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Transcript of Virtual Media Briefing by Joint Secretary (EW) following the India-UK Virtual Summit

May 04, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Namaskar and very Good evening to all of you. Thankyou for joining us. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just completed a virtual summit with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Mr. Boris Johnson. We are, therefore very happy to be here at this special briefing on this virtual summit. To brief us and give us more information about it we have with us today Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary of the Europe West division of the Ministry. I would request him to make an opening statement followed by a few questions that we have received.

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Thankyou Arindam. Namaskar and Good evening. As Arindam mentioned, today, Prime Minister Modi had a virtual summit with Mr. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As you know, Prime Minister Johnson had been invited as chief guest to the Republic Day in January 2021, when he could not come due to the pandemic situation in the UK and then again, it was proposed that he comes to India at end of last month, but again due to the second wave in India, his visit could not materialise so the two leaders decided to hold the virtual Summit today. I think the virtual summit, you will realise in terms of outcomes and substance is a new milestone in our relationship and has opened a new chapter in our bilateral ties. Both our leaders had substantive discussions on the entire gamut of our ties, and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest. The strong complementarities and growing convergences between the two countries in all these areas were underscored. There are so many highlights to share but because of paucity of time I will focus on the key ones. I request all of you to go through the joint statement, which has been put up on our website. And also I believe, later on, there will be a press release. The first big deliverable of the summit was the launch of the Roadmap 2030. Last year, when the two Prime Ministers had spoken on telephone they had agreed to make this roadmap to transform India UK ties and today the two leaders launched this roadmap. The implementation of the roadmap will alleviate India-UK relationship into a comprehensive strategic partnership. You can go through the roadmap; it has been uploaded on our website. But it is a comprehensive list of actions and activities that will take place over the next few months and years. And there are five areas which have been identified. One is of course, increasing People to People contacts, trade and economy, defence and security, climate action and health. Its implementation will be closely monitored through an annual Strategic Review meeting at Foreign Ministers level and this meeting will then report the progress to the two Prime Ministers. Another very important and I would say a big ticket announcement of the virtual summit was the declaration of enhanced trade partnership. The two-way trade between India and United Kingdom in 2019-20 was of the order of 15.4 billion US dollars. Although it has been rising in the recent years, the figures do not reflect the true potential of trade between the world's fifth and sixth largest economies. Moreover, we believe that BREXIT has provided tremendous new opportunities for both countries. To seize them and unlock the true potential the two leaders announced the intent to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced FTA including consideration of an interim trade agreement for delivering early gains. The ambition, the two leaders agreed today was to more than double the bilateral trade by 2030. As part of the confidence building measures they have also agreed on an early market access package. Under this UK will open up the fisheries sector for more Indian players, facilitate more opportunities for nurses, recognise Indian seafarers certificates and also enter into a joint dialogue on a potential Social Security Agreement. In return, India has agreed to UK's asks on fruits, medical devices, and mutual recognition of masters degrees and also work towards reciprocal opening of legal services in the future. These actions are likely to generate 20-25,000 new direct and indirect jobs in India. The two leaders also discussed the global pandemic situation and ongoing cooperation on fight against it. Prime Minister Modi thanked Prime Minister Johnson for the prompt medical assistance provided by the UK in the wake of the severe second wave in India. UK, as we all know was one of the first to respond, sending critical medical equipment like oxygen concentrators, cylinders, ventilators, amongst others.

The successful vaccine partnership through the Oxford-AstraZaneca-SII collaboration was also discussed. They agreed to expand partnership on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics on Covidv19 and beyond through joint research including on nasal vaccines, regulatory and clinical trial cooperation. UK is India's second largest partner in research and innovation collaborations. Both sides agreed to enhance regulatory and technical cooperation on new and emerging technologies, including digital and ICT products and work on supply chain resilience. Prime Minister Modi proposed a joint Centre of Excellence on green hydrogen, which was accepted by the UK side. An MoU announcing the launch of a new India-UK Global Innovation Partnership was signed at the Virtual Summit. This novel partnership aims to support the transfer of inclusive Indian innovations to select developing countries. Both India and UK will be co-financing it and also create a new market driven fund, which will mobilise additional resources to support Indian innovations and transfer them to third countries. India and UK also agreed to substantially strengthen the Defence and Security engagement, including in the maritime domain, Counter terrorism and cyber space. UK has recently come up with an integrated review on security defence and foreign policy, which identifies India as a key partner. As part of the British tilt to Indo-Pacific, UK has announced deployment of the Carrier Strike Group in the Indo-Pacific region. India has agreed to conduct joint exercise with the CSG later this year, and also launch new maritime dialogue. Opportunities for Defence co-development and co-production were also discussed.

