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Briefing by Secretary (West) on PM’s visit to Pretoria for IBSA Summit

October 12, 2011

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vishnu Prakash): Good evening. Welcome back. Good to see all of you.

The Prime Minister of India would be leaving for Pretoria on the 17th of October to participate in the IBSA Summit. Secretary (West) Mr. M. Ganapathi is here to brief you about the visit of the Prime Minister of India. He is joined by two of my colleagues. To his right is Mr. Ravi Bangar who has recently taken over as Joint Secretary (Multilateral Economic Relations). And to my left is Mr. Charan Jeet Singh who is the Director in the same Division. I will invite Secretary (West) to make his opening statement. Thereafter he will be happy to take a few questions.

Secretary (West) (Shri M. Ganapathi): Thank you, Vishnu. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media. It is a pleasure to address you today afternoon and I am very happy that my colleagues Mr. Vishnu Prakash, Joint Secretary (XP), Mr. Ravi Bangar, Joint Secretary (MER), and Mr. Charan Jeet Singh, Director (MER) are here.

As Vishnu mentioned, Hon. Prime Minister is leading a delegation to the Fifth IBSA Summit which will take place in Pretoria, South Africa on Tuesday, October 18, 2011. The Prime Minister's official delegation includes the External Affairs Minister Shri S.M. Krishna; the Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Anand Sharma; the National Security Advisor Shri Shivshankar Menon; the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Mr. Pulok Chatterjee; Secretary (W), MEA; the Media Advisor to the Prime Minister; and other senior officials.

The Summit will be chaired by His Excellency Mr. Jacob Zuma, the President of the Republic of South Africa. The President of Brazil Mr. Dilma Rousseff will also be participating. The format of the Summit envisages a restricted working meeting over lunch followed by a plenary meeting between the three leaders on, as I said, the 18th of October.

IBSA came into being as a Dialogue Forum in June, 2003 at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India, Brazil and South Africa. The first IBSA Summit took place in September, 2006 in Brazil. There were three subsequent Summits which took place in Pretoria in October 2007, in New Delhi in October 2008, and in Brazil in April 2010.

In the run up to the current Fifth IBSA Summit, the Focal Point Meetings of senior officials will take place in Pretoria on October 14, 2011, day after. The Foreign Ministers of the three IBSA countries will hold their Ministerial Dialogue on October 17, 2011 which will be followed by the IBSA Summit proper on October 18, 2011.

IBSA is a unique forum which brings together three large democracies from three different continents, which are Asia, Africa and the Americas, facing common aspirations and challenges. India, Brazil and South Africa are pluralistic societies and developing nations. The three countries occupy an important position in their respective regions as also globally. They are all members of the G20, BRICS and BASIC group of countries.

Cooperation in IBSA is perceived on three broad fronts. These include: (1) as a forum for consultation and coordination on significant political issues; (2) it is seen as an instrument for trilateral collaboration on concrete areas and projects through sixteen Working Groups and six People-to-People Forum; and (3) IBSA is involved in assisting other developing countries by developing projects in these countries through the IBSA Trust Fund.

The IBSA Working Groups include those relating to Agriculture, economic (which is trade and industry), social development, education, environment, information society, public service administration, human settlement, transport, defence, energy, science and technology, health, heads of revenue administration, culture and tourism. The six People-to-People fora (or the civil society fora) include the Academic Forum, the Editors Forum, the Local Government Forum, the Parliamentary Forum, Small Business Forum and the Women's Forum.

Some of the Working Groups have already held their sessions and some Working Group meetings are on going. The meeting of the Women's Forum is currently being held in Durban, currently meaning tomorrow and day after. Our Minister of State for Women and Child Development (Independent Charge) Shrimati Krishna Tirath has just arrived in Johannesburg, maybe a little while ago. The Business Form will meet in Durban on October 16 and 17, 2011. And the Indian Delegation is led by Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Anand Sharma.

Thus, in the run up to the IBSA Summit, we would notice that the Working Groups and the People-to-People or Civil Society Forum would have already held their meetings. This would naturally engage the leaders comprehensively during the Summit.

To further concretize cooperation among themselves, the meeting of the senior officials, or the focal point as it is called, in New York on September 22, 2011 identified areas which will be led by the three concerned countries. This would include India overseeing cooperation in health and science and technology including space sciences and applications; Brazil will oversee agriculture and environment; and South Africa will oversee trade and investment and tourism.

The outcome of the discussions in the Working Groups and the different fora will be reported to the leaders during the Summit plenary session. The leaders will address a press conference following the plenary meeting.

A trilateral India-Brazil-South Africa MoU for cooperation among the diplomatic academies of the three countries will be signed in the presence of the leaders of the three countries.

