Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us this Saturday to talk today about the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to Japan for the Quad Summit as well as for other engagements in Tokyo. We have the privilege here of Foreign Secretary Sir, Shri Vinay Kwatra to give us a sense of the visit. We also have with us here, Shri Naveen Srivastava, Additional Secretary East Asia division of the Ministry, as well as Smt. Vani Rao Additional Secretary looking after the Americas division of the Ministry. Sir I will open the floor.
Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much. Good afternoon and Namaskar and thank you very much for coming here this afternoon for this special visit on Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Japan to participate in the Quad Summit. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will travel to Japan on an official visit next week on 23 - 24 May to participate in the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo at the invitation of Prime Minister of Japan, His Excellency Fumio Kishida. Apart from participating in the Quad Summit, Prime Minister would also hold bilateral meetings with the President of the US, Prime Minister of Japan and with the Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister would also engage with the Japanese business community and the Indian diaspora during his stay in Tokyo. Let me first begin with the Quad Leaders’ Summit.
As you all know, Quad cooperation is anchored in the shared values and commitment to the principles of democracy, international law, and rules based international order as also a vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Since its first Summit, Quad has been working to implement a positive and constructive agenda with a strong focus on enabling peace, prosperity, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Our cooperation efforts have included one, working together on climate action. This involves creating a decarbonized green shipping network in the Indo-Pacific, making use of clean hydrogen and making it more accessible, pooling capacities to assist Indo-Pacific countries in climate monitoring and information sharing. Quad’s Infrastructure Coordination Group has been deliberating on supporting sustainable and demand driven infrastructure in the region in a manner that doesn't burden countries of the region with unsustainable debt. Three, cooperation on critical and emerging technologies, biotechnology, diversification of semiconductor supply chain, and security of critical cyber infrastructure are other key priority areas of our cooperative measures in the Quad. Fourth, continuing cooperation on COVID response, and post COVID management of economy and health infrastructure are also important elements. These include last mile delivery, health security, genomic surveillance, clinical trials, and pandemic preparedness as their important elements.
Quad would also organize a special session on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly later this month on promoting vaccine confidence and fighting the infodemic which is on 24th of May. The upcoming summit in Tokyo would therefore provide the leaders with an opportunity to take stock of the progress made thus far on Quad’s initiatives and also give guidance for the future. Developments in the Indo-Pacific region and global issues of mutual interest might also come up for discussion. As I mentioned in the beginning, the Prime Minister will also have a bilateral meeting with President Biden on 24th of May. The India-US relationship, as you all know, is multifaceted, has acquired momentum, has depth and is diversified. Our long standing cooperation in diverse areas, ranging from trade, defence, security, climate, education, energy, pretty much all aspects of human economic endeavour is on upward trajectory. There is regular exchange of visits and dialogue. And these dialogues just are not limited to the bilateral agenda, but also include issues of regional and global importance. Prime Minister’s meeting with President Biden will mark continuation of these high level dialogues and provide guidance and vision to take the relationship forward.
Prime Minister will also meet the Japanese Prime Minister, Excellency Kishida. Japan, as you know, is among our most important partners. Prime Minister Modi has referred to India-Japan relationship as one of the most natural in the region. In the last few years, India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership has seen great momentum. This meeting between the two Prime Ministers will be an opportunity to carry forward the high level engagement between the two countries as also to advance bilateral cooperation agenda. As you are aware, Prime Minister Kishida’s recent visit to India saw substantial outcomes, which included a target of Japanese yen 5 trillion, approximately $40 to $42 billion in public and private investment and financing over the five years and adoption of several other key outcome documents which included – one, an industrial competitiveness partnership roadmap; two, clean energy partnership; three, Sustainable Development Initiative for the Northeast; and lastly, agreements on sustainable urban development, cybersecurity, etc.
