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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (ER) during Prime Minister’s visit to Bahrain

August 25, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, good afternoon and welcome to this special briefing from Manama, Bahrain on Prime Minister’s on going visit to UAE and Bahrain. As you are aware Prime Minister arrived in Abu Dhabi last night. Today morning he had a series of engagements in UAE. Today afternoon he left UAE for Manama and he has already met the Prime Minister.

So to brief you on the Prime Minister’s engagement of the day I have with me Secretary (Economic Relations), Ministry of External Affairs, Shri T S Tirumurti. I also have Jt. Secretary (Gulf) Shri Nagendra Prasad. We will start with opening remarks by Shri Tirumurti and then we will take questions, if any. Sir, over to you.

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: Thank you very much. I will try to be as comprehensible as possible.

Hon’ble Prime Minister visited Abu Dhabi on the second leg of his three nation visit. He arrived late night yesterday, this is his third visit to the UAE in the last four years.

Prime Minister’s first engagement was the launch of the RuPay card. This is the first time that the RuPay card is being launched in the Middle East and will expand the network of cashless transactions abroad.

In an MoU signed between NPCI and Mercury for launching a standalone RuPay card later which will inter-alia provide for local banks also to issue RuPay card. 20 of the most prominent NRI businessmen were present during the launch and agreed to support this initiative. They also expressed a strong support for participating in the Jammu & Kashmir Invest Event which is being planned, through investment and human resource development in Jammu & Kashmir.

At the Royal Palace, Prime Minister was given a ceremonial welcome. Prime Minister held bilateral talks with His Highness, the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi at the Royal Palace. The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues.

His Highness, the Crown Prince welcome the Prime Minister to what he referred to as his ‘second home.’ He referred very warmly to our relations and the level that we have reached. He stressed the importance of India and the UAE working together even more closely to overcome challenges.

His Highness, The Crown Prince lauded the robust contribution of the Indian community and underlined that these sentiments came from his heart. He added that the bridges we have built should be made even stronger. He stressed the importance of continuing to work closely towards de-radicalization.

Prime Minister reciprocated these warm sentiments and referred to the close affinity he feels for the UAE. He referred to the new energy in our relations and conveyed his gratitude to His Highness, the Crown Prince for conferring on him the highest civilian honor of the UAE, the Order of Zayed.

He mentioned that the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership forged in 2017 has imparted considerable value to our relations and made our relations truly multifaceted covering defence, security, energy, food security, space, trade & investment etc. that too in a short time.

The two leaders subsequently had a tête-à-tête where they discussed a range of issues including regional issues. The Prime Minister was conferred the Order of Zayed, the highest civilian decoration for UAE. The award was conferred for Prime Minister’s contribution to bilateral relations, for his efforts to enhance our relations with Islamic nations and for enhancing the stature of India and the global stage. Prime Minister accepted it on behalf of the 1.3 billion Indians.

Prime Minister and His Highness, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi also released a postage stamp on Mahatma Gandhi. A series of events have been held in UAE to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. You will recall the Gandhi Zayed Museum soft launch was done last year during the visit of the then External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj.

His Highness, the Crown Prince hosted a lunch and banquet in Prime Minister’s honor after which the Prime Minister left for Bahrain.

Prime Minister arrived in Bahrain on the third leg of his three nation visit. This is the first ever visit of an Indian Prime Minister to the independent kingdom of Bahrain. The last high level bilateral visit was the landmark visit to India of the King of Bahrain, His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in February 2014 where His Majesty was accompanied by several of his ministers and a 130 member business delegation.

The Prime Minister was received extremely warmly with a ceremonial welcome at the Palace. Prime Minister held delegation level talks with the Prime Minister of Bahrain His Royal Highness, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. His Royal Highness the Prime Minister recalled the historic friendship and the excellent cooperation between the two countries. He conveyed his condolences at the passing away of former External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj and the former Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley.

He underlined the importance of the visit of the Prime Minister to Bahrain. He appreciated the discussion and the progress under the High Joint Commission which is at the foreign minister – external affairs minister level. Two rounds of the High Joint Commission have already taken place.

