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Transcript of media briefing by Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to Germany

April 08, 2013

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here today for this special briefing on the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to Germany.

We have here with us Foreign Secretary who will make a few opening remarks and then the floor will be open for questions. Along with Foreign Secretary we also have Additional Secretary (Europe West), Ms Ruchi Ghanashyam, who will assist the Foreign Secretary. If you have any specific questions you can also direct them to her.

Now without much ado I will ask Foreign Secretary to make his opening remarks.

Foreign Secretary (Shri Ranjan Mathai): Thank you.

Prime Minister will be paying a bilateral visit to Germany from 10th to 12th April to participate in the second round of Intergovernmental Consultations with Germany. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including Ministers and senior officials. India has this form of engagement – the Intergovernmental Consultations - only with Germany.

The first round of the Indo-German Intergovernmental Consultations took place in New Delhi on May 31, 2011. And from Germany’s side, in Asia the Intergovernmental Consultation format is used with only two other countries and they are Israel and China. Germany also has such meetings with its other European partners.

Chancellor Merkel when she came to India in 2011 was accompanied by five of her key Cabinet Ministers and three Ministers of State. The idea of the Intergovernmental Consultations is for Indian and German Ministers to meet and discuss their respective areas of cooperation and thereafter to report to the two Heads of Government on the progress achieved and the plans for the future in their respective areas. In addition to the Ministers accompanying PM, the National Security Advisor who will be part of the Delegation will address security-related issues and hold a strategic dialogue. In the course of his visit, Prime Minister will also symbolically bring what is called the ‘Days of India in Germany’, which is a long series of events in that country, to a close.

India and Germany decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our diplomatic relations between the two countries, they were established in 1951, through year-long festivals in each other’s countries. Chancellor Merkel did the soft launch of the ‘German Year in India’ on May 31st, as I said, when she was here. The ‘Days of India in Germany’ was launched the next year on May 11, 2012 in Hamburg when Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister Shri Anand Sharma was present at the Hamburg port. On that day they were also celebrating the 823rd anniversary of the port itself. The ‘Days of India in Germany’ festival had four focus areas – Trade and Investment, Science and Technology, Education including Vocational Education, and Culture. A series of events were held all over Germany in each of these areas.

PM will also call on the President of Germany, President Gauck. Relations between India and Germany have traditionally been cordial and close. Bilateral relations were upgraded to the level of strategic partnership in May 2000 during the visit of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to India after an Agenda for Indo-German Partnership for the 21st Century was agreed on.

In the last two decades the economic relationship has expanded manifold. India and Germany had set a trade target of Euros 20 billion to be achieved by 2012. We came very close to this target in the last year but there has been a slowdown which had its impact and in fact in 2012 our trade contracted by around ten per cent.

Germany is also a significant investor in India. It is the eighth largest foreign direct investor in India and it is a crucial source of technology in several areas. I would say that our cooperation in the area of science and technology is one of the central pillars of our strategic partnership. There are at present more than 150 joint S&T projects and 70 direct partnerships between Indian and German universities in the filed of science and technology. Cooperation in this particular field has emerged as a focus area for both our countries.

India and Germany also have an expanding relationship in the field of education, especially vocational education and training, an area in which German expertise is well recognized. The German scholarly tradition has also played a major role in introducing Indian art, culture, literature and philosophy to a wider world.

We look forward to discussions on various issues pertaining to our relationship, and we believe the second round of Intergovernmental Consultations will be another landmark in our relationship with Germany, which is growing swiftly in several important areas. Thank you.

Question: Sir, would any agreements be signed during this visit and if so what are the areas in which those agreements will be signed? Secondly, would a discussion on free trade agreement with the EU form part of the agenda? The Germans are saying they want a compromise on the issue of import duty on their luxury cars. What is the thinking in India about this?