In Tokyo, the two Prime Ministers will continue their discussions on how to further deepen bilateral economic cooperation, including in trade and investment, clean energy, cooperation in the northeast, people to people ties, digital partnership, and of course exchange perspective on common issues of regional and global importance. Commercial exchanges and business to business partnerships are a crucial pillar of India-Japan relations, Prime Minister will hold a Business Roundtable and interact with the leadership of Japanese industry and businesses, and also have few one on one business meetings during his stay in Tokyo. Prime Minister's interaction with business leaders of Japan will further propel our economic engagement between the two countries. During the visit, the Prime Minister will also interact with the Indian community, which is an important anchor of our ties with Japan.
You would be aware that elections are being held in Australia today. We understand that the next Australian Prime Minister is likely to attend the Quad Summit. It is expected that the Prime Minister will meet the new Australian leader in Tokyo. In their interaction, the two leaders would review the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and exchange views on regional and global developments of mutual interest. The last bilateral meeting between the two Prime Ministers was held virtually in March this year, which was as you all recall, followed by the signing of India - Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement on 2nd of April, 2022. I think I'll stop here. And we'll take a few questions on Prime Minister’s upcoming visit.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much Sir. Before I begin, ground rules again, one question please, please stick to the topic which is the Prime Minister's visit to Japan and also introduce yourself and the organization.
Nivedita: This is Nivedita from Swarajya. Will India be accepting an invite to the India-Pacific Economic Forum considering that it has also been negotiating a trade deal with the US and how comfortable would be India with the change in leadership in Australia considering the momentum which is gained in the CEPA?
Akhilesh Suman: Sir, I’m Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV. Sir, Sri Lanka is an important country in the Indo-Pacific. And when Quad is meeting, Indo-Pacific is really center point of all the meetings of Quad. So are we going to talk about the situation in Sri Lanka and whether it will be possible that Quad members may assist Sri Lanka to come out of the crisis that it is going on.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I was waiting to say no, but you managed to bring it, to not allow that question on Sri Lanka, but he managed to bring it to something. Okay, Yashee, please go please.
Yashee: Hi this is Yashee, from The New Indian Express. Is Renkoji likely to be a stopover for the PM this time?
Chandrakala: This is Chandrakala from ETV Bharat. My question is we have seen in the recent visit by Prime Minister Modi to Europe, he has maintained India’s stand on Ukraine. So with US president in Tokyo, what can we expect when it comes to India’s stand on Ukraine? Will India be able to stand its ground in Tokyo as well?
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Anybody has anything Ukraine related? And we can take it this round instead of having to come back to it. You have something Ukraine related, Okay, ma’am.
Seema Guha: Seema Guha from Outlook magazine. I just wanted to find out whether there will be much pressure on India on the ban on wheat exports. And what would be India’s stand there?
Sidhant: Sir, Sidhant from WION. Does Quad has any security dimension, is Quad looking at any security dimension at a time when we know that there is increased Chinese aggressiveness and in the backdrop of what has happened in Ukraine as well.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay, thank you. Sir.
Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: There is a set of questions on various things, topics perhaps not necessarily connected to each other. I think let me just come to the first question. I think which was asked by Ms. Nivedita with regard to Australian presence, CEPA, the comfort etc. I think I'm sure you all are quite conscious and aware of it, but let me state it anyway upfront that insofar as India-Australia Strategic Partnership is concerned, there is a pretty much complete bipartisan support in Australia for India-Australia relation. You yourself referred to the India Australia Free Trade Agreement which was concluded between the two countries during the virtual summit in March this year. I think the discussions between the two leaders in Tokyo, between the Australian leader and the Indian Prime Minister when they take place and we are quite confident that they would be forward leaning in terms of not just taking the stock of what, how the relationship will progress, but also how to build on it further and expand the dimensions of various cooperative efforts that India and Australia do. I don't see anything other than positive, constructive and a forward leaning agenda of discussion and cooperation insofar as India and Australia are concerned. I think with regard to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, I think that was the second element of the question. I think this is something which is under discussions, and I think the discussions and the conversations are still going on, we will let you know how this unfolds going forward. But we do all realize that insofar as the Indo-Pacific region is concerned, the economic segment of it is a very important segment, both in terms of harnessing the opportunities of economic partnership that are available in the region, whether they are in various dimensions of economic areas, or they are related to capacity building. And I think one of the focuses of Prime Minister's conversations during the Quad Summit will be on the Indo-Pacific, which is essentially one of the main areas of Quad’s focus, and also within that space, the economic dimension of the cooperation.
