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Transcript of Virtual media briefing by JS (EW) on India-Netherlands virtual summit (April 09, 2021)

April 10, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us today evening on this very special media briefing following Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's virtual summit with the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Netherlands, His Excellency, Mr. Mark Rutte. To give a flavour of what were the discussions and what are the areas of cooperation, I have the pleasure of having with me today, the Joint Secretary looking after Western Europe in the Ministry of External Affairs, Shri Sandeep Chakravorty. May I first invite him to make an opening statement, and then we will take a few questions that we have received. Over to you Sandeep.

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW):
Thank you Arindam. Namaskar. Our high level engagements with Europe continues and despite the challenges of the pandemic, after the virtual summit with EU in July 2020, we have had virtual summits with Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, and today with Netherlands between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Mr. Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of Netherlands. This was the first high level interaction between the two countries after the state visit by the King and Queen of Netherlands to India in October 2019. The virtual summit was also among the first such summits, which took place after the general elections in Netherlands held in March 2021.

As you are aware, India and Netherlands have long standing warm and friendly relations based on shared values of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and historic bonds of friendship. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen the bilateral ties in particular sectors of trade and investment, water management, agriculture, food processing, smart cities and urban mobility, science and technology, renewable energy, public health and space. The highlight of the summit today was focused on water. As you know the Dutch are the world leaders in water management. 1/4th of their area is under sea level. They have successfully overcome the water related challenges and have tested technology solutions in delta management, flood control, desalination of soil, ports and inland waterways, water recycling as well as wastewater to energy conservation. They're also global maritime power. You are aware that water security is a higher priority of India. The government is focusing on promoting water efficiency, its quality and safety through flagship schemes and initiatives like the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, water to every farm campaign (har khet ko pani), Per drop more crop, Namami Gange Mission and then also the Jal Jeevan mission, and the recently Jal Shakti Abhiyan, which is Catch the rain campaign.

India and Netherlands have strong cooperation in the water sector. Few of the ongoing collaborations between the two countries which sets excellent example of the close association were also highlighted during the summit. These are the Dutch India water Alliance for Leadership Initiative, DIWALI, which is a platform for designing solutions to water challenges, and also Lotus HR which is local treatment of urban sewage streams for healthy reuse, which is being implemented in several cities, including in Delhi.

In order to further intensify the ongoing cooperation in water, and to bring greater coherence in the sector, the two leaders announced the launch of a strategic partnership on water. To start with they agreed to elevate the joint working group on water to ministerial level. They also discussed to broaden bilateral cooperation in new areas of water, including water budgeting, cost effective decentralised treatment technologies, converting wastewater to energy, application of AI in decision making, non-point pollution source assessment and abatement, mapping of ecosystem services, reclaiming river space basin protection against disasters and river hazard management.

If we talk about trade and investment, the Netherlands is the third largest investor in India in the year 2019-2020. And India is fifth largest trading partner in Europe in the year 2019- 2020. There are more than 200 Dutch companies in India and we also have almost the same number of Indian companies in Netherlands. After BREXIT, Netherlands is seen as a gateway to Europe. As you already know, Rotterdam port is the largest port in Europe and covers 40% of the European trade. To facilitate bilateral trade and to resolve issues of Dutch and Indian companies, both sides announced setting up of a fast track mechanism between the two countries. For Dutch companies and investors in India, it will be set up in the DPIIT. And for Indian companies in Netherlands, the Netherlands foreign investment agency will be responsible.

The two leaders also discussed the ongoing collaboration in agriculture, urban development and space. They reiterated that commitment to successfully complete the establishment of Centres of Excellence sanctioned under the Indo Dutch joint plan on agriculture, and demonstrated giant ambition to set up 25 more Centres of Excellence by the year 2025.

On this occasion, they also acknowledge the finalisation of the MOU between the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, and Delft University of Technology Netherlands for mutual cooperation. Prime Minister also suggested cooperation between India and Netherlands in millets, because in 2023, we will be commemorating the year of the millet and suggested establishment of a joint working group in this area.

