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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson in Washington DC on visit of Prime Minister to USA (March 31, 2016)

April 01, 2016

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Good morning freinds and welcome to this press briefing.

As you know, Prime Minister arrived very early this morning in Washington D.C. from Brussels on the second leg of his three-nation tour. This morning he has had one bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of New Zealand Mr. John Key, and he has also met some scientists working with the LIGO Project. So, I am going to brief you on these two meetings.

Insofar as the meeting with the Prime Minister of New Zealand is concerned, the conversation began with cricket, as you can imagine, with Prime Minister John Key congratulating Prime Minister on India very successfully hosting the world T20 championship.

The leaders discussed bilateral cooperation in a whole host of areas. The Prime Minister of New Zealand alluded to the large Indian community in New Zealand and said that they are doing very well. New Zealand is now hosting a large number of Indian students. In fact he said that because of the decision of his government to permit foreign students to work 20 hours per week, many more foreign students have started coming to New Zealand than in the past.

Prime Minister Modi said that he would like more Indian students to study in New Zealand. He said that Indian students living in New Zealand feel very at home, they feel very safe and secure. And in this context he encouraged the New Zealand government to undertake more aggressive and proactive campaigns in Indian universities to attract more Indian students just as Australia and Singapore have done.

Discussions then turned to trade issues. The New Zealand Prime Minister said that they had concluded a very successful FTA with China some years back, and he was very keen on New Zealand signing an FTA with India as well. Of course he recognized that this is a prospect for the long term. In the immediate term their interest is in having the RECP negotiations with ASEAN come to a successful conclusion at an early date.

Prime Minister talked about our interest in having dairy technology from New Zealand. As you know, New Zealand is one of the world leaders in terms of dairy technology and food processing. Prime Minister said that India is the world’s largest producer of milk but when it comes to processing milk we are not so good. So, New Zealand could find a very good market in India particularly now that the food processing sector has been opened up to 100 per cent FDI.

There was also discussion on tourism. The New Zealand Prime Minister said that Bollywood had done a lot to promote tourism to New Zealand, a lot many Indian tourists were now coming to New Zealand. In fact he said he had very recently met Shahrukh Khan. Prime Minister said that yes, Bollywood had certainly contributed to packaging New Zealand as an attractive tourist destination, but many more tourists could go to New Zealand if more aggressive promotion could be undertaken.

In this context both leaders also underscored the need for direct flights between India and New Zealand. Currently I believe Singapore Airlines is providing third country service to New Zealand but there are no direct flight connections between India and New Zealand.

So this, I think, was broadly the discussion between the Prime Minister of India and the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

After this, Prime Minister met scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (the LIGO project) which, as you know, has resulted in one of the most outstanding scientific breakthroughs in recent years by proving Gravitational Waves theory of Einstein correct. Some Indian scientists are now part of the LIGO project. Prime Minister met three of them who had come here: Prof. Adhikari, Mr. Karan who is himself a Gujarati, and Nancy Agarwal who is an expert on quantum mechanics as well.

What was significant about this project is that now that India has agreed to be a part of this project, the possibility is that India will become central to the LIGO project partly on account of the fact that geography favours us. The plan is that the LIGO project has proved the Gravitational Waves theory based here in the US but now they would like LIGO projects to be replicated in other parts of the world so that based on their geographical data also they can prove the Gravitational Waves theory.

Cabinet has already approved an outlay of Rs.1200 crore for the project in India. It will come up hopefully in the next five to seven years. And the LIGO people said, in fact Prof. Francis the Director of the National Science Foundation said that India will become central in the LIGO project. It was also mentioned that this technology, which is for pure science, also has other applications which will benefit mankind.

Prime Minister looked at the LIGO project not only as a very great example of India-US scientific collaboration but also as a project which has the potential of generating curiosity in a lot of young minds in India, and in fact creating a whole new generation of Indian scientists who can get enthused with this remarkable breakthrough in science.

In this context he said that LIGO scientists going to India should have more interaction with Indian universities, they should try to meet more of the Indian students to inculcate in them the sense of curiosity, the sense of discovery. And in fact he said that if scientific toy makers could create toys based on the LIGO project which could create a sense of curiosity and wonder in Indian children, then that would have a very beneficial impact.

He also alluded to the fact that he had created, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, a Science City in Ahmedabad which again tried to tap into children’s natural curiosity. It was also told to us by the Director of the National Science Foundation that the Global Research Council, which has 60 member countries, will be having its meeting in India in May this year.