I think on India - Ukraine, there was I think, only one question which came up. The related question, I don't think it's related to Ukraine, because wheat is a different aspect. I think on Ukraine, our position is amply clear, it has been repeated, reiterated many times. But just in case, there is any doubt in it or hasn't gone through clearly, let me very clearly say, right from the time that the hostilities got initiated in February, we have always spoken about asked for immediate and early cessation of hostilities. And we have also said that the insofar as the resolution of the developing situation in Ukraine is concerned, the path of diplomacy and dialogue is the best path for us to move forward.
I think there was a question on security dimension. I think it's important that we see and understand the Quad, and its functioning in a proper context. And there, I think what we need to keep in mind is that Quad is a group of countries that shares core values of democracy, pluralism, and market economy. And Quad’s cooperation, is shaped principally by the goals of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. And this perspective you would find is anchored in a shared commitment to a rule based order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Now, if you look at the cooperative partnership among the countries of the Quad, and then through Quad within the Indo-Pacific region, you will find that this partnership seeks to structure essentially a constructive agenda. Broad elements thus far are very clear. I'm sure these elements will build on going forward. And these elements include, for example, fight against COVID pandemic, its mitigation efforts, how do we partner with countries in the region in post COVID recovery, in building the health security infrastructure going forward. Two, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Three, working together to respond to the need of climate action. Some of it I mentioned in my opening remarks also. The need to build resilient supply chains in the Indo-Pacific, for example, partnering on infrastructure cooperation that avoids burdening the countries with unsustainable debt, again, this is something which I mentioned in my opening remarks. So I think if you look at the principles and the values, the space from which Quad comes, if you look at the derivative activities emanating out of those principles, if you converge the two, you will find it's a very constructive and positive agenda. And I think that is actually the correct prism or the perspective to look at the Quad.
There was a question relating to Sri Lanka and the Indo-Pacific, which, as the Spokesperson said, you creatively brought in. I would say that, you know, when countries of the Quad meet, as I mentioned in the beginning, one of the primary focuses of Quad is the Indo-Pacific region. And naturally, when the leaders sit together, they would talk about developments in the Indo-Pacific region, they would talk about challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, they will talk about areas of concern which might be there, they would also focus on the opportunities that the Quad countries and Quad countries in partnership with other countries of the Indo-Pacific need to work on and issues of regional and global development would definitely be part of the conversation. I would not like to single out one country or another in that respect.
I really don't see how wheat question fits in here, but still, I think the relevant ministry which deals with the wheat product would perhaps be able to answer your question in a greater detail. But, we have been extremely clear that you know, the principal and the needs of food security in India are paramount for us, yet at the same time, we have also been very careful and calibrated in ensuring that the needs of the vulnerable economies, the economies that are vulnerable to the risks of the food security, wherever possible, are met. We also would need to respond also to a large segment of speculative global aspects which go into the entire trade of the food commodities. So I think our position on wheat in that sense, in terms of the externalities of a particular commodity that you look at, I think are very clear, they flow from the principles of food security, but they are also acutely conscious that whenever the needs of the other vulnerable countries are concerned, to the extent possible and to the best of our ability, we will definitely try and meet them to that extent.
Well, insofar as where all Prime Minister is traveling I've already mentioned to you where all he's traveling. Thank you.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I will take a few more questions. I think somebody last time have raised hand okay, if not, we will start with you.
