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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson in New York (September 28, 2015)

September 29, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): … … … and welcome to this press briefing on the Prime Minister’s renewed engagements in New York.

As you know, we returned from San Jose very early this morning. Prime Minister has just had three back to back meetings. I tweeted and I called it the ‘power Monday’ because how often do you see a Prime Minister meeting the leaders of Britain, France and the USA all in the course of one morning. But that is exactly what has just happened. Prime Minister met Mr. David Cameron, he met President Francois Hollande, and he has just met President Barak Obama of the US. I will just give you broad overview of what the tone and tenor of the discussions were and then we can open it up for questions.

There were some common themes I would say in all the three meetings. I think climate change certainly was a dominant issue on the agenda in all the three conversations that Prime Minister had. There was also talk about terrorism and in particular the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism; then our desire to be a member of the four export control regimes starting with the NSG and the MTCR, and UN Security Council reform. Apart from that of course there was bilateral content in all the three conversations that Prime minister had with Britain, with France and with of course the United States.

Let me first start with the climate change part because that was really a common theme running through all three meetings. Basically the point that Prime Minister made was that India’s commitment to environmental conservation is second to none. We are prepared to play a leadership role on this subject.

As far as our INDCs are concerned, Prime Minister said that we had sought permission to declare our INDCs on the 2nd of October. As you all know, the deadline is the 1st of October, but the 2nd of October has a special significance for all of us because it is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a person who was passionately committed to the cause of environment, who was a champion of sustainable development in fact. So, if we declare our INDCs on October 2, then it adds a very significant moral dimension as well to our commitment. There was broad appreciation in fact for this point of view where all three leaders appreciated that India would be declaring its INDCs and combining it with the observance of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

As far as the substantive issue of climate change is concerned, the Prime Minister made it very clear that the current climate of negativism was not a useful factor as we approach COP21 in Paris. He says rather than just putting pressure, piling pressure and saying that just cap, cap, cap, emission targets, instead of that he said it would have been far more better if we had a positive agenda which enabled countries to go in for more sustainable paths of development by providing them with finance and with the requisite technology. That is the path that India has been advocating. Of course Prime Minister outlined his own very ambitious agenda for 175 gigawatts of renewable energy and the steps that he has taken.

There was also a discussion on some of the very innovative ideas that India had taken in this field. When Prime Minister was Chief Minister of Gujarat he developed the canal-top solar project where the top portion of the canal was used basically for a solar project. This helped in preventing the evaporation of the water. It allowed you to not take in extra land because you are using the top of the canal. In fact, because the water under the solar panels remains cool, it resulted in actually 16 per cent more energy into the grid. So, all-in-all it was a win-win situation. And there was a discussion really on how more such innovative ideas could be found so that this whole debate on climate change goes along a positive agenda path rather than a negative agenda path.

Then I think I can come down to some of the specific issues that were discussed in each of those meetings. With Cameron the Prime Minister began by congratulating him on his emphatic victory in the elections. Prime Minister Cameron said that he was greatly looking forward to Prime Minister’s visit to the United Kingdom. And there was a discussion on what could be the broad elements of that particular programme.

Then there was a discussion on some of the bilateral cooperation elements, in particular our continuing cooperation on intelligence, in cyber security. And Prime Minister invited the Prime Minister of Britain for Britain to become a very active partner in our Make in India programme where, as you know, on the defence side 49 per cent FDI is now allowed, where high technology is involved in fact 100 per cent FDI is allowed. So, Prime minister made a strong pitch for Britain to become a very important partner in the Make in India programme.

As far as President Hollande was concerned, there was also a discussion on the Bilateral Investment Agreement which, as you know, has been pending with the EU. Fifteen rounds of talks have been held but then because 700 of our drugs were stopped on the complaint of one inspector, basically the whole process became suspended. Prime Minister said that we would like this process to continue and for this avoidable irritant to be resolved as soon as possible.

With the United States, I think on the bilateral side there was a broad acknowledgement on both sides of the significant progress that had been made in implementing the decisions of the last two summit meetings. As you all know, this was Prime Minister’s fifth meeting with President Obama. They had met twice in the United States, once in Delhi, once in Nay Pyi Taw, and once in Birsbane on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. In Nay Pyi Taw it was on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. So, this was Prime Minister’s fifth meeting with President Obama. The meeting lasted an hour and was held in a very very positive and cordial atmosphere. You could see the personal chemistry between the two leaders, the way the embrace happened between them.

