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Transcript of Media Briefing in New York by Official Spokesperson on Prime Minister’s ongoing visit to USA

September 26, 2014

Official Spokesperson: Good evening friends and thank you very much for being here this afternoon. I’ll just try to take you through the two activities that the Prime Minister had this afternoon, so that you are aware of what were the dimensions of his discussions this afternoon; following which if any of you would like to ask me questions on those or anything else, I will be willing to answer.

Given that all of you have other commitments, I will not take much of your time. The Prime Minister had two interactions this afternoon. Immediately, after his arrival, the first interaction was with the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio and this was followed by the Nobel Laureate for Medicine, Prof. Harold Varmus.

With the Mayor the discussions were on issues relating to how he is trying to focus on improving the quality of life in New York. So, Prime Minister wanted to understand what are the issues that he faces because Prime Minister is extremely keen on trying to rejuvenate our urban spaces too. The discussion, therefore, were focused on matters relating to, for example, public housing. I understand that New York City will be building something like half a million houses over a ten year period. The other issues that were focused upon were relating to policing. Prime Minister was extremely keen to understand, following the events of 9/11, how New York City metamorphosed its police force and what were the ways in which it has taken a pro-active stance. There was a fairly detailed discussion on this. Also in this context, there was also discussion on common threats that are faced by big cities in terms of terror threats etc. Finally, both of them did exchange views as political leaders on how they could cooperate. Prime Minister also referred to how New York City could assist Indian cities in handling large crowds and there were discussions on this matter. Of course, the Mayor did understand that the magnitude of large Indian gatherings far exceeded what they were handling, for example Prime Minister mentioned about the Kumbh Mela and the large number of people that come there and how these could be handled. But it was an interesting discussion where they exchanged views on public housing and there was also a discussion about how the Mayor had focussed on education; and the Prime Minister had, I think, done his homework, so he discussed how the Mayor had increased taxes in some areas to provide for this. He also talked about two cities within the City that the Mayor himself was saying and so this was about a half an hour’s discussion.

This was followed by the discussion with the Nobel laureate and those discussions were focused on cancer. He is the director of the NCI and they are collaborating with India. Incidentally, Prof. Varmus did his internship way back in the sixties in Bareilly. There was an interesting discussion about how medicine has evolved since then; also about vaccines, possibilities of research in India, the need for greater focus on partnership between developed institutes elsewhere and in India, about public health issues, about diabetes, obesity and their impact on Cancer also. So, this was again half an hour’s discussion which covered broadly these areas. Prime Minister also invited him to visit India on a regular basis and share his thoughts on how we could work together in trying to promote greater research on medical issues largely, but also Cancer especially in India because there are some peculiarities which are unique to developing countries and they can gain from research being conducted by specialists and Nobel laureates elsewhere. That’s the sum and substance of these discussions. Tomorrow, the Prime Minister is looking forward to his statement at the General Assembly. Other than that, he has a very packed schedule. We have, I understand, circulated that to you. I will brief you after initial meetings he has with the South Asian leaders during the course of the morning. I can answer any question that you would want on this or anything else, but let’s start on questions on this.

Question: Did the Mayor and Prime Minister discuss health, considering that the city has legislated against smoking, against serving of large soft drinks and stuff like that?

Official Spokesperson: I think this came up in the context of both the Mayor as well as the Professor congratulated Prime Minister on recent decisions in India about smoking and increase in fines etc. So, it was in that context there was a brief reference.

Question:  ….terror attack threat this morning upon the New York subway system and had given a press conference. Did that topic come up?

Official Spokesperson: Not exactly in that manner but what was discussed was the common threats that large cities in India and New York face and the possibilities of cooperation between their anti-terror squads or police forces in the concept of mega city policing and how we could work together but there were no specifics of the type that you mentioned.

Question: Today the Pakistani Prime Minister raised the issue of Kashmir in his address to the UNGA. Will the Prime Minister use his right-to-reply tomorrow when he addresses the UNGA?

Official Spokesperson: Right-to-reply is something that a country can use. Prime Minister, tomorrow, is going to make his statement in a forward looking manner. As regards right-to-reply, certainly India will use its right-to-reply and set the record straight. This will be done on the floor of UN and it would be done today.

Between yesterday and today, Prime Minister seems to have hardened his position and once again Pakistan has been saying that ball is in India’s court as they called off the talks. Is there any rethink on the Indian part to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister while in New York?

Official Spokesperson: If your question is that and if I gather correctly- is there a meeting planned between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, my answer to you is that there is no meeting planned between the Prime Minister and Prime Minister of Pakistan. Tomorrow the Prime Minister has three scheduled meetings and these are with our South Asian neighbors i.e. with President of Sri Lanka, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Prime Minister of Nepal.

Question: I believe he is meeting with distinguished Indian Americans as well tomorrow. Any idea who these distinguished Indian Americans are?

Official Spokesperson: I can share that list with you but I don’t have that list with me right now with me. But that list is available and we will share with you.

Question: Prime Minister kya kal extempore bolne waale hain?

Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye app jaante hain kiPrime Minister’s ability to speak and hold forth. He will be speaking in Hindi, he will be speaking in a manner that he knows best and you appreciate most.

Question: The White House has said that the President and Michelle Obama will be welcoming and having dinner with the Prime Minister. Who will be accompanying the Prime Minister?

Official Spokesperson: There is a delegation of several officials. It begins with the External Affairs Minister, the National Security Advisor, the Foreign Secretary, the Ambassador, and our Joint Secretary who handles America and who is the points person in that.

Question: How is the Indian Government is looking at the summons that were issued to the Prime Minister? Is there anything (..inaudible..)

Official Spokesperson: Let me start by stating very clearly that the Indian sovereign representative is ring-fenced. There is no issue of any one serving any summons on India’s sovereign representative. Let’s make it very clear. He is ring-fenced. There will not be such issues. I think, the US has also clarified that. That said, as far as issue of that process that has been started, let me assure you we will handle that procedurally and action is underway on that. But make no mistake that the Indian sovereign representative is ring-fenced.

Question: The US President Barack Obama, in his address, spoke about forging a new anti-terror global policing and declaring a war on Islamic State. What is our stand on the air strikes in Syria and will there be a reference to the terror threats and larger regional situations in the Middle East in Prime Minister’s speech tomorrow?

Official Spokesperson: I am not going to reveal to you what the Prime Minister is going to speak tomorrow but that said you know our views on terrorism. Terrorism, anywhere in any form, is anathema for us and therefore, certainly, Prime Minister will speak against terrorism. What he will say is for you to wait tomorrow and see.

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