Kavita Joshi: Namaskar Sir! Main Kavita Joshi hoon Hari Bhoomi Newspaper se. Sir main ye aapse puchhna chahti hun ki ye jo Quad leaders ka jo meeting hoga usmein kyokin Bharat ek important sadasya hai Quad ka, to bharat ne Russia-Ukraine war mein Russia ka na to abhi tak criticism kiya aur na hi sanctions ke upar baat ki hai. Lekin baki jo isske tino desh hai unhonne criticize bhi kiya, sanctions ke upar bhi baat ki. Toh hamare Prime Minister ki jo Quad mein baat hogi ya President Biden ke saath unke bilateral honge to iss issue ko bhi matlab samne rakha jayega? Iss pe bhi koi charcha hogi? Iss pe Prime Minister ki taraf se kuchh? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Namaskar Sir! I am Kavita Joshi from Hari Bhoomi Newspaper. Sir, I want to ask you that in this meeting of Quad leaders, because India is an important member of Quad, India has neither criticized Russia in the Russia-Ukraine war nor talked about sanctions so far, but rest of the three Quad countries have criticized Russia and have also talked about sanctions. So during our Prime Minister’s talks in Quad or when he will have a bilateral with President Biden, will this issue be raised, will there be a discussion on this too?
Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Dekhiye main aapse mukhya cheej jo Spokesperson ne prarambh men kahi thi woh keh dena chahta hoon, iss briefing mein hum mukhyatah Pradhan Mantri ji ki Quad summit ki yatra par kendrit hain. Aapke jo prashn hai uspe kya uttar hoga ye alag baat hai lekin ye mukhya cheej mein spasht roop se prarambh mein bol doon to shayad uchit rahega. Aapka prashn swagtiya hai ! (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) See, I want to tell you the important thing that the Spokesperson said in the beginning. In this briefing, we are mainly focused on the Prime Minister's visit to the Quad Summit. What will be the answer to your question is a different matter, but it will probably be appropriate if I say this main thing clearly in the beginning. Your question is welcome.
Ranjit Kumar: Foreign Secretary I’m Ranjit Kumar. How India views the idea of expansion of Quad that includes countries like South Korea, Indonesia, other countries.
Sahil: Good afternoon, Sir, I’m Sahil from ANI. Sir, will Quad vaccine initiative be the talking point in this meeting? And one more question is there if you allow. It is about one political representative said out in UK that the Indian Foreign Service has completely changed and won't listen to.
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: No, no. Hold on. By no stretch of imagination can you bring that to the Prime Minister’s visit. So, that is not going to happen.
Takashi: Hi, Good afternoon. My name is Takashi from Japanese newspaper. You mentioned Prime Minister Modi is going to meet the business community in Japan. So, is there any specific sector or industry India wants to strengthen the relationship? Thank you.
Smitha Sharma: Foreign Secretary, Smitha Sharma, contributing editor, India Ahead. Just a related question to the Quad vaccine initiative because to quote Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Adviser he said that the Quad is working assiduously to get Indian regulatory approvals to get the Quad vaccine initiative off the ground. Can you help us understand exactly what are the sticking points? Is there a timeline that you're working towards to resolve the issue? And what is the scheduled timing for the Quad meeting if you could help with that.
Brahm Prakash: Foreign secretary main Bramha Prakash Dubey hoon Zee News se, mera sawal yeh hai ki jo Quad summit mein jin maslon par charcha hogi usmein kya ye bhi hogi jis tarah se cheen ka aggression dekhne ko mil raha hai Bharat ke border par, khaas taur se abhi charcha ho rahi hai doosra bridge bhi bana raha hai Pangong lake par. To iss tarah ke mudde cheen se jude hue jo cheen ka jo attitude dekhne ko mil raha hai uspar bhi batchit hogi ? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Foreign Secretary! I am Brahm Prakash Dubey from Zee News. My question is whether the issues that will be discussed in the Quad Summit, will include issue of China's aggression that is being seen on the border with India, especially now, the second bridge is also being built on the Pangong lake. So, such issues related to China, considering the attitude of China that is being seen these days, will also be discussed?
