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Press Briefing by Foreign Secretary on PM visit to Qingdao (June 09, 2018)

June 10, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Welcome to this special press briefing. To brief you on PM’s engagement on the first today of his visit to Qingdao including his bilateral meetings I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India. I also have Ambassador of India to China who will brief you about the visit. Now I give the floor to the Foreign Secretary.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Thank you. Prime Minister arrived in Qingdao this afternoon and immediately went into a series of meetings. The first meeting was with the Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and it was a courtesy call made by him on Prime Minister. This was the first time he was meeting Prime Minister after we have become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the meeting was essentially to convey that India’s membership in this organization was one in which the members of SCO attached importance and that India would be an important member, would make important contributions to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Prime Minister in turn conveyed to the Secretary General that India was looking forward to making contributions, to participating as a full member and to helping to strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

It was a brief meeting of 15 minutes but it was the first engagement that Prime Minister had in Qingdao. This was followed by the meeting between President Xi Jin Ping of China and our Prime Minister and that was longish meeting that went on to close to one hour. It was a very substantive meeting and both leaders began by making a very positive assessment of the Wuhan Summit.

President Xi Jin Ping said that this was a very successful summit that the discussions without an agenda in relaxed settings had allowed both leaders to discuss a number of issues and he described the Wuhan summit as "a new starting point in our bilateral relationship.”

Prime Minister made a similar appraisal, a very positive appraisal. He described this and I quote it, as "a milestone” in our relationship which would help in developing mutual understanding and the one which would enhance mutual trust and one which would take the relationship in a forward direction. So there was a very positive sense of the outcome of the Wuhan Summit that was shared by the two leaders with each other.

One of the important outcomes of today’s meeting was that the Chinese side conveyed that they accepted Prime Ministers invitation to President Xi Jin Ping to have a similar informal summit in India in 2019 and obviously the dates and other logistics get worked out at the diplomatic level and not at this level.

Both also agreed as they had decided in Wuhan to keep strategic communications, to maintain them through various channels including through telephone calls and through frequent meetings including in the sidelines of multilateral events and in that context both of them agreed that their next meeting would be when they will meet in the BRICS Summit in South Africa next month.

The Chinese President conveyed to Prime Minister that the Defense minister of China as well as the minister of Public Security who is the counterpart of the Home Minister in India will visit India this year. Of course dates will again be worked out through diplomatic channels but these are two important ministerial visits that will take place this year and if you recall their commerce minister was also in India earlier this year.

Both sides have also agreed that the next round of the Special Representative Talks on the boundary question will be held in the second half of this year. President Xi Jin Ping also suggested to the PM that the two countries should set a new trade target of $100 billion by 2020 and there were some discussion on trade and investment related issues and in that context the President also told the Prime Minister that China is looking at enhancing agriculture exports from India including non-basmati rice and sugar. A couple of business delegations from India and from Department of Commerce have of course visited China in the recent months and we hope that this will lead to additional imports from India this year.

The Chinese side also said that it would encourage our pharmaceutical companies to register for high quality Indian pharmaceutical products in the Chinese market. Again this was an important aspect from our perspective because we have been pressing for greater pharma exports into the country.

During the Wuhan Summit and thereafter the two countries have also decided that people to people contact and people to people exchanges were a significant part of the relationship going forward that we needed to build greater synergies between the two people through various means including films, culture, yoga, traditional Indian medicine, art, museums and so on and in that context the two leaders have agreed that a new people to people mechanism will be set up. It will be headed on the Indian side by the External Affairs Minister and on the Chinese side by the State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the first meeting of this P2P mechanism will be held this year.

One of the important issues discussed in that context was that Indian films and President Xi Jin Ping in fact referred to the growing popularity of Indian films in China, in that context he not only mentioned Dangal he also mentioned Bahubali and Hindi Medium as films which have been screened in China and received popular acclaim in China.

In response to the President’s suggestion for enhancing financial cooperation between the two countries and also to help trade, Prime Minister also conveyed to President Xi Jin Ping our readiness to commit the Bank of China to establish a branch office in Mumbai.

A number of other smaller issues were discussed. I won’t go into too many details but suffice to say that it was a meeting of perhaps less than an hour but throughout the meeting there was a very positive forward looking momentum and it was very evident that the entire meeting was sort of underpinned by the spirit of the Wuhan Summit. And I think that both sides and both leaders expressed satisfaction and the follow up that had taken place since Wuhan and both the leaders have asked their teams to continue to ensure that the decisions that are taken and understandings that are reached are translated on ground.

The meeting after that was with the President of Uzbekistan. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and that again was a very useful and fruitful meeting. The President of Uzbekistan will be making a visit to India later this year and in that context the two leaders discussed preparations for that visit including the need to enhance our bilateral trade given our proximity as two countries close to each other geographically as well as now members of the SCO and the President of Uzbekistan in fact said that the volume of trade which is about $325 million is far below the potential between the two countries, that investment in a two-way direction is important.

He also particularly thanked our Prime Minister for sending Minister of State for External Affairs to participate in the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan in March. It was a very successful conference and he expressed the hope that India would continue to support the efforts that Uzbekistan was making in finding a peaceful and sustainable solution in Afghanistan.

Certain connectivity projects were also discussed between the two sides and about how these could be linked to the port of Chabahar in Iran in an effort to strengthen connectivity between Indian and Central Asia and finally the Uzbek side talked about setting up investment parks and investment zones in Uzbekistan and enquired about how India could assist in that regard and offered to send the Deputy Prime Minister to India before his own visit. Dates are of course yet to be decided to see how we could strengthen economic cooperation.

Prime Minister then of course attended the official banquet hosted by President Xi Jin Ping and even as we speak he is of course meeting the President of Tajikistan, President Rahmon. So these are his engagements as of today and I think Prime Minister is quite satisfied with all the meetings he has had so far. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you sir. We have time to take few questions.

Question: …………………….. for maintaining peace and tranquility or strengthening communication between the military, was there any discussion on that aspect in terms of the Wuhan follow up?

Question: Any discussion on projects in Afghanistan?

Question: Was there any discussions on US sanctions against Russia or the US pullout from the Iran Nuclear Deal?

Question: Your attitude toward One Belt One Road initiative changing little bit because of cooperation in SCO?

Question: a lot of focus and conversations about anti-terrorism initiatives that SCO when leaders of India and China met, was there any mention of their cooperation in this area?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: There was a general agreement that the Special Representatives will hold their next round of negotiations later this year and as you know those negotiations also cover matters relating to peace and tranquility along the boundary but yes there was a brief mention that the militaries on the two sides will continue to talk to each other in an effort to maintain peace and tranquility.

On Afghanistan, I apologize as there was a brief discussion on the projects and one of the outcomes of today’s meeting is that we have agreed that we will move forward in identifying a specific project initially in the area of capacity building but it will be a joint project that we will in fact be doing so in Afghanistan, so will begin the process of identifying it.

There was no discussion at all on either of the topic of sanctions on the Russia or on the Iran nuclear deal.

On the question regarding the Belt and Road initiative, I think India’s position on this matter is already spelt out and I don’t need to specify any further. Essentially India supports all connectivity initiatives but believes these should also bearing in mind the sensitivity to each country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as well as sustainability and viability in other ways.

As far as the question on anti-terrorism cooperation is concerned, there was no discussion anti-terror initiatives in the SCO context but one of the mechanisms that will also have a meeting in the second half of this year will be the mechanism we have on counter-terrorism and security.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Thank you sir. With this we conclude this special press briefing. Thank you all.

(Concludes)

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