Foreign Secretary: As I said, we have made progress in a number of areas of bilateral cooperation and we will be entering into some agreements and memoranda of understanding. The full details will be available when we complete the visit. But broadly the agreements would be in the areas of education including vocational education, science and technology, and clean energy. These will be the three areas. As far as the trade and investment agreement with the EU is concerned, we are of the view that the early conclusion of the India-EU agreement would open up new economic opportunities for both sides, and certainly that applies to the way in which we approach our economic engagement with Germany. Our negotiations have reached an advanced stage. In fact I am informed that there will be another round of negotiations in Brussels perhaps around the 15th of April, and that is when the negotiations will be taken forward. But we certainly will be discussing the matter with the German side. We expect a strong political thrust from Germany for an early conclusion of the agreement. Certainly the issue of cars is one of those which will be discussed by our side with the EU counterparts in Brussels.

Question: Is defence going to be on the agenda then? If so, what would be discussed on defence?

Foreign Secretary: In the sense that defence is part of the overall relationship. The Defence Ministers will not be participating in the IGC itself. But of course in the discussions with the Germans there would be a reference to the fact that we do have a fairly substantive defence relationship between our two countries. But formally on the agenda perhaps no, because the composition of the delegations on the two sides are focused on the issues which they will be taking up.

But broadly I would mention that Germany is a participant, we had a defence agreement with Germany, as you may recall in 2006 and since that time there is a regular system of consultations and dialogues between our two Ministries. And there is a Higher Defence Council which is headed by the Defence Secretaries of the two sides. So, that is the place where most of the discussions on defence take place. In our Joint Statement there is a reference to defence technology cooperation between the two countries.

Question: Three, four years ago I remember reading in the papers that India made an offer of five or ten billion Euros to the European Union when they were going through a financial problem. What is the status of that? Did they use it? Secondly, the last time one was in Berlin one saw lots of Indian students doing a diploma in Max Mueller Bhavan in Pune and find admission in universities in Berlin and other places. And because they get a bursary or the university administration would help them make enough money, they continue to be students for years and years. Does that still continue? Are you in a position to say something about that?

Foreign Secretary: On the second, I will say definitely not. When I come back from Germany I may be able to share my experiences with you. But I will say that the Germans have given a great deal of emphasis to cooperation in the field of education and certainly the pattern of students going for education particularly in the field of science and technology, higher technology courses, has been quite … I am not aware of the specifics which you are referring to of their bursaries continuing indefinitely. It does not sound very much like the German pattern of keeping control over these things. But I will certainly come back with better information on this.

I believe what you are referring to was an IMF facility which our Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, during an IMF meeting had looked at. Yes, we made a commitment but that was not a specific contribution but making available a facility should it become necessary. That was I think only a year and a half ago.

Question: Is daure ke dauran kya G4 par baat-cheet hogi? Aur Italy ke virodh ko le kar kya Germany se koi baat-cheet hogi?

Foreign Secretary: Yes, the G4 proposal will be discussed. The External Affairs Minister will in fact be reaching Germany before the Intergovernmental Consultations for a separate bilateral meeting, before he joins the IGC. And certainly in that this subject will come up as to how we can jointly take forward the G4 proposal. And while considering the G4 proposal we will of course be looking at the modalities in which it can be taken forward, which means also considering ways in which we can deal with those groups within the UN system who have a different view.

Question: What is the status of our nuclear negotiations with the Germans? Is this a part of the Intergovernmental Consultations? Is the nuclear cooperation kind of thing not on the anvil?

Foreign Secretary: It is not a part. It is not being discussed.

Question: Germans are masters in heavy machinery and infrastructure building technology. Are they willing to share the expertise with us or transfer their expertise to us?

Foreign Secretary: Certainly there have been between our companies and German companies very many transfer of technology agreements over the years. We have also made presentations to the German side on investment possibilities in India including in the field of infrastructure.