Raj Chengappa: Foreign Secretary, Raj Chengappa from India Today. Just to follow up on Smitha’s question, she talked about COVID and the vaccine initiative, I want to know on the other two C’s which is critical technologies and climate change, what concrete action has happened apart from, you know, various discussions, is there any groups that are being formed this time? Is there going to be progress on these things, whether it's semiconductors, on other issues what do we expect from this?
Huma Siddiqui: I’m Huma Siddiqui from The Financial Express. During the bilateral with the Japanese Prime Minister, would defence and security be an issue of top discussion and when is the Two Plus Two between the two countries expected?
Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Okay, let me just summarize the questions and ensure that nothing one is missed. One Ukraine, two Quad expansion, three Quad vaccine initiative, fourth, as spokesperson said not relevant and Takashi San, I think your question on the domains of economic cooperation, follow up on the vaccine, and the issue relating to China and the critical technologies and the climate action.
I think Kavita ji jo aapka prashn Ukraine se sambandhit tha woh jaisa ki maine aapse pichhale prashn ke uttar mein bhi kaha ki Ukraine ko leke jo Bharat ki niti hai, jo saidhantik niti hai, jo hamare hiton aur siddhanto par adharit niti hai, us niti ka pure vishv mein aur ismein jo hamare mukhya partner hain unke dwara bhi poori understanding hai, poori appreciation hai. Mein hindi mein jo angreji mein jo maine kaha uska rupantaran karane ka prayas karta hoon, thoda anuchhit rahe toh main kshama chahunga aapse. Uss mein teen cheeze hamane mukhya roop se kahi hai, ek ye shighra ati shighra yuddh viram aur ye jab se sthiti develop hone shuru hui hai tab se kaha hai, doosra diplomacy or dialogue ke madhyam se samasya ka suljhav aur jaisa ki maine kaha hai is niti ki dusre desho dwara appreciation bhi hai, isake prati poori understanding bhi hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) I think Kavita ji, with regard to your question which is related to Ukraine, as I said in reply to the previous question also, that the policy of India with regard to Ukraine, which is a principled policy, which is a policy based on our interests and principles, there is a full understanding and appreciation of that policy in the world, including among our main partners. I will try to translate what I said in English in Hindi, if I am a bit inaccurate, please pardon me. There are three main things that we have said in it, one is early ceasefire and it has been said since the situation has started to develop, the other is the solution of the problem through diplomacy and dialogue and as I have said, this policy is also appreciated by other countries, there is a complete understanding of it.
I think the second question was relating to the Quad expansion. I think it was asked. To our understanding right now, I don't think there are any conversations going on, on further expansion of Quad. Quad is between the four countries.
Quad vaccine initiative, related aspects of the Quad vaccine initiative - I think if you look at, you know, how the initiative started and the subsequent dimensions of it when you encounter and when you respond to pandemic, there are various elements of response to the pandemic, in this case, the COVID 19 pandemic, of which vaccine is an important element. But there are other important elements, which, as the COVID has evolved, have continued to emerge, and also become areas of cooperation between not just the Quad countries, but also the discussions and is a part of substantive cooperation with other countries. And as I mentioned to you right in the beginning, our cooperation on COVID response is a continuing feature. It's also an evolving feature. It includes not just response to as the COVID situation develops across the Indo-Pacific, it also includes how do we now begin to address the post COVID-19 aspects. Economic Recovery is one aspect, the aspects relating to health infrastructure, health security, pandemic preparedness, all these are important elements as you transition into a different phase of COVID-19 response. And I think all those elements are important segments of conversation between the Quad leaders, and as I mentioned, right in the beginning, but I'll just repeat it that, in that the last mile delivery, health security, genomics surveillance, clinical trials, essentially part of COVID pandemic preparedness, are important elements in this and I think this is something which will form an important basis of conversations during the Summit also.
