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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary after Japan-US-India Trilateral Meeting on the sidelines of G20 Summit (June 28, 2019)

June 28, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon friends and welcome to this special briefing on meeting of Prime Minister Modi with President Trump. I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India who will take us through both these meetings and then we will have few questions.

Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Vijay Gokhale:Thank you. The Prime Minister had a meeting first thing this morning with President Trump of the United States and Prime Minister Abe of Japan in a trilateral format called the Japan-India-America Trilateral Summit Meeting.

As you know this is the second time they are meeting, the first time was at the last G20 meeting in the Buenos Aires. It was a very good meeting, it was a short but a very productive meeting and the main topic of the discussion was the Indo-Pacific about how the three countries can work together in terms of connectivity, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of ensuring that peace and security is maintained and in terms of working together to build upon this new concept so that it benefits the region as a whole and for the three countries of course.

Essentially this was the area around which the discussion took place. Each of the leaders spoke briefly and they all agreed that they would continue this format of the trilateral meetings between the three leaders on the margins of the G20 and agreed to meet again.

Thereafter Prime Minister had a bilateral meeting with President Trump. This was a very open and productive meeting. The two leaders had a very warm discussion. President Trump congratulated the Prime Minister on his victory. The Prime Minister in particular noted that President Trump had sent a very warm letter to him through Secretary Pompeo, as you know Secretary of the State of United States was in India a couple of days ago. The Prime Minister referred to the very good discussion he had with Pompeo himself. The discussions that the National Security Advisor and External Affairs Minister had with Secretary Pompeo and there was a brief discussion on how Pompeo’s visit to India went.

Now, as the Prime Minister mentioned in his public remarks, four issues were taken up at this bilateral meeting. The issues were those related to Iran, to 5G, to trade and to defence relations.

So far as Iran was concerned the Prime Minister outlined our energy concerns as well as our concerns regarding peace and stability in the region. Prime Minister pointed out that although Iran supplies 11% of our energy, India had reduced oil imports from Iran but these were despite the effect it had on the Indian economy we had been able to sustain this position and we also had our diaspora in the region, we have energy requirements of the region, we have economic interests in the region and therefore it is in India’s fundamental interest to ensure peace and stability of the region and Prime Minister also recalled that we have deployed some of the Indian Navy Ships in the region to protect the Indian flagged vessels passing through the Gulf and the straits of Hormuz.

This was appreciated very much by the President Trump and they had a brief discussion. The President expressed his hope that oil prices will remain stable. He talked about what United States was doing to ensure that stability was maintained in the Gulf and that oil prices were stable and both sides agreed that we would remain in touch on the issue of Iran and we will continue to have mutual discussion on how we ensure regional peace and stability. On 5G there was a brief discussion, essentially on the technical and business opportunities that this new area provides for cooperation between India and the United States. The Prime Minister outlined that we are going to be a billion users of this technology and in that sense India is the second largest market in the world. The way India moves or the way whatever choices India makes will essentially determine the way the global trend will go.

And therefore the Prime Minister said it is important that we collaborate. India and the United States in this regard to see how we can leverage this, the billion Indian users, India’s capacity in technological development in start-up and design and silicon valley and its role in developing 5G technology for mutual benefit.

President Trump welcomed this idea, he spoke about the work that American companies are now doing in 5G, he specifically referred to Silicon Valley and said that since he had taken over as the President of United States he has focused on this area, on developing America’s capabilities in technology, that he look forward to working with us and it was again decided to continue the conversation through meetings at technical level as well as at the level of the Secretaries of State and External Affairs Minister on our side and the technical ministers on both sides.

So essentially the Prime Minister’s real focus was on Make in India and the potential that this huge technology has in that goal or objective.

There was a discussion on trade, both sides aired their concerns, both sides spoke about the interest of the other side and what was agreed was that the trade ministers of both countries would meet at an early date and would try and sort out these issues. The Prime Minister did mention in particular that we had taken some action after the GSP was revoked, that that was now something that already had happened and now we should now look forward and we should see how we can resolve some of these issues.

President Trump, of course, welcomed this idea. Both USTR Lighthizer and their Treasure Secretary Mnuchin were in the room and so what we expect now an early meeting and the level is still be decided whether it will be at the level of Commerce & Industry Minister and USTR or we will first have technical discussions, that is an issue to be decided but essentially it was a very productive discussion, it was very open discussion and we will take things forward.

Given the time constraints thereafter on defence issues, there was very little discussion. Essentially we highlighted the potential for cooperation in this area and this was welcomed by President Trump but because both leaders had other commitments to go to, the Prime Minister is currently at the BRICS Leader’s Summit Meeting, so there was a very truncated and very brief discussion on this. This in a sense was what happened at the two meetings this morning. Thank you.

Question: On trade you were saying there was a very constructive discussion and were there any indication of what kind of concessions and what kind of expectations ; according to these Ministerial talks and on the mention of 5G was there any mention of any conditions?

Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Vijay Gokhale: On trade issues negotiations are not done at the level of leaders, so neither time nor the level permitted any discussion on concrete issues. The idea was to clear the air and then to set the agenda for discussions in resolving the trade matters and in that direction both leaders have directed officials to now move forward and I think that is where we found this discussion very open and very productive.

On 5G, as I said the main issue as far as we were concerned was to bring the focus on how we can leverage our market, our capabilities in design, technology, software development and our desire to Make in India, how to make 5G a part of this and that was Prime Minister’s focus.

President Trump, in turn, welcomed this and his main idea was to say that United States has the capacity, it has the capability, it has the human resources, Silicon Valley is working on it, let me see how India and United States can work together in terms of business, not in terms of government, in terms of how business and industry can be put together. That was the focus and it appears to be an exciting new area in which I think India and the United States can work together.

Question: There were two major contentious issues, one was on the S400 deal and the other was Iran. What is the big picture message coming out of these talks, have you been able to figure out a mechanism that these issues will not impact our relationship with America and what is the way out on S400?

Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Vijay Gokhale:Let me be very clear about this, no one issue is going to impact on the larger strategic relationship between India and United States. This is a relationship which is deep, which is broad, we have some issues, we will work through them but no one issue is going to, in any way, have any impact.

The S400 issue was not discussed, there was an issue of time constraint here. You were in Delhi when this matter was addressed by our External Affairs Minister in the press conference with the Secretary of State Pompeo, so that’s where it stands, no discussion took place.

On Iran the primary focus was how we ensure stability in that region. It is that instability affects us in many ways, not just in terms our energy needs but in terms of the very large diaspora that we have in the Gulf, eight million Indians in the Gulf region and economic interests. So essentially the two leaders agreed that they and their officials will continuously remain in touch to ensure that the region remains stable and I think that is in our interest and in the interest of the United States and in the interest of the region. So that is what I can say.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: With this we come to close of this briefing. Thank you all for joining.

(Concludes)

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