Interestingly the MD of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) was in Germany about two or three weeks ago and he made a series of presentations on the scope and the potential of the DMIC as a good area for investment, particularly in the infrastructure industries and technology-intensive industries for Germany. Though, as you know, the DMIC is being constructed as a collaborative venture with Japan, but certainly the townships which will come up in the corridor will be areas of possibilities for cooperation with many foreign partners. And certainly Germany is one of those whom we have been targeting very specifically. I myself did a small presentation to a group of Germans here on the DMIC a year ago. And following the visit of, as I said the DMIC MD, this will be taken forward.

Certainly in the area of science and technology, one of the focus areas for our attention is high technology and bringing high technology from Germany to India. We have a Joint Working Group between the two countries on heavy industry. One of the new themes which are being talked about is electric mobility. Actually what it means is electric transport. The Germans have done a lot of advanced work on new forms of transport using electrical power transmissions. So, I think there is good potential for technology transfer from Germany.

Question: On trade, last year there was a decline in trade. The FTA with EU has been lingering. Can we expect something at bilateral level to boost the trade?

Foreign Secretary: I think in fact the trade was growing very rapidly till last year, in fact very substantially. As I said, the target of 20 billion Euro had almost been achieved. We will certainly look to bilateral elements in the trading relationship, as I said, through the technology transfers, through investments which will accelerate trade also. But the BTIA will be an additional feature to push forward our trade relationship. May be you would like to add something.

Additional Secretary (Europe West)(Ms Ruchi Ghanashyam): During the ‘Days of India in Germany’, a number of trade promotion events have also been held which also we hope will add to the Indo-German trade efforts.

Question: There has been some concern in India about the austerity measures that Germany is imposing or has been able to sell to the rest of the European Union because this is starting to affect our trade exports and our current account deficit. Will we be raising concerns about German macroeconomic policies and Eurozone?

Foreign Secretary: The situation in the Eurozone will certainly form part of the discussions between the Prime Minister and Chancellor Merkel. Whether it can be put specifically in those terms, I am not quite so sure. But certainly our focus in the G20 whenever we have met has been that the need of the hour is in fact to get growth back on track. And I think that would be the emphasis in our discussions including matters relating to Eurozone and macroeconomic policy.

Question: Are we on the same page in terms of how growth should be revived?

Foreign Secretary: In the G20 forum, yes, I think broadly there is agreement on the possibilities of expanding growth globally, and the countries in the Eurozone certainly have to play their own part in that.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Question: Yes, definitely Afghanistan will be featuring in the discussions. We have had interesting exchanges with Germany. As you know, Germany is a part of the ISAF and it has had a contingent in Mazar in the past. As the drawdown continues Germany like the other countries would like to ensure that the future of Afghanistan is not marked by uncertainty and instability. So, there would be a good scope for discussion on what it is we need to do politically and in the field of economic support to the Government of Afghanistan to maintain an area of stability.

Question: Germany is one of the few stable countries inside Eurozone. They are major investors abroad. But as far as investments into India are concerned, by their own admission Germans say it is not up to the mark. So, during the bilateral talks, what are the measures that both the countries could discuss or will be discussing to promote inbound investments into India?

Foreign Secretary: Certainly the Prime Minister would use the opportunity of his discussions with the German Chancellor and in the Intergovernmental Consultations to clarify the steps taken by India to improve the investment climate in our country and to emphasize that the reform process is on track and that a number of steps have been taken including setting up a Cabinet Committee on Investment. The kind of measures which the Government has already taken. I cannot second guess what the Prime Minister might say about the future - that I will be able to brief you when we come back - but certainly the very large number of steps which we have taken in the past would be clarified. And we would hope the Germans would take due note of these changes.

I may also mention that as part of the investment promotion, we have also had a series of visits abroad by the Finance Minister to a number of countries. So, this is part of an ongoing engagement with the world at large and we certainly do regard Germany - Europe as a whole but Germany specifically - as potentially a country which could invest much more heavily in India.

Question: Sir, already some apprehensions or concerns have been expressed over the proposed India-EU agreement both from some political parties as well as from a section of the industry, specifically on the dairy products. Can you assure that both the concerns are being duly addressed during the negotiations?

