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Foreign Secretary’s media interaction on conclusion of New Delhi Sherpa Meeting

January 17, 2012

Director (External Publicity) (Shri Sailas Thangal): Good afternoon friends. We have with us the Foreign Secretary, Shri Ranjan Mathai, to brief us on the Nuclear Security Summit Sherpas Meeting which has just concluded today. Also, we have Mr. Venkatesh Verma who is Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.

As usual, the Foreign Secretary will make his opening remarks after which he will take a few questions. Sir, the floor is yours.

Foreign Secretary (Shri Ranjan Mathai): Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending this media interaction which we sought to talk about the Nuclear Security Summit's Sherpas Meeting.

As you are aware, a meeting of the Sherpas for the 2nd Nuclear Security Summit was held in the Vigyan Bhawan on the 16th and 17th January and it concluded its work just a few minutes ago. The meeting was attended by 49 participating countries and four international organizations. You would be aware that 46 countries had participated in the First Nuclear Security Summit that was held in Washington in April 2010. The Republic of Korea as the host of the Second Summit which will be in held in Seoul on March 26th and 27th of this year, has invited three new participants - Denmark, Lithuania, and Azerbaijan. Of these, Denmark and Lithuania sent representatives to the New Delhi Sherpa Meeting. The four international organizations are the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Interpol and the European Union.

The main agenda of the Sherpa meeting, which was co-chaired by the next Chair which is Republic of Korea and the previous Chair the United States, was the consideration of the draft communiqué that would be adopted by the Summit in Seoul. The draft communiqué is a substantive document that seeks to reaffirm the Washington communiqué and build on the momentum that has been generated since the last Summit. Since the draft is still under discussion, it is not possible to share the specific details. However, I would say the discussions on the draft were productive and have reached a very advanced stage of consideration.

Broadly speaking, the draft touches on the main objectives of the Nuclear Summit process which have been to focus high-level global attention on the threat posed by nuclear terrorism and the measures required to address the global challenge of preventing terrorists and other non-state actors from gaining access to sensitive nuclear materials, technology and information. Security of nuclear materials is fundamentally a national responsibility but there is considerable scope for international cooperation to strengthen nuclear security objectives and standards. In this regard, there was considerable emphasis on the leading role of the IAEA in the international nuclear security framework and the need to strengthen multilateral instruments that address nuclear security such as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. India is a party to all major international instruments in the field of nuclear security.

Among the topics being discussed for consideration for inclusion in the Seoul Summit outcome Communiqué include measures to secure the management of highly enriched uranium, measures to ensure radiological security, promoting transport security and combating illicit trafficking, security of sensitive information, and increasing international cooperation and assistance. In this regard, you would recall that India had announced the setting up of the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership. The Seoul Summit will also give consideration to strengthening the synergy between nuclear safety and nuclear security, an issue which has become topical after the Fukushima accident of March, 2011. We feel that this issue merits Summit level consideration to enhance public confidence that measures are being taken to ensure that nuclear energy, which is an essential energy source, is used in a safe and secure manner.

India is committed to the success of the Nuclear Security Summit process. Our Prime Minister is scheduled to be attending the Seoul Summit in March this year. The holding of the Sherpa meeting in New Delhi, the first of its kind that we have hosted, is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the Nuclear Security Summit process.

Thank you.

Question: Sir, during the discussion, was there any mention of specific countries in which there is no safety, especially I mean to say Pakistan? Was it mentioned in the meeting and discussions?
Foreign Secretary: The discussions are not country-specific in that sense. They are more generic. They deal with issues which cut across countries and which are of general interest and concern to the entire international community. They are not country specific.

Question: I want to know if this issue has figured at all. Last week papers carried a report about the study in which India's ranking is pretty low, and this has caused some kind of a debate in Australia and they are talking about changing their decision to sell uranium to India. Has it figured? If it has not what is the Government of India's comment on that?
Foreign Secretary: I think you are referring to what is called the NTI. I just had a look at this report. It is a lengthy report. No, this subject was not at all a matter of discussion, leave alone there was no reference at all to the study in the meeting of Sherpas which we have just completed. But having gone through this report I would like to say that the NTI is a private NGO which is active in the field of nonproliferation. As I said, its report did not figure in our discussions. We have seen the report but we do not share its conclusions as we believe it is based on a faulty methodology, especially on the issues relating to India. All nuclear material in India is subject to strict oversight and controls. We are party to all major international instruments on nuclear security. We have an unblemished record in this field including in the implementation of IAEA safeguards applicable to our civilian nuclear facilities. The Government continues to maintain the strictest control over all nuclear materials. The report, as we see it, uses somewhat unreliable information. It tends to equate as a general principle security with transparency; that is to say if something is transparent it is automatically secure. It does not take adequate account we think of the nature of our own nuclear programme, which is a three-stage nuclear energy programme in which fissile material is in fact used in reactors.

Question: Mr. Mathai, this is not on Sherpa Meet, this is on Indo-China. May I?
Foreign Secretary: I do not have a great deal of time.