I should mention the laudable steps taken by the IBSA Trust Fund aimed at identifying and executing replicable and scalable projects in developing countries for capacity building. Projects have been conceived in Haiti, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Burundi, Palestine, Cambodia, Laos, Sierra Leone, Vietnam, Sudan and South Sudan. IBSA works in close coordination with the UNDP in monitoring and delivering these projects.

The IBSA process has contributed significantly to a positive feeling of friendship and working atmosphere at the level of the leadership, Government officials and popular levels of the three countries. More importantly, IBSA today is seen as an important forum by various international and regional organisations. The success of IBSA has a demonstrative effect by most vividly reflecting the fact that South-South cooperation is feasible and possible beyond the conventional areas of exchange of experts and training. IBSA's active engagement in contributing to solutions for issues of a global nature, would also demonstrate the significance and importance to developing countries of the utility of engaging themselves with countries of the South.

The IBSA Summit this year is taking place against an important background. All the three countries India, Brazil South Africa are non-permanent members of the UN Security Council at this point in time. You would recall the visit of an IBSA delegation to Syria a couple of months ago and coordination of the position of the IBSA countries in the vote on the Syria Resolution in the UNSC.

Bilateral meetings between Prime Minister and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and Prime Minister and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil are envisaged during the visit to Pretoria. This will be an opportunity for the leaders to review the current state of bilateral relations and look towards the road ahead.

Thank you and I am ready to take your questions.

Question: Mr. Ganapathi, this is a larger question on IBSA. Now that the BRIC has been expanded to BRICS, is IBSA still relevant, and how?

Secretary (West): The most important we should understand is IBSA brings together an important country from each of the three continents - Asia, Africa and the Americas. The relevance of this organisation was evidently felt by the visit of the IBSA countries to Syria, as I mentioned, and by the coordination of the positions during the Syria vote. Importantly, all the three countries have a harmonised position on a series of issues which naturally will be reflected in the Joint Declaration which will be issued after the IBSA Summit in Pretoria. So, you cannot do away with the relevance of IBSA and IBSA will continue to be relevant in the days to come.

Question: Mr. Ganapathi, there has been talk among members of IBSA and BRICS on the need for finding a reformed global governance in economic affairs, and there was a hunt for an alternative to the US dollar. What is the latest on that? Is there any move? In the last BRICS Summit in China you had a meeting where the possibility of the intra-BRICS trading in local currencies and all that. Is this likely to figure in the IBSA meeting in Pretoria?

Secretary (West): I think one of the important issues which will naturally figure in the IBSA Summit would be the current global and financial situation. Everyone agrees that the situation is not as easy as it was and it is fairly complicated and difficult. The three leaders have had a series of engagements before. And obviously, the entire scenario as it presents itself from a global financial and economical angle and possible steps to be taken forward would be touched upon. It is also significant that within a month's time, the three leaders will also meet in the G20 Forum. So, it is relevant and it will be taken forward.

Question: What are the immediate advantages India is hoping to gain from IBSA, specifically strategic, from …(Unclear)… and from this session?

Secretary (West): I think we should start by looking at the bilateral relations between India-South Africa and India-Brazil. Fairly healthy. A very good trade turnover of around 7.5 billion dollars between India-South Africa and India-Brazil, and coordination of positions internationally, globally and on regional issues. So, obviously when you look at the totality of the situation, be it the political discussions or discussions from an economic and financial point of view, it is going to be a useful engagement between the leaders of the three countries.

Question: You mentioned about the three countries being non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. Earlier this month there was a resolution which the US tried to bulldoze and the three countries came together and blocked it, and it led to the first ever walkout by the US in a Security Council meeting. So, do you think there is going to be a more coordinated strategy in terms of how you deal with the Security Council now that India is also the chair of the ...

Secretary (West): As I put it, I think one of the first and single most objective of IBSA has been seen as a forum for consultation and coordination on significant political issues. And in that context, if you had looked at the relevant declarations which have been issued by IBSA in all the four previous summits, there has been a healthy chapter on political issues of the day in which the summits took place, and also looking beyond as to how the IBSA countries and the leaders will look at global issues. Obviously, the visit to Syria by the IBSA representatives and the frequent exchange of views on the UNSC vote was itself an important indicator of the fact that the IBSA permanent representatives, IBSA officials, and IBSA leaders would like to take forward their engagement and cooperation in these areas.

Official Spokesperson: And by no means does IBSA aim at ganging up, as you said, against any country or organisation. As Secretary (West) has mentioned in his opening remarks, IBSA is a grouping or a forum of likeminded countries - three developing countries, three pluralistic societies, three democratic societies representing three continents. So, in a number of areas there is a natural convergence of positions. And whenever there is a convergence of positions that obviously gets articulated. But let us be very clear about the role of IBSA.