As you know, UK will be hosting the COP 26 this year in Glasgow, and the scheme to achieve global consensus for an ambitious outcome. India and UK have agreed to closely engage at COP 26 and reiterate the commitment for ambitious climate action to achieve the goals of Paris Agreement. UK will also be hosting G7 this year, and has invited India as a guest country. Last but not the least, India and UK also opened a new chapter in their cooperation on migration matters with the signing of the comprehensive MOU on migration and mobility partnership. Under the MOU, UK has agreed to create a new scheme on youth mobility, every year up to 3000 young Indian professionals can avail employment opportunities in the UK for a period of two years without being subject to labour market test. UK has such arrangements only with select partner countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea. This has been offered to India for the first time. The MOU also streamlines the procedure for returns and reflects the growing confidence between the two countries on migration issues. A list of declarations, MOUs signed is available on our website. To sum up, I would say this was a very substantial summit and at an important juncture in our relations despite the challenges posed by pandemic. I must also say that the meeting had a lot of spontaneity, and both leaders exchanged views in a very cordial manner and Prime Minister Johnson invited Prime Minister Modi to Cornwall for the G7 meeting subject to the condition that the pandemic situation abates, and Prime Minister said that he will take appropriate call at the right time. So these were the highlights of today's summit and Arindam back to you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you for a comprehensive perspective on today's virtual summit. You actually touched upon most of the query issues, but let me go over them. I think I'll start with the general question from Elizabeth from Livemint who would like to know what qualitative changes would India and the UK like to bring or see in the bilateral relationship during the next decade.

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Elizabeth, the two leaders agreed to elevate our strategic partnership into a comprehensive partnership. And the mechanism or the tool for doing that will be the Roadmap. If you study the Roadmap carefully there are five pillars and I think, actions, activities, events, that the two sides will organise on those five pillars over the next 10 years will actually transform our relationships. And I think the word transformational was used several times in today's discussion, and the integrated review of the UK, it's still towards their Indo-Pacific approach, I think all these are indicators that the India UK relationships is for a new beginning. And as I already mentioned opportunities are there in terms of Brexit and the enhanced trade partnership. Both leaders agreed that they will quickly conclude the FTA discussions and I think if we have an FTA with the UK, again, that will be a transformational element in our relationship. So on the whole I think today's meeting was very much focused on how we can transform the India-UK relationship.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Moving on to what you refer to the FTA there are some questions on that. Dipanjan from Economic Times would like to know "how the India UK trade arrangement shape up and what will be the new focus of this arrangement”. Elizabeth, again, from Livemint asks, "any timelines set by the two Prime Ministers for completing these talks”, Sidhant from WION, wants to know on any headway on this FTA and Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshat news would like to know if India has agreed to British proposal to allow its lawyers to practice in India.

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): These are very relevant questions in the light of today's meeting. Earlier in the day, the Commerce and Industry Minister and his counterpart Secretary of State for trade Elizabeth Truss, signed a declaration on an enhanced trade partnership. The enhanced trade partnership has basically three elements. One is of course, the market access part where both sides agreed to facilitate market access and I went into some detail in my opening remarks, then second will be a roadmap for concluding the pre FTA talks, and there is a deadline, they have agreed that they will conclude the pre FTA discussions by the end of this year, then early next year or by the middle of next year, both sides have agreed for an interim trade deal and continue the negotiations for an FTA. Now the FTA is I think a long drawn out discussions. But today the two leaders agreed that they will not draw it out too long and it is in our mutual benefit to conclude the FTA at an early date. So I think it's a very, very important and historic moment in our ties today with the launching of the enhanced trade partnership, and it has several elements. I don't want to get into details but I think you will see in the coming months how this plays out and how the two countries will start negotiating on a free trade agreement.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Moving on to the contemporary topic of vaccines, Sidhant from WION would like to know, "has UK agreed to send any vaccines to India?” Sridhar from Asian Age asks, "whether in the light of reports about SII talking about Covishield manufacturing in the UK, could you share with us whether this issue came up during the summit talks?” and Sidhant again, also has follow up thing on the issue of the India South Africa patent proposal at the WTO, what has been the UK’s stance and will it agree with the New Delhi's stance.