Also I must point out that just before Prime Minister left on his three-nation tour, he met Indian scientists working in the LIGO project in India, members of the Institute of Plasma Research. So, this in a sense, explains to you the importance that Prime Minister personally attaches to the LIGO project, how we believe that this not only has the potential of creating a massive breakthrough in science and technology, but also enthusing a whole generation of Indian scientists, and of course creating further collaboration between India and the US in the area of science.

So, these were the two meetings that Prime Minister had this morning. He is presently meeting some members of the Indian community, and in the evening he will be leaving for the Nuclear Security Summit. I will try to schedule a later briefing to brief you on Prime Minister’s interventions at the Nuclear Security Summit. Thank you.

Question: Do you have a list of the names of the scientists?

Official Spokesperson: Yes, I think I can give you the names. Dr. France Cordova is the Director of the National Science Foundation of the United States. Dr. Fleming Crim is the Assistant Director (Mathematical and Physical Sciences), NSF; Ms. Rebecca Keiser, Head, Office of International Science and Engineering, NSF; Prof. David Reitze, he belongs to Caltech and he is the LIGO Director. The Indians were: Prof. Rana Adhikari, the lead experimenter on LIGO-Caltech; Ms. Nancy Agarwal, a young Indian origin scientist working on computation of LIGO data in MIT; and Mr. Karan Jani, a Postdoc Researcher in Georgia Tech working on LIGO.

Prime Minister in fact had this question, when the meeting began he said that you know I am just curious that when Einstein discovered this 100 years ago, how could he do so because he did not have the benefit of the modern technological aids and scientific instruments that present day scientists have. So he asked Karan, you tell me how could Einstein have done it? And Karan in fact said that I think Prime Minister that it is because Einstein had curiosity, he had self confidence, and he had a fantastic base in mathematics. Prime Minister quipped that this was a typical Gujarati answer!

Question: Is there a concern that could be expressed on this forum about what is called the lack of an independent regulatory authority when it comes to India’s own nuclear programme? Is that something that India has been faced with in the past editions of the Nuclear Security Summit?

Official Spokesperson: As I said, I am not going to be briefing you on the Nuclear Security Summit as yet. The summit is yet to begin. As I said, let the summit begin, let Prime Minister make his interventions and then I will do a detailed briefing on the Nuclear Security Summit.

Question: Just a report that has come in says that China has reportedly once again blocked India’s second attempt at proscribing Masood Azhar.

Official Spokesperson: As I said, this is not a general briefing where I am going to brief you on other issues unrelated to Prime Minister’s engagements here in Washington. There will be a time and place for that as well.

Question: Are there any other bilaterals slated for today?

Official Spokesperson: Today there is no other bilateral slated. There will be some pull asides when the Prime Minister attends the NSS and there will be some meetings tomorrow. I am not at liberty to disclose those till those meetings happen because many times there are scheduling issues and then people draw the wrong conclusions. So, let those meetings be scheduled, let them happen and then I will give you readouts on those.

Question: …(Inaudible)… what exactly is the intervention? When Indian Prime Minister will be intervening during the deliberations, what exactly is the context?

Official Spokesperson: Basically, as you know, there are three sessions in the NSS dealing with various aspects. There is going to be a scenario-based discussion also where you take a hypothetical situation involving nuclear terrorism and things like that. The Prime Minister will be outlining India’s roadmap, India’s vision and the measures India has taken to ensure nuclear safety and security.

Question: What are they likely to discuss at the NSS?

Official Spokesperson: As I said, this is not a briefing on the NSS, so I cannot tell you in advance.

Question: Just a logistical question. Will we be getting some of those remarks that Prime Minister makes?

Official Spokesperson: Most of these remarks are in closed session but I have worked out with the Prime Minister’s team that I will be tweeting relevant portions of Prime Minister’s intervention. I think that will be the best way. Of course you will have to wait for me to do the formal briefing to give you details beyond 140 characters.

Question: And for tomorrow as well, will he be making a speech which will be public?

Official Spokesperson: Basically, I think these are closed-door discussions. So, I do not think ...

Question: Will he be making an intervention tonight also?

Official Spokesperson: Yes, he will be intervening tonight as well.

Question: As far as this US-India civil nuclear agreement is concerned, is there more to be discussed about this or is this already done?

Official Spokesperson: The agreement is completely done. In fact the two governments have done their bit and now it is for the private players. As you know, Westinghouse is in discussions with NPCIL.

Question: But finally, Prime Minister or India has given a final to US companies to come up this year or the deal may go to someone else as far as land is concerned.

Official Spokesperson: As I said, now these are commercial negotiations and it is between the commercial entities. As far as the umbrella framework of the 123 Agreement is concerned, that is very much in place.

Thank you all.

(Concluded)



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