His Royal Highness, Prime Minister of Bahrain lauded the development and progress of India and India’s economic weight and development experience. He deeply appreciated the immense contribution of the Indian community for Bahrain’s economic development and progress. He referred to the common aspirations of the two countries.

Prime Minister expressed his happiness at making this visit within a few months of the new government. He thanked His Royal Highness, the Prime Minister of Bahrain for the condolences and the sentiments which he had expressed.

Prime Minister expressed his gratitude for the warmth with which His Royal Highness spoke about the contribution of Indians in Bahrain and looking after their welfare. Prime Minister referred to the age old relations with Bahrain and the bonds of kinship. He expressed satisfaction at the new heights which our relations have climbed in a range of areas particularly trade, space, energy, defence & security etc.

Referring to the visit of the Prime Minister of Bahrain in 2004 Prime Minister indicated that we have now established a very vibrant and forward looking relations and that Bahrain was a gateway for the Gulf. He agreed with His Royal Highness, the Prime Minister of Bahrain on the excellent work done by the High Joint Commission by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

The two sides also discussed the progress and cooperation in the areas inter-alia of space, ICT, energy, International Solar Alliance and maritime security. The two sides expressed satisfaction that the bilateral trade has increased by 20 percent or more for two consecutive years and now stands at $1.28 billion.

They welcomed greater investment into each other’s country and the earmarking of funds of $500 million by Invest Bahrain. India expressed interest in the newly discovered tight oil and shale gas reserves in Khaleej al Bahrain basin and the OVL’s signing of an expression of interest with BAPCO.

The two sides referred to the MoU between the two countries in the exploration and peaceful use of outer space in March 2019 and now during this visit the MoU signed between ISRO and the Bahraini counterpart in order to assist in building the CubeSat, establishing ground station, data sharing and training.

Both sides referred to the strong security cooperation and the dialogue between the Deputy National Security Advisors, two rounds of which has already taken place. The Bahrain side expressed support for India’s candidature to the UN Security Council.

Both sides expressed satisfaction at the exemplary cooperation at the international level and the support that we have given to each other at the international level. The Prime Minister also expresses support to the Bahraini initiative on the International Day of Conscience declared to be on April 5.

The Prime Minister will now be proceeding to address the Indian community in Bahrain which stands at over 350 thousand. He will then call on His Majesty, the King of Bahrain and subsequently His Majesty, the King of Bahrain will be hosting a banquet in honor of the Prime Minister.

Tomorrow, Prime Minister will visit the Shrinath Ji Temple to launch its renovation. As you know the Shrinath Temple was established in the 19th century under the Royal patronage and it holds the distinction of being the first and the oldest temple in the Gulf region. The renovation of the temple will be launched by the Prime Minister in its 200th year during this visit. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you sir. We have time for maybe one or two questions if there are any.

Question: …… Inaudible……

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: At this point of time we are looking at the compatibility of the two tax systems because the Bahraini side has a different system on taxation, in fact on certain categories they have no tax and therefore our side is looking at a slightly more comprehensive tax system before we can actually go into signing such an agreement with Bahrain.

Question: …………. Inaudible………….

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: There was no expression of any concern by the business community in Abu Dhabi. In fact they expressed support for the RuPay card and at the same time, as I mentioned, they also expressed their keenness to invest in Jammu & Kashmir and they also expressed their keenness to take part in the human resource development part of the Jammu & Kashmir and they look forward to attending the ‘Invest Kashmir Business Summit.’

Question: There are lot of people who are coming from India to work here. Is there any specific thing that you will be doing for them during the Prime Minister’s visit this time?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I think firstly he is meeting the community and that we hope to have a very big event of interaction, but that apart consular issues and issues relating to the welfare of the community and also people who have come to work here, these are all issues which we keep under regular review.

We do it very regularly with the Bahraini side and whenever there are issues at various levels. So on that I think India is extremely clear that our cooperation with the Bahraini side will comprehensively cover the importance of security, protection and the welfare of the Indian community and the Indian labor.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much. This concludes the special briefing from Manama, Bahrain. Thank you all for joining.



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