marked but because of very strong repair services and facilities provided by Bajaj it has taken over all other companies for sale of motor cycles.

Other areas which has seen great potential has been pharmaceuticals and where the leaders the felt that we could do better, one was cooperation in the education sector, in technology, in greater academic exchanges, in conservation of wild life, in agricultural products, for improving further cooperation in the IT and ITES and of course automobiles and pharmaceuticals.

There was of course a discussion on culture. Yoga and its appreciation in Guatemala was deeply appreciated and the potential that there is in cinema. So there is a Guatemalan film that received an award for the best film at the International Film Festival that was held in Mumbai and that was deeply appreciated. In fact the President himself said that he is great fan of Indian cinema and would like greater cooperation both in television and cinema with Guatemala. Tourism was yet another sector which has potential and a great desire for connecting the youth of the two countries.

There was also discussion on regional issues. Again Guatemala is very well positioned. It has membership of CICA which is an organization in Central America for their own regional integration. It is also a member of CLAC. We have had regular ministerial level meetings in the CICA and the CLAC. Tomorrow the Hon’ble Vice President will be visiting the ancient city of Antigua – Guatemala which is a very popular tourist destination. It is an old Spanish tourist town about an hour’s drive from here and in fact Antigua Guatemala will be hosting a major summit of Abira American grouping which is really 22 countries, Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, to which they would definitely also want some kind of participation. We are not a member or observer either but they definitely mentioned that this is yet another regional grouping through which Indian and Guatemala could cooperate further.

Once again there was appreciation expressed on both sides for the cooperation that we undertake at the United Nations and in that context leaders from both sides agreed that we should work together to combat the scourge of terrorism which is a menace, in all its forms and manifestations and that the international community along with Guatemala and India should work at the UN as well to ensure that those who aid and abet terrorism or provide terror financing have to be dealt with very strictly. This is something which Guatemala side agreed and endorsed.

We are also cooperating very closely, we have provided each other reciprocal support for the Non-permanent membership of the Security Council, India for the year 2021-22 and Guatemala for 2031-32. During the discussions once again we reiterated our support for each other’s reciprocal support for this particular membership. Hon’ble Vice President thanked Guatemala for the immense support we received from Guatemala for the various elections that have taken place in United Nations in UN related bodies where Guatemala has provided very strong support.

Guatemala is also very supportive of India’s membership of expanded Security Council and they reiterated that as well. Yet another element of cooperation in international context was the Internationla Solar Alliance where again the President of Guatemala conveyed appreciation and our Vice Presdetn invited Guatemala to join the Solar Alliance. They did show interest in joining the alliance but also thanked us for training and other assistance that has been provided in the past to the Solar Mamas as part of our cooperation development assistance to Guatemala.

There was also request made from the Guatemala side for helping establish solar panels in due projects particularly in new airports that are coming up in Guatemala. Hon’ble Vice President said that he would definitely look at this proposal very positively. At the end of the discussion one Memorandum of Understanding was signed on greater cooperation between our diplomatic academies. We also conveyed our Letter of Intent for providing training for Enlgish Language to Guatemala under our ITEC program. The new element was request for helping Guatemala in Solar energy and other new and renewable energy areas.

These are some of the broad aspects. Specifically in the meeting with the parliamentarians where I mentioned that there was entire executive board of the parliament present there, they appreciated great appreciation for India’s strong democratic credentials and there is a lot that we could learn. A proposal was made for setting up of a parliamentary friendship group which Hon’ble Vice President said he would definitely consider. That they should have greater parliamentary exchanges is yet another element that was discussed and Hon’ble Vice President in that context gave a very detailed briefing to the parliamentarians of Guatemala about Indian parliamentary system and he is the Chairman of Rajya Sabha and that was very deeply appreciated by the parliamentarians present in the discussions.

We would be issuing a press release which will be available to you maybe in the next one hour or so which gives you additional points that can be used but I will stop here and happy to take any questions that you might have.

Question: Can you briefly tell us about the wild life protection agreement?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: An agreement is under consideration. India as you know has had a very good example of preservation of our tiger population. Guatemala is also a very bio-diverse rich country with a lot of wild life. They have also an experience of sorts in Jaguar and a proposal has been made from the Guatemalan side for learning from Indian experience and share it with them. We are looking at it very positively and we will hold discussions. I think it is a good opportunity just as there are other identified areas of greater academic exchange, exchange of technology, of expertise on each other’s side, this is yet another important area of cooperation in the future.

Question: On the solar energy front, if they received any proposals from Guatemalan side and would be extending support, would it be infrastructure support or financial, what kind of support India is offering?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: So we await. The proposal was made in the discussions in the morning specifically by the Vice President of Guatemala. Hon’ble Vice President’s response was that we welcome this proposal and we will look at it very positively and as soon as we receive the proposal we will be very happy to work with the Guatemalan side to implement.

Question: Automobile sector as mentioned in the briefing, you said that in two wheelers and three wheelers, Bajaj is doing well. Are there any major automobile companies in Guatemala other than Bajaj which are performing well?

Ambassador to Guatemala, Shri Sajeev Babu Kurup: TVS, Royal Enfield in two wheeler segment and Mahindra Pickups in four wheeler segment.

Question: English language, we already have the ITEC program going on, so in the agreement, is it MEA specific or people to people training f English language is also there?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: The Diplomatic Academy is with the Foreign Services Institute of India so it will be specific to the training of diplomats from the Foreign Office of Guatemala. But the English language training apart from the ITEC program that have been offered in the past, this one has been tailor made specifically for training English language teachers here in Guatemala which will be a bigger project than what is normal ITEC program.

There was also discussion on that India has strength in port development and infrastructure and Hon’ble Vice President also offered cooperation in this field as well.

Question: However Indian diaspora is very small but whether any issues regarding Indian diaspora were discussed during these meetings or issues were raised?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: No, there were no issues raised. You are right, it’s a small diaspora but there were no issues raised. I think Indian diaspora’s reputation is extremely well known. They are hardworking, wherever they go they contribute very positively to the local economy. They are a very strong connect to India. Wherever they have gone they represent true Indian representatives ambassadors bridging the gap between the host country and their home country.

Keeping that in mind Hon’ble Vice President has made it a point that in each of the three countries that he is visiting, he would be interacting with the members of the Indian community and our Ambassador in fact is hosting a reception this evening at 7:00. I cordially invite all of you on behalf of our Ambassador to be present for that reception even though it is a small community, Hon’ble Vice President has made it a point to meet them and you will hear at that interaction what he has to say to them.

Hon’ble Vice President did get an opportunity to share with the leadership about India’s growth story, about the liberalization that has taken place in the last four years and which has resulted in consistent growth. He also talked about India’s philosophy of "Vasudhaiv Kutambakam” about how world is one family and we consider that as we outreach to our friends in the external world globally.

Question: You also talked about tourism part, so in future what kind of actions will be taken as far as tourism is concerned because both the countries have so many places to visit. So are there any further plans for that?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Well the fact that such a high level visit is taking place itself raises the profile of the relationship. Hon’ble Vice President specifically mentioned that we should continue these high level exchanges. He welcomed our leadership to also come to Guatemala, he said we should have regular Foreign Office Consultations. Foreign Office Consultations is a mechanism which allows us to discuss issues, impediments, help ease issues so that we can have more business linkages including tourism linkages. Cinema was considered an important medium for promoting tourism and that was raised as well. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1: With this the briefing comes to a close. Thank you all very much.

(Concludes)

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