Question: Defence is also one of the areas of cooperation. In what way are they cooperating in defence?

Secretary (West): Right now in South Africa we have the Working Group on Defence Cooperation also meeting. I think they are meeting today and tomorrow if I am not wrong. Primarily exchange of views on the situation globally, exchange of views on the current state of the strategic interplay. And one of the important outcomes of the defence cooperation was the IBSAMAR, that is, IBSA Maritime Cooperation which took place on the seaboard of South Africa last year I think where the navies of the three countries have participated. Again I will take on from what Vishnu said. This is promoting intra-IBSA cooperation to the security interests of the three countries and moving forward.

Question: Sir, is there any plan to include new members in IBSA?

Secretary (West): Right now we have had four summits and the fifth is going to take place. Each of these summits has been successful. The current state of play factors in on the meeting of the three leaders of the three countries – India, Brazil, and South Africa.

Question: Is there any proposal?

Secretary (West): I think it is the three countries right now – India, Brazil, South Africa – and no proposal.

Question: This organisation is intended for the South-South cooperation. I wonder what kind of a concept you have when you talk of South. Compared to 20, 30 years ago, I do not think there is no more North-South problem. What do you think when you use the word?

Secretary (West): I think when you talk of South it is developing countries. It is not the geographical North or the geographical South. It is also in an economic scale the South comes down. So, obviously I think it is the developing countries' forum and these three countries, as we mentioned in the preamble itself when we started staying, are developing countries where there are similarities of their stages of development, similarities in approach to various issues be it on political, economic, or financial fronts. And that is why it brings them together.

That is why when they also talk of the IBSA Trust Fund, they look at countries of the South from the developing world to see how we can assist them in their development, growth, and alleviation of poverty and other related problems.

Question: Mr. Obama has said India has risen already.

Secretary (West): When we rise, we also have to rise with the others; we have to take the others with us.

Official Spokesperson: Also there is no contradiction. Certainly we are rising, certainly we are growing, certainly we are developing. But all that Secretary West has said is basically, that Japan is a developed country or if you like to accept this categorisation - it is North. We are talking here of developing countries and the developed countries, the OECD countries and the developing countries. The three countries in question are economically developing countries, but certainly rising, economically developing countries, if you please.

Question: Sir, the Prime Minister as recently as yesterday talked about the troubles that the global powers are facing economically, financial troubles and said that India should independently evolve its strategies. Will this be the kind of a view we carry forward to the IBSA effort and what would be the plan?

Secretary (West): In various global fora I think the Prime Minister's views are learnt with great attention and respect. Obviously when the Prime Minister speaks of economic problems and how to address them, he will make a presentation because this was a subject which will form the text and tenet of the discussions. Now obviously he will present his views and they will be listened to with great attention. Obviously first will be IBSA and then we go on to G20.

Question: Sir, any affirmation by Brazil or South Africa on India's permanent membership of the UNSC?

Secretary (West): I think India and Brazil are part of the G4. And with South Africa we have had engagements on this and there has been support.

Question: Just a quick question on the IBSA Trust Fund. How much money is in that Fund?

Secretary (West): The three leaders agreed to the contribution of a million dollars from each of the countries over the last five years. Two projects have been successfully completed which are in Haiti and in Palestine, and it is ongoing.

Question: Is more funding expected?

Secretary (West): It is annual contribution as I mentioned.

Question: A million dollars every year, is that right?

Secretary (West): That was what was announced in the Second Summit.

Question: Carrying on with the defence question, Sir, were there any talks of cooperation in counterterrorism activities and intelligence sharing as well?

Secretary (West): This is an area of interest for all the three countries in terms of tackling organised crime, tackling issues which undermine the established nature of democratic states. So, obviously this would be discussed in the Defence Working Group among the three countries.

Question: Mr. Ganapathi, there have been some studies several years ago which suggested that Indian exports to South America using South African ports could reduce the transportation costs by 40 to 50 per cent. Given the fact that now IBSA is a tricontinental collaborative effort, is there any proposal to increase or enhance maritime connectivity between these three great continents?

Secretary (West): In fact one of the working groups, the Transport Working Group, has been touching up on this. In that there is a subgroup which has discussed this aspect of maritime cooperation and transport cooperation. Of course what would have happened twenty years ago is totally different from a situation today. I think you need intermediate points but you can also go directly. So, this is an issue which has been touched upon.

Question: Mr. Ganapathi, a runoff from the earlier question. Will it be correct to say that Japan and Vietnam have shown interest in joining IBSA, are they being considered?

Secretary (West): I am not aware of any countries asking to join IBSA. As I said, a takeoff from the earlier questions and a response to earlier answer, it is as of date and the Fifth Summit and beyond, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much.
(Concluded)

New Delhi
October 12, 2011



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