Question: Just one question on that. As you know, our perceptions differ on how long is the border. We believe it is 4000 odd kilometres: they believe it is 2000 kilometres. Has this gap been bridged during the talks today? And what is the update on stapled visas issue?
Foreign Secretary: The talks were on continuation of the previous round of talks and basically aiming at a framework for a resolution of the boundary question. The specifics of what you are referring to were not the aim of this immediate discussion between the SRs. There is a press release which we have put out which gives the broad outline of all the discussions that took place, the framework of the resolution; also the two sides have agreed that they should prepare a joint agreed record to indicate and spell out the kind of progress made so far. Those were the issues which were discussed.

Question: Stapled visas?
Foreign Secretary: It was not discussed.

Question: There are heightened tensions between the US and Iran on this nuclear issue, and US has imposed sanctions on all those trading with Iran. Have we got any communication from the US? Will India seek waiver from the US on those sanctions?
Foreign Secretary: This subject was not discussed in the Nuclear Security Summit. Can you repeat your other question?

Question: Just wanted to check if India is going to seek a waiver from US sanctions, since India is taking crude from Iran?
Foreign Secretary: No.

Question: And what is the mechanism for India then to trade with Iran, if we do not seek a waiver? Will we continue our trade or are we planning to ...
Foreign Secretary: We have accepted sanctions which are made by the United Nations. Other sanctions do not apply to individual countries. We do not accept that position. We continue to buy oil from Iran.

Question: What could be the likely mechanism without hurting our diplomatic ties with EU and the US?
Foreign Secretary: I think a large number of EU countries also buy oil from Iran and each country continues to do that. For example, Greece is a major buyer of oil from Iran.

Question: A multi-ministerial delegation has gone to Iran.
Foreign Secretary: A multi-ministerial delegation, has it gone or is it going?

Question: Maybe it is going.
Foreign Secretary: It is on its way. That is to work out the mechanisms for the continued purchase of oil from Iran and to work out the financing mechanisms which need to be discussed with Iran.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about what is ...
Foreign Secretary: I will be able to tell you as soon as they come back. Not now.

Director (External Publicity): As Foreign Secretary has to leave very soon, he will take the last two questions.

Question: Sir, are you concerned about the developments in Pakistan? Also, what steps are being taken to ensure safe homecoming of passengers of Costa Concordia stranded in Italy?
Foreign Secretary: Regarding Pakistan, these are developments which are domestic and they are internal to that country. So, I do not wish to comment on that.

As regards Italy, I had spoken to our Ambassador in Rome. This was day before in the night. Two of his officers had already reached the site. We have asked the Ambassador to make an assessment. Whatever assistance is needed by any of the Indian nationals who are there, will be rendered. The site is actually a bit far off and takes a little time. It is not easily accessible. But our officers are there on the spot and they are making their conclusions. Whatever assistance has to be rendered to the Indians who are involved - the numbers vary but a large number of them are actually the crew members of the ship also - we will make an assessment on the spot. The Ambassador has been authorised to take steps.

Question: Sir, in your assessment how safe are nuclear weapons in our neighbourhood, especially in Pakistan? Also, the Chinese State Councillor very glowingly described India-China relations saying that this is a golden period. How do you look at the recent discordant noises in India-China relations?
Foreign Secretary: I think the Special Representative was referring to the discussions he held and he was planning to hold with his counterpart the National Security Advisor Mr. Menon. I am authorised to say that apart from the boundary, two things happened. We have established what is called a Working Mechanism on Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs. It has just been signed. It is a mechanism between the two Foreign Ministries which will ensure that anything happening on the border is immediately referred to the concerned higher level authorities so that we maintain – I repeat, this is the word, maintain – the relative peace and tranquillity which exists on the border. The Special Representatives also discussed other bilateral, regional and global issues. The discussions were wide-ranging, productive, forward-looking and marked by a commonality of views on many issues. So, there is a degree of understanding particularly on many of the big global issues.

Question: Like what?
Foreign Secretary: They discussed the issues which are global, whether it was the climate change negotiations which have just taken place, issues in the framework of the G20, in the framework also of the discussions on reviving the WTO process. On all these major international issues, we find that there is a great deal of commonality in our positions. They also referred to the importance of regular high-level exchanges, strengthening cooperation across different areas between the two countries. One of the figures which was mentioned repeatedly by Mr. Bingguo, which is probably why he referred to this, he said, if you look at just eight years ago, the bilateral between trade our two countries was in the range of two or three billion dollars. And he said it is supposed to be 73 billion dollars for the year 2011. Our figures were a little less because we had not factored in the last month or two. So, this was the kind of dramatic growth in our trade relationship which Dai Bingguo referred to, along with the greater coordination on global issues, the maintenance of peace and tranquillity on our border, and the frequency of high-level exchanges. I think these were the factors which led him to describe this as a golden period.

Question: China and Nepal have recently concluded some agreements. I would like to know whether this was discussed in the meeting between the Special Representatives. Do you think these agreements would affect Nepal's relationship with India?
Foreign Secretary: We discussed the bilateral relations between China and India. We did not discuss what China and Nepal are doing in these Special Representatives' talks.

Question: Otherwise, how do you see this agreement that China has concluded with Nepal?
Foreign Secretary: The agreements pertain mainly to some arrangements on the border and some economic assistance programmes. These are like many of the programmes, we are already engaged in. I did not see anything dramatically new in any way.

Director (External Publicity): Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

New Delhi
January 17, 2012

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