And there was broad acknowledgement that substantial progress has been achieved on India-US relations. There was a reference made to the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue which was something that was decided when President Obama had visited New Delhi. The first meeting of that took place, as you know, last week in Washington for which our External Affairs Minister had come, also our Minister of State for Commerce had come, and our Minister of State for Energy and Renewable Energy Mr. Piyush Goyal had come.

There was also the acknowledgement that the Cyber Security Dialogue had taken place and was proceeding well. The aircraft carrier technology Working Group had also met. And the fact that today four US satellites were launched aboard our PSLV was itself a very concrete proof of the strong strides that have been made in space cooperation between the two countries.

Both sides said, in fact President Obama in particular said, that India and the US were natural partners with democracy and technology providing a very strong foundation to the already very strong friendship between the peoples on both the sides.

The Prime Minister alluded to his recent visit to California and the kind of conversations that he had had relating to start-ups, relating to renewable energy and how that visit would probably now lead to many new technology partnerships between India and the United States. In this context he also referred to the Start-up Konnect event where, as you know, 30, 40 start-ups from India had come to basically benefit from the ecosystem which already exists in the Silicon Valley and how we could create a similar ecosystem where start-ups could eventually scale up to larger entities.

Apart from that, I think on the terrorism front the Prime Minister said that terrorism is a global phenomena which impacts every country, no country is immune from the threat of terrorism, we ourselves have been battling this for four decades, and the time had now come for the international community to speak in one voice on this issue of terrorism and resolve the long pending Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism which, as you know, has been held up because of the disagreement on the definition of terrorism.

Prime Minister also spoke about India’s application to be members of these four export control regimes. And there was broad support from all three interlocutors that yes, they wanted to see India as part of these nonproliferation regimes in view of India’s impeccable track record in this particular area.

I think I will stop here. If you have any specific questions, we will go into those.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: It was one hour with President Obama.

Question: What was US reaction to India’s proposal for time-bound UNSC reforms?

Official Spokesperson: On UN Security Council reform, President Obama reiterated the support that he has publicly articulated in favour of India being a permanent member of the Security Council, and there was discussion that now that the intergovernmental negotiation process is going to start on the basis of text, how India and the US could collaborate on that front.

Question: On terrorism, did Prime Minister Modi draw the President into a more specific commitment that the whole world has to be on one page on this? And was there any mention of terrorism emanating out of Pakistan as a major issue?

Official Spokesperson: There was a discussion of Pakistan in one of the meetings in the context of terrorism. But broadly the idea was, if terrorism has to be fought, then all countries have to be on the same page; you cannot have some countries talking of good terrorists and bad terrorists.

Question: What is the hitch in defining terrorism?

Official Spokesperson: The hitch is that some, particularly the OIC lobby wants to include freedom fighters for instance in the definition of terrorism. Some compromise formulations have been put forward but they have not yet been agreed to. Mr. Rohan, there is a Sri Lankan coordinator who is now discussing this and we hope that things will move forward in the 70th anniversary year.

Question: What was the commitment from the US on providing this technology and finance for renewable energy? I think this has been an issue in bilateral relations for some time, especially on the solar panels and all that.

Official Spokesperson: President Obama was very very forthcoming on this. He said I totally accept the point that developing countries need to be provided the right technologies. In this context he referred to the solar panels. He said, prices in USA had been driven down of solar panels so that they could be more easily affordable for developing countries. And he said, that was because there was a conscious decision on the part of the US Government to make these technologies more affordable.

Ambassador of India (Shri Arun K Singh): Just to add, on the bilateral front we just had the Energy Dialogue last week in Washington, and where there is a strong partnership on research and development related to clean energy including solar. And the two Governments already have a commitment of a total of about USD 100 million on that, and that has been progressing well and we are trying to take that forward.

Question: What is President Obama’s response to the G4 Summit and were there any specific assurances? Did he accept in principle India’s demand for a time-bound framework? We have gone on record to say that by time-bound we mean this 70th General Assembly Session? Is that something the United States is on board with?

Official Spokesperson: Discussions were not of that level of specificity that we tie down something. As you know, US is also participating in the intergovernmental negotiations, India is also participating. But the fact that President Obama reiterated the support for India’s candidature as a permanent member I think is significant. And now of course we need to see how the intergovernmental negotiation process advances.

Question: In the discussions with the French President Hollande, was there any discussion of the supply of fighter planes? Is any progress made on that issue?

Official Spokesperson: Basically there was broad acknowledgement that those discussions had gone very well, and those discussions are still continuing, but there was total satisfaction on both sides on how those discussions are proceeding.