Coming to regional and global issues, the two Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism and agreed to work together towards challenges of climate change, counterterrorism, SDGs and pandemic. They also discussed new areas of convergence, like the Indo Pacific, resilience supply chains and global digital governance. Prime Minister invited Dutch investment in the Productivity Linked Investment incentive scheme, which has been recently launched by the Government of India. As you are aware, the Netherlands is the third country in Europe after Germany and France to come up with its Indo Pacific guidelines. The two leaders emphasised on the close convergence between each other's vision for a free open and inclusive Indo Pacific. They agreed to work together with regional bodies to support maritime security, rule of law, freedom of navigation, overflight, and rules based international order. They also discussed climate change. Netherlands is already a member of the International Solar Alliance and CDRI and India's co-convener of the global Commission on climate adaptation led by Netherlands. They agreed to work closely in these platforms to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change. The two leaders also exchanged views on COVID-19, including vaccine solidarity and to combat the pandemic. They emphasised on the need to promote equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines to all countries. The Prime Minister of Netherlands welcomed India's ‘Vaccine Maitri’ programme and they also agreed to collaborate on joint development of vaccines. A group of Indian engineers are already in Netherlands to be soon part of the vaccine hub and to discuss technology transfer in vaccine production. The virtual summit aims to further deepen multifaceted bilateral cooperation between India and Netherlands. Prime Minister Rutte invited Prime Minister Modi to visit Netherlands. The two leaders also agreed to discuss or meet in the next interaction at the India-EU leaders meeting to take place in May 2021. A joint statement on the virtual summit has been released and we have also released a press account which will be there on MEA’s website. I will end by saying that the meeting was very cordial and there was a lot of bonhomie and Prime Minister Rutte has said on many occasions, that it was a difficult choice for him to select which ideas and which topics to talk about, because there was so much happening between India and Netherlands. He also expressed his desire to physically meet Prime Minister at an early date. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Sandeep, for a very comprehensive overview of today's virtual summit. You've touched on various topics and we also have some questions. Let me begin with water which you highlighted. We have the Deepanjan from ET, who asks, "What are the plans of India and Netherlands to form a mechanism on water partnership and how will it benefit the Jal Shakti Abhiyan”. Rezaul from HT asks "was there a discussion on new initiatives for water management?” We also have related to that clean ganga project. Huma from Financial Express asks, "what is the status of cleaning the Ganga project?” Pranay from ABP asks, "Bharat aur Netherlands ke beech Ganga ke shuddhikaran aur krishi ke liye, paanee kee aapoorti ke liye, DSTNWO ke beech takneekee sahayog ka ek aham samajhauta hua tha. Beete saal Corona mahaamaaree ke baad isske tahat aayojit kiye jaane vaale kriyaakalaap radd kar die gae the. Iss pariyojana kee maujooda sthiti kya hai aur is par donon desh kab tak aisa kaam karane kee sthiti mein pahunch sakenge jisaka jameen par badlaav najar aa sake?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) "There was an important agreement signed between India and Netherlands between DSTNWO for the purification of the Ganges and the supply of water for agriculture. The activities conducted under it were cancelled after the Corona Pandemic last year. What is the current status of the project and how long the two countries will be able to reach such a position, so that changes can be seen on the ground?”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW):
I'm very happy that there were so many questions on water, because as you may have noticed, the two leaders agreed to elevate our water relationship to a strategic partnership on water. So, as we are aware, Netherlands is a powerhouse as far as water technologies is concerned, whether it is wastewater, green water, grey water, black water, they seem to be in every domain relative to water. And there is a lot of interaction and cooperation between India and Netherlands in the water sector, whether it is through DST led scientific research programmes, whether it is through the education institutions like the Indian Institute of hydrology, or with the Ministry of Water Resources, or with state governments or on urban water management or on use of water in agriculture. So, there was diverse cooperation in the water sector, what the two sides agreed is that to bring coherence into our cooperation in the water sector. The first thing that they agreed to do is to elevate the JWG on water to the ministry level. So that will allow different streams to come together under Minister of Water Resources, Jal Shakti Mantri and then his counterpart on the Netherland side and then we will try to bring coherence into the water sector.