Foreign Secretary: Yes, absolutely. I can say that whatever are the requirements to protect India’s interests, those will be taken. I am not specifically aware of the concerns you mentioned relating to dairy, but we did have a discussion regarding pharmaceuticals which had been mentioned in some press articles. We must state that the Ministry of Commerce which is leading these negotiations is fully aware of the requirements which we have under the TRIPS and that will be the basis on which we proceed.

Question: Sir, Germany appears to be keen to do something in the renewable energy sector in India and apparently some discussions are on on Green Energy Corridors in India. Could you give us some details on that?

Foreign Secretary: They have been interested in supporting the Green Energy Corridors which is a scheme to permit the transmission of power renewable energy sources through the grid so that you connect up these sources. I believe there is a figure of one billion Euros which has been committed to supporting Green Energy Corridors over a period of years. These will of course be taken up case by case by the industries concerned. But Germany, yes, is keen to support the concept of Green Energy Corridors.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: What I said is that nothing has been formally signed yet but this is the kind of discussions which have been held.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: As I mentioned, the External Affairs Minister would be there. Commerce, Industries and Textile Minister would be part of the delegation. Minister for Science and Technology Shri Jaipal Reddy, Minister for New and Renewable Energy Shri Farooq Abdullah, Minister for Human Resource Development Shri Pallam Raju will be part of the delegation.

Question: Nearly entire Europe is economically sinking except Germany. Is there any paradigm shift in our foreign strategy?Foreign Secretary: I am not sure the whole of Europe is sinking when we had very fruitful discussions both with the President of France who certainly did not convey that his country was sinking. I think this is a matter of perception. The slowdown in growth is a matter of concern certainly. But I think it would be difficult to conclude that the whole of Europe is sinking.

Official Spokesperson: Foreign Secretary has agreed that he will answer a couple of more questions on anything else.

Question: Sir, I just wanted to know your reaction to the New York Times’ story today about this secret deal between the United States and Pakistan on drone strikes, that the Pakistanis will allow these drone strikes to happen as long as they avoided the terror training camps in POK.

Foreign Secretary: We will need to see whether this report is in fact authentic.

Question: Was the Government caught unawares on this situation that there was a secret deal between the US and Pakistan? And what is the Government’s prognosis on the situation?

Foreign Secretary: As I said, this is a newspaper article and it needs to be substantiated. At this stage it would be speculative for me to comment beyond that.

Question: Sir, London mein ek Indian couple hai unke bachhe ko school authorities ne jhoothe aarop laga kar ki the father molests the child usko Social Services Authority to saump diya hai. And the couple wants the Indian Foreign Ministry to intervene. In fact I spoke about this to you on Saturday also. Is there any reaction to that, Sir?

Foreign Secretary: I do not think we have received anything directly from the couple but we are awaiting a report from our High Commission. We are aware of it and certainly we have seen the same reports which you have. So, we are awaiting a detailed report from our High Commission as to what exactly is the situation and what can be done.

Question: Sir, as you know there is much anxiety about the Nitaqat law which is being implemented in Saudi Arabia. Can you say at what stage are the discussions with the Saudis and whether a Ministers’ team will visit Saudi?

Foreign Secretary: I think at this point the Minister for Labour under whose charge it comes in Saudi Arabia, is not in the country. He should be back perhaps in a week’s time at which point we will take up a proposal for a discussion with him at Ministerial level. Question: How do you view the evolving situation in Korean peninsula?

Foreign Secretary: We have expressed our views earlier on two occasions when a missile launch took place and when North Korea carried out a nuclear explosion, very strongly criticizing those actions and asking North Korea to ensure that it did not take steps which would create further tension and instability in that region. We are watching the situation very carefully. My colleague the Joint Secretary dealing with East Asia was in fact in North Korea, he has just come back. We will conduct a review as to what exactly is the situation and what do we need to do.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this interaction.

(Concluded)

New Delhi
April 8, 2013




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