By the way I forgot to mention that we had a very important visitor drop in on the meeting between Prime Minister and President Hollande, that was Mr. Bill Gates. Mr. Bill Gates, as you know, is now very very passionately committed to the whole issue of climate change and how it can be combated. And he brings really the private sector dimension into this debate. COP21, as you know, is a meeting of governments. But with people like him getting involved, there is a real possibility of there being private sector partnerships on the technology side to help in adaptation and mitigation.

Question: Anything on the BIT and totalisation? Any assurance from the US side?

Ambassador of India: The issues came up in discussion. You would have seen also in the Prime Minister’s statement to the media, there is a reference there to these issues. So, they came up and I think there was a general sense that let us see how we can take the discussions forward on both these issues.

Joint Secretary (Americas) (Shri Vinay Mohan Kwatra): On the Bilateral Investment Treaty, you have to look at the broader context in which these discussions have been progressing between the two countries for last several years. We were at a very good stage of discussions way back in 2009-10 when the US suddenly decided to review its model text. That model text review process took about three years plus. By the time they came up with model text, Indian Government decided that they had to review its own model text. So, we are currently reviewing a model text. But I think the discussions, the technical discussions on the Bilateral Investment Treaty aside, a larger construct is for us to promote the trade and investment partnership between the two countries which was one of the principal subjects of discussions during the recently concluded Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.

Question: First of all on climate change, was there any sort of a reiteration? Mr. Modi said that they should not talk about caps all the time. But was there any repeat of a demand of the kind of base minimal cap that the Americans might be looking at in terms of the carbon emission cuts?

Secondly, Pakistan has been raising the Kashmir issue over the last few days in every forum. Sartaj Aziz raised it with his Saudi counterpart, Nawaz Sharif raised it with Ban Ki-moon. Was the Kashmir issue discussed and any assurance that Americans would not intervene at any stage?

Thirdly, China announced that they would be raising an 8,000 extra soldier force for the UN peacekeeping forces. Is there something that the Indians are adding to that or have been asked to?

Official Spokesperson: As far as the first question is concerned, there was no discussion on it. Our INDCs have to be declared, as you know, now only on the 2nd of October. So, people will wait for what we declare on that particular day. But the idea was how India is going to be a very very important player in the whole climate change negotiations and COP21, and how everybody is in favour of an outcome which is balanced, which is inclusive, and of course which protects the interests of all countries. I think that is the most important thing and how we could be all partners in the same journey.

To your second question on Kashmir, there was a broad acknowledgement that this is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, and people were happy for India and Pakistan to resolve it among themselves.

On the third issue of China announcing 8,000 troops for peacekeeping, very good, but we will be announcing our own. The Prime Minister would be addressing the peacekeeping summit shortly and we would also be making some commitments on the kind of further support that we will provide to UN peacekeeping operations. As you already know, India has been cumulatively the largest provider of UN peacekeeping troops with more than 180,000 troops from India. Currently we have 8,000 troops deployed on ten missions in very challenging environments. So, our commitment to UN peacekeeping remains intact. In fact, at the peacekeeping summit which Prime Minister will be addressing very shortly, you will hear some new commitments also being outlined by us.

Joint Secretary (AMS): Just to supplement on the emission part of your question, I think the emission caps is one line of effort that is being talked about in terms of the international narrative on it. But I think what Prime Minister emphasised in the meeting and what Vikas pointed out right in the beginning of his comments is that in addition to the emission caps there also has to be a line of effort which focuses on proactive and positive actions that the country take to ensure their commitment and to demonstrate their commitment to the environmental protection, and as a result of the climate change initiatives. So, I think let us not look at it in narrow constructs of just one initiative and ignore the others.

Question: What was the focus of the discussion between Prime Minister and Prime Minister Cameron considering that he will be going there in November?

Official Spokesperson: I already told you that basically it was a very good, very useful discussion. Again, there was a lot of personal chemistry involved. They have met before also and Prime Minister Cameron said very categorically that he was looking forward to Prime Minister’s visit to the UK. He even joked about Prime Minister coming to Wembley Stadium and said very few leaders in the world can fill a stadium of that size, and he was very much looking forward to that particular event. So, it was all in all a very good meeting where they discussed bilateral issues, they discussed some of the regional issues and, as I said, climate change.

Question: Did President Obama seek more proactive role from India in combating ISIS?

Official Spokesperson: There was no discussion on ISIS as such. As I said, the idea was, Prime Minister himself said that if terrorism has to be fought collectively and globally, then all of us have to be on the same page. I have already said that.

Question: One of the biggest aspects in talks today was technology transfer on the two areas – climate change, clean energy, technology transfer on that front and defence technology transfer on that front. What was discussed and what were the assurances or promises from the United States of America?

Official Spokesperson: I have already answered that question that the US said that it was in favour of having enough climate finance for developing countries and their having access to technologies.