So, I would just reiterate that there was a lot of discussion on water and I think in the coming months when we are coming up with a strategy, there will be a process related strategy, and there will be a pillar and elements in the strategy of where all we will use Dutch expertize to strengthen our water management in the country. Pranay ka savaal krishi par tha, usmen saat Centre of excellence sthapit karne kee baat huee thee, 3 sthaapit ho gae hain aur jaisa ki hamane pahle bataaya is shikhar vaarta mein yeh nirnay liya gaya ki 2025 tak 25 is tareeke ke Centre of excellence sthaapit karenge tatha in Centre of excellence mein paanee ke prabandh ko lekar bahut kaam hoga aur kaise kam nivesh se ham jyaada utpaadan pa paenge krshi ke kshetr mein. Yeh kaaryakram kaafi lokapriya hai aur yah laazmi hai ki Covid ke chalte ismen thodee see rukaavat aa gaee thee lekin jaise situation mein sudhaar aaega ham ispe aur kaam karenge. (Answered in Hindi; App.Translation) Pranay's question was on agriculture, with the Centre of Excellence being talked about in the past, 3 have already been established and as we mentioned earlier, in this summit it was decided that by 2025, 25 such Centres of Excellence will be established and lot of work on the management of water will be done in these Centres of Excellence and we will be able to get more production with less investment. This program was very popular in the field of agriculture and it is but natural that there was a slight interruption in it due to Covid but as the situation will improve we will speed ​​up the work.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Sandeep. Moving on to a related area of agriculture and dairy products, Maha from CNN News18 ask, "in the field of agriculture is there anything that Netherlands believes it can share as far as best practices are concerned to improve yield, distribution and farmers’ incomes”. Huma from Financial Express asks, "did the two countries talk about cooperation in the agri and dairy sector?”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Again, very relevant Huma and Maha, I would like to refer you to para 11 and 12 of the joint statement, which goes into a great deal of detail of our agricultural cooperation, I already mentioned about the centres of excellence in agriculture. But in addition, there is a JWG on agriculture and there was appreciation by the Netherlands side on our farm reform movement and the need to increase agricultural incomes. Prime Minister as I said before suggested that we cooperate with the Netherlands in the International Millet year in 2023. So of course, agriculture is an important pillar of our cooperation and particularly the Dutch focus is on reducing water consumption in agriculture and to make sure that agricultural productivity is high and input costs are low. So this is an ongoing conversation and you will see much more activity in this sector in the coming months.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. Moving on now, to the issue of climate change in green technologies. Sidhant from WION ask, "how are India and Netherlands working together on climate change”. Pranay from ABP News asks, "Netherlands ke saath hui shikhar vaarta mein satat urja vikalpon aur harit takneekon tak bharat kee pahunch sugam banaane ke liye kin nayi nivesh sambhaavanaon par baat huee? Kya iske maadhyam se behatar Dutch praudyogi bhaarat ko haasil ho sakegee?” (Questioned in Hindi; App.translation) In the summit with the Netherlands, investment possibilities were discussed to facilitate India's access to renewable energy and green technology options. Can India access better Dutch technology through this?