On your question Mr. Takashi on the economic areas of cooperation, as you know very well that the economic pillar, and within the economic pillar, the commercial pillar, and within the commercial pillar, the business to business partnerships, they are very critical segment of our relationship. It, frankly, includes trade, which is crucial, technology and investment partnerships. Within the broad rubric of trade, investment and technology, there is a whole set of specific areas in which this partnership is to be taken forward. I spoke about industrial competitive partnership that we had agreed during the recent visit of Excellency, the Prime Minister of Japan, the digital partnership, how do the complementarities of the two economies in the field of manufacturing translate into business to business partnerships as a third area, and there are a whole host of other areas in our economic engagement, which have always been a focus of our engagement. And they would also be in focus in Prime Minister's meeting with the Japanese business leader. It is not a uni-sectoral focus, it’s a multi-sectoral attention that Prime Minister's interaction with the business leaders would entail.
On the other question, from you, Raj, with regard to the critical and emerging technologies. See in some form or another, critical and emerging technologies have always been an area of conversation between not just India and the US, but also between India and the other relevant countries which fit this bracket. The critical and emerging technologies have achieved, have assumed a sharper focus in terms of their discussions in the Quad. The discussions are both conceptual but also specific depending upon what each country brings to the table. And insofar as going forward is concerned, we do expect to see some very tangible and material progress on the ground. I think climate action is a space on which all countries have done a considerable amount and I think they will continue to do going forward.
So the 2+2, I think we are in discussions with our Japanese counterparts. And I think once the timelines for that are finalized, we'll definitely let you know. I think Defence and Security again, it's a very important element of our relationship with Japan, it has several segments to it, which go into it. There are bilateral exercises that take place between the two countries, there are exchanges at the level of defence teams that take place between the two countries. You yourself mentioned about 2+2, one meeting has taken place, second one is in progress, you are aware that in 2020 the two countries have signed an agreement on the reciprocal provision of supply and services between the armed forces of the two countries and most recently, I think when the MILAN 22 iteration of the exercise was done, a lot of these understandings and the arrangements that the two countries had arrived at were put into practice. So, it's an important segment of our cooperation. Another side of it, which is equally important from the perspective of both the countries is to look at co-design, co-development and co-manufacturing wherever possible, of different defence systems that go into it. This would naturally include technologies but also include specific design aspects to it.
I think yahan par ek cheen se sambandhit, aapka prashn tha cheen se sambandhit. Dekhiye jaise maine shuru mein bhi kaha Indo-Pacific kshetra mein, Indo-Pacific kshetriya sandarbh mein chunautiyan bhi hai, avasar bhi hai. Aur jab Quad ke neta aapas mein baat karte hai ya Bharat kisi bhi aur Indo-Pacific kshetra se baat karta hai ya jab bhi Indo-Pacific kshetra ke sandarbh men varta hoti hai usmen chunautiyon aur avasar donon par hi kendrit kiya jata hai. Dvipakshiye sambandh alag ki baaten hai. But iss samay Indo-Pacific kendrit chijon mein jo chunautiyan, avasar hai, usape yatochit yathasambhav tarike se Quad ke neta jo varta agenda mein aayenge woh avashya karenge. Dhanyavad! (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I think there was one question related to China. See, as I said at the outset, in the Indo-Pacific region, in the Indo-Pacific regional context, there are challenges, there are opportunities. And when the leaders of the Quad talk to each other or whenever India talks to any other region in Indo-Pacific or whenever there is a discussion in the context of the Indo-Pacific region, focus is on both the challenges and the opportunities. Bilateral relations are separate issues of discussions. But at the moment, the challenges and opportunities that are there in the Indo-Pacific centric matters, Quad leaders will have discussions on all these issues which will form part of the agenda. Thank you!
Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much Sir for detailed responses. Thanks also to Additional Secretaries, Naveen Srivastava and Vani Rao. Thank you all for joining us today afternoon. Please stay tuned for our updates as the visit progresses.
Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you.