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Vaccine is of course an important area of bilateral discussion and I think the question has always been India supplying vaccines to UK, but Prime Minister Johnson did mention and inform Prime Minister Modi that Serum Institute is investing in UK and they will also be manufacturing vaccines in UK and in particular he referred to research and collaboration on the nasal vaccines. Serum Institute is a multinational, they have presence in several countries, they manufacture vaccine in other countries. If you remember earlier, they had started to work in Netherlands so I believe they will in similar way start production in other countries and I think there is demand for such facilities. One interesting sidelight is that Prime Minister Johnson actually said that the Covishield vaccines that is manufactured in UK in Wales actually is bottled by an Indian company from Bombay called Wockhardt. And he went into some detail and explaining what it meant and how the person was really working hard and he named his company actually Wockhardt. So I think there was a lot of discussion on vaccines and if you've seen the UK announcement yesterday, Serum Institute will invest in the UK. In fact, India is second largest investor in UK so these investment proposals are actually part of the normal interaction between the two countries.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: There was a related question the serum Institute with Kallol from The Hindu asking whether the authorities will look into Mr. Poonawalla allegations of threatening phone calls. But given the nature of this query, I don't think that's the one for you to answer. So I'll move on to defence where Elizabeth from Livemint would like to know "what would the discussion like on defence and whether there's any talk on transfer of technology and investments in India and joint ventures?”, Huma are from Financial Express asks, "did the joint defence production feature in the talks and details if any?”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Yes, there was some discussion on co-production, co-development. UK has been a partner, UK is interested in Indian defence production co-development and I think both the leaders say that there is great opportunity in working together and I think if you peruse the roadmap there are elements where both countries will work on defence in the defence sector also there was talk about defence in a larger frame of work in sharing information and some agreements will also come up in the coming weeks where India and UK will work together in logistics and in training. Another point which I would like to reemphasise is that Prime Minister Johnson explained in great detail at the visit of the Carrier Strike Group and why it was coming there and I think there again, both the UK and the Indian Armed Forces will work together for successful exercises in the Indo-Pacific region.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Moving on to the consular issues, Sidhant from WION is asking about the extradition of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, whether it is discussed, and Srinjoy from Times Now has saying, "is it true that Britain has said take back illegal immigrants and we will give you more visas for students and professionals? How do you respond?”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Yes, they discussed the extradition of economic offenders and the Prime Minister said that the economic offenders should be sent back to India at the earliest for trial. Prime Minister Johnson said that he faced some legal hurdles because of the nature of the criminal justice system in the UK, but he was aware of it and they will do whatever possible to make sure that these people are extradited at the earliest. Srinjoy, I would not take your question in that way. But I would say that the mobility and migration partnership is a very comprehensive document. India never encourages illegal migration. We are against illegal migration because I think that prejudices legal migration. So, the mobility and migration partnership is a comprehensive document where we will take back Indian nationals. It is our solemn duty that Indian nationals who are undocumented or are in distress abroad and are not being given nationality or residence permit have to be taken back and I think we'll do that. So I think this agreement systematises that, but more than that, I think it creates opportunities for legal migration. And I think that is the aspect we would like to focus and we would be very much keen to see that the numbers that have been offered by UK are increased in the future and large number of Indian professionals find opportunities in the UK.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: And finally, on the issue of Indo Pacific, Huma from Financial Express wants to know, "whether in the context of the Indo Pacific, maritime cooperation issues were discussed. Also any discussion of space cooperation?” Sidhant from WION asks, "Whether there were any plans by India and UK for practical cooperation in the Indo Pacific?”

Shri Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (EW): Yes, again, I would refer to the joint statement and the roadmap. India and UK are cooperating and will cooperate more in the Indo Pacific. As I mentioned, Prime Minister Johnson spoke about the visit of the Carrier Strike Group, and I think the integrated review of the UK also, again, highlights the importance of the Indo Pacific and India has an indo Pacific oceans initiative and we encourage other partners and powers to get involved. So on the whole, I think Indo Pacific is an important arena where India and other powers and countries discuss and today it was discussed. And I think that some of the fine elements of that cooperation are captured in the roadmap. And the roadmap is a dynamic document. It's not that only the elements that have been decided now will be there in the future. We will be consulting with each other on a regular basis, and we will try to use it to enlarge the scope of our cooperation.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: And that brings us to the end of this special media briefing. I'd like to thank Sandeep for a very detailed and comprehensive presentation and taking all these questions. Thank you for joining us virtually in this format. Good evening.

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