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Again, a very important pillar of cooperation between India and Netherlands in particular and Europe in general is climate action. I would refer you to the Paras 29, 30, 31 of the joint statement where a great deal of detail has been mentioned. You will recall that Prime Minister address the climate adaptation summit earlier this year, which was hosted by the Netherlands and the Netherlands’ Prime Minister spoke in great detail about India's important contribution to the global fight against climate change and he appreciated the renewable energy targets that we are meeting and he said that, you know, they look forward to supporting India achieving its renewable energy goals and complemented Indian innovation and enterprise for reducing cost of renewable energy in India and Prime Minister's initiative of establishing the International Solar Alliance. As you may know, the Dutch were not members of the CDRI, and they have recently joined the CDRI, which is again an important platform in our fight on climate adaptation. The Dutch Prime Minister mentioned interest of Dutch companies in the renewable energy sector, particularly in offshore wind, and he said that India and Netherlands should work together in meeting climate goals. He also looked forward to a close cooperation with India in achieving success of COP 26 which will be held later in the year in the UK.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. Regarding the topical issue of COVID and vaccines Sidhant from WION asks, "how has been the cooperation between the two countries as regards the COVID pandemic and vaccines?” Maha from CNN News18 asks, "Netherlands had suspended the use of Astrazeneca COVID vaccine, and India was reportedly studying the adverse impact reports from Europe and Canada. Did the issue of COVID-19 vaccines in this context come up?”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Yes, COVID 19 cooperation and vaccines were discussed in substantial detail. The Dutch Prime Minister appreciated India's contribution and in the global fight against COVID in the earlier phases with supply of pharmaceuticals and PPE’s and now with the vaccines. He specifically mentioned India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ programme and complemented Indian enterprise and innovation and the fact that India produces at least two vaccines and several vaccines are in the pipeline. He also said that the Indian company is present in Netherlands and Indian engineers have reached to Netherlands and they are going to set up a European vaccine hub in Netherlands. So, work is ongoing then as you know Serum Institute of India acquired a Dutch company, Bilthoven, a few years back, and that is now going to become another vaccine manufacturing hub in the Netherlands. So, a great deal of discussion was held also, the two sides spoke about the difficult times that we faced last year when Indian nationals were stranded in the Netherlands and Netherlands nationals were stranded in India and how the two countries worked together and the Prime Minister of Netherlands thanked our Prime Minister for the cooperation they received in repatriation of the nationals of each other's countries and also the successful running of the air bubble with Netherlands. So a great deal of discussion on this topical subject and both sides agreed that once the COVID pandemic situation abets, they will work on preventing similar pandemics to come and to work together to see that the future pandemics can be tackled jointly.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: On the political side Sidhant from WION would like to know, Was Myanmar discussed between the two sides?

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW):
In the context of the regional issues Prime Minister briefed Prime Minister of Netherlands on several countries in our region and I think the Prime Minister of Netherlands appreciated our briefing and understood our rationale for the way we deal with our neighbours.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: We have a couple of questions related to business and trade and investment, particularly in the India EU context. Jai Prakash from Dainik Jagran asks, "how supportive is Netherlands for an India- EU FTA. What would be the impact on our bilateral trade after such an India- EU FTA.” Rezaul from HT asks "In the run up to the India- EU summit did the two sides discuss trade and investment agreements.”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Netherlands is an important player in the EU and it is our third largest investor and India also is an investor in the Netherlands and our trade relationship is also very robust trade in 2019 was of the tune of $11 billion. And EU as you know, is our largest trading partner. And Netherlands carries a lot of weight in the EU system. And of course, the India- EU leaders meeting coming up next month was discussed and prime ministers offered help in success of the meeting. And we expressed the hope that in the summit or the meeting that will take place in Porto, there will be resumption of negotiations for the India- EU trade agreement and the investment agreement. And the Dutch Prime Minister was appreciative of this and said that it is important that both India and the EU have these agreements in place to incentivize more trade and investment in each other's countries.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. And the final set of questions relates to Indo Pacific. Sidhant from WION asks, "how do you see Netherlands focus on the Indo Pacific? Was this discussed during the summit?” Deepanjan from ET asks, "did the two leaders discuss Indo Pacific cooperation and what will be the contours of India Dutch partnership in the Indo Pacific region that can help in rules based international order and resilient supply chains?”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): There were several references to the Indo Pacific, as you are aware, Netherlands is the third country in Europe after France and Germany to come up with their Indo Pacific policy. Prime Minister Rutte mentioned that with France and Germany, they are working with the EU to come up with EU’s Indo Pacific strategy and said that in any Indo Pacific strategy, India is going to have a critical role and appreciated India's importance in the Indo Pacific context and mentioned the convergences that exist between the Dutch Indo Pacific policy and India's own Indo Pacific oceans initiative. As you are aware, the Netherlands Indo Pacific policy is very India centric and also urges EU to engage in the Indo Pacific. Prime Minister Rutte also mentioned that in the coming months, a Dutch frigate will come on a voyage to the Indo Pacific and will exercise with the Indian Navy, and perhaps make port calls in India. So basically, in a nutshell, the Dutch are looking forward to engagement with India in their Indo Pacific construct.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: That brings us to the end of this special briefing after today's virtual summit between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Mr. Mark Rutte. I would like to particularly thank Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (Europe West) in the Ministry of External Affairs for a very detailed presentation as well as taking large number of questions on this important event. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for joining us. Good evening.

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