Question: Technology transfer in defence sector?

Ambassador of India: As we had mentioned in some of the earlier comments a few days ago, we already have the defence trade and technology initiative. Under that we have identified six path finder projects. On two projects, agreements were signed about a month or so ago. Two other projects are under discussion at this stage. One of those projects is the project related to aircraft carrier technology, and on that there has been good project in the discussions, and that was specifically recognised in the meeting that the discussions have progressed well. Now we are at the stage of identifying specific projects of cooperation under this. Once that is done, then of course we would move ahead. So, that is the kind of cooperation we are having in defence trade and technology.

In terms of renewable energy partnerships, I mentioned to you what is happening under the Energy Dialogue, and then when Prime Minister has had his discussions yesterday in San Jose, one of the round tables was on renewable energy, where there were representatives from industry, from start-ups, from venture capital, and looking at potential for technology partnerships in clean energy and renewable energy.

Question: What were the discussions on APEC? In PM’s remarks he said he looks forward to working with America and membership …(Inaudible)…

Joint Secretary (AMS): If you look at the decisions which emanated out of President Obama’s visit in January this year, there was the document called the Joint Strategic Vision on Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific. The essential idea of the document is to look at convergences between India’s Act East Policy and the US rebalance towards Asia, and translate that into specific measures that the two could take. One of the key parts of that particular document was, US support for India’s expression of interest to become an APEC member. Now obviously there is a certain process to it that we will follow of due diligence. But naturally we regard US as an important partner as we go forward in our quest for the APEC membership.

Question: My question is on similar lines, essentially on China’s role as well. Did China come up in Rebalancing Asia which has been a key US philosophy in what is happening in terms of India’s Act East? Did China come up in the discussions at all?

Official Spokesperson: No.

Question: …(Inaudible)… not even in the context of American security in the region, maritime security?

Joint Secretary (AMS): I think the larger point there is that the India-US partnership when it comes to the region is essentially for the peace, prosperity and stability of the region. I think the construct in which we look at our specifics and the policy orientations of our engagement is situated in that matrix.

Question: Just a clarification. You said Pakistan did come up in talks with one of the countries. We assume that is the United States of America. So, could you share a little more about how and in what context it came up?

Official Spokesperson: I do not want to share more than that but to say that yes, it came up in the context of terrorism.

Question: Prime Minister spoke about Indian membership of elite export regimes and he spoke about targeted timeframe, is not it? And what kind of timeframe are we looking at?

Official Spokesperson: One meeting is happening in November.

Question: This is Prime Minister Modi’s fifth meeting with President Obama. What is the big takeaway from this meeting from our point of view?

Official Spokesperson: The big takeaway is the continuing personal chemistry I think between the two leaders, they are on first name basis, the fact that we are meeting so often now and doing a comprehensive review of bilateral relations, the fact that the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue had just met. Those of you who were talking about terrorism, just see the very strong statement, the Joint Statement, that came out of the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, and the fact that now our relationship covers virtually every area under the sun, whether it is defence, whether it is space, whether it is health, whether it is science and technology, whether it is agriculture, you name it. We are now partners in every area of human endeavour. So, the fact that when the two leaders meet, obviously they cannot discuss everything, but they touch, and the idea is they provide the high-level guidance, and the fact the political commitment to advancing this partnership which both countries realise holds the key for peace and stability in Asia and beyond.

Ambassador of India: If I could just add to what Vikas said, you saw in terms of Prime Minister’s bilateral engagements over the last few days the extensive depth of the engagements that he had both in New York and in San Jose area in California focusing on different aspects of the relationship, the economic and the people to people dimension of the relationship with such a significant presence of Indian origin tech entrepreneurs, CEOs and others on the West Coast. So, the meeting with the President really encapsulates what is a wide-ranging, very strong strategic partnership between the two countries.

Question: Humne haal hi mein dekha tha ki Indo-US Joint Declaration mein Dawood Ibrahim aur 26/11 ka zikr hua tha. Toh, Obama aur Modiji ke mulakaat mein in donom vishayon par kuchh khaas baat-cheet hui?

Official Spokesperson: Nahin, in donom vishayon par baat-cheet nahin hui kyon ki yeh baat-cheet ho chuki thi aur aapne dekha sanyukta bayaan mein jo nikla tha, saanjha bayaan jo nikla tha terrorism ke upar, aatankvaad par, us mein is ka zikr hai.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: No, there is no Joint Statement but, as you have heard, Prime Minister gave his statement and President Obama gave his statement. If you combine the two, basically it tells you broadly what were the discussions held, where we are headed.

Thank you all.

(Concluded)



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