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Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on First I2U2 Leaders’ Virtual Summit (July 14, 2022)

July 14, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining us for this special briefing that we are organizing at the just concluded summit of four countries, which is now being called I2U2. We have with us to give a sense of that, Foreign Secretary Sir, Shri Vinay Kwatra. Also on the dais here with me, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry, Shri Dammu Ravi who also is actually the Sherpa of this process, as well as Joint Secretary, Economic Diplomacy Division, Noor Rahman Sheikh. Sir without further ado, let me hand over the floor to you. Thank you Sir.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much, and welcome to all of you, friends from the media for this special briefing on the, as Arindam said, just concluded I2U2 Summit. Thanks also to my colleague Dammu and Noor who have joined us for this briefing. As you would all be aware, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi participated in the summit today, along with the Prime Minister of Israel Yair Lapid, President of the UAE and the President of the United States of America. The I2U2 was conceptualized during the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the four countries, which was held in October last year. It is broadly aimed at encouraging joint investments in six mutually identified areas - water, energy, transportation, space, health, and food security. Through this grouping, the intention principally is to mobilize the private sector capital and deploy it for many areas of economic cooperation. The key ones of them I would like to list is - expertise, deploy expertise to modernize infrastructure, pursue pathways for low carbon development for our industries, improve public health and access to vaccines, advance physical connectivity between the countries in the Middle East region, jointly create new solutions for waste treatment, explore joint financing opportunities, connect our start-ups to I2U2 investments and also look at opportunities in the space of FinTech. These projects, these initial project areas, can serve as a model for Economic Cooperation and of course offer opportunities for our business persons and workers in this field.

In today's Summit, the Prime Minister had a frank and a very purposeful conversation with the other I2U2 leaders on strengthening economic ties in our respective regions and beyond. The Summit had a very positive, constructive and I would even say tangible agenda, which included discussions on promoting specific projects, specific joint projects, and also discussions on common sectoral areas for the benefit of our respective countries as also for our regions. The possible joint projects and other priorities of I2U2 cooperation have already been captured in the joint statement which is available in the public domain for you to access. I would take this opportunity to highlight couple of key two joint projects which were discussed by the leaders and preceded in turn by preparations at the Sherpa level meetings between the Sherpa of the four countries. The first project relates to the food corridor. Under this project, the UAE intends to invest roughly US$ 2 billion to develop a series of Integrated Food corridors across India, which would deploy climate smart technologies to reduce food wastage and spoilage, conserve fresh water at the same time, and also employ renewable energy sources. In this endeavour, the US and Israeli private sectors would lend their expertise as partners in this project, and would also look at offering innovative solutions that contribute to the overall sustainability of the project. India welcomed the project and will provide appropriate facilitation towards its successful operation. The project has four key connects to the people on the ground. One of them of course, is maximization of the crop yields, two enhancement of Indian farmers’ incomes, three, contributing overall to the food security in South Asia, and in this case, as an extension also in the Middle East.

The second project is related to renewable energy. The I2U2 countries will advance a hybrid renewable project in Dwarka, Gujarat, consisting of 300 MW of wind and solar capacity complemented by a battery energy storage system. The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has already funded a feasibility study for this project, which is roughly the quantum of US$ 330 million. UAE based companies are exploring opportunities to serve as knowledge and investment partners on the project. Israel and the US intend to work with the UAE and India to highlight private sector opportunities in this field. Indian companies of course, are very keen to participate in this project and contribute to India's goal of achieving 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030. Such projects, of course, have the potential to make India a global supply chain hub in the space of renewable energy.

Apart from these two specific projects, the I2U2 leaders also discussed other common sectoral areas of interest. These areas mainly related to, as I mentioned in the beginning, also how to modernize infrastructure, including connectivity. Two, how to pursue pathways for low carbon development, areas of public health, solutions for waste treatment, connecting start-ups to the I2U2 investment platform and the FinTech sector. In the FinTech sector, Prime Minister Shri Modi particularly highlighted the importance and the doability of expanding the UPI payment system across to the I2U2 areas. The Summit also provided Prime Minister Modi an opportunity to convey his congratulations and best wishes to Prime Minister of Israel on assuming charge as the Prime Minister of that country. Overall, the discussions in the Summit were very fruitful and productive and there are mechanisms in place and we hope to take forward the outcomes of this Summit with our I2U2 partners and other stakeholders through these established mechanisms, which are led at the Sherpa level. I will stop here and take any questions that might be there. Thank you very much.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Sir. We'll take a few questions. Please introduce yourself and the organization that you represent.

Yeshi: This is Yeshi Seli from the The New Indian Express. I'd like to know a little more about these food corridors. What does it entail? And are there places in India which have been identified, where they're likely to be? And secondly, before this I2U2, there was this grouping between India, Israel and UAE. Does that still stand or has it been merged?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: The trilateral?

Yeshee: Yeah, the trilateral.

Nivedita: This is Nivedita from Swarajya. Is there any specific reason behind the timing of formation of this initiative, this particular group? And secondly, is China a factor in this?

Madhurendra: Sir mein Madhurendra News Nation se. I2U2 ko lekar ye kaha ja raha hai ki pashchimi Asia ka Quad hai, toh iske pehle virtual summit ke baad iss term ko aap kaise define karna chahenge? Agar pashchimi Asia ka ise Quad kahen ise to? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, I am Madhurendra from News Nation. It is being said that I2U2 is the Quad of West Asia, so after its first virtual summit, how would you like to define this term? Can it be called the Quad of West Asia?

Sidhant: Hi Sir, Sidhant from WION. Sir what will be the mechanism of this grouping in terms of its meeting? Will it meet annually or what's the format like?

Akhilesh Suman: Sir I’m Akhilesh Suman from Sansad TV. I2U2 Summit, this is first Summit of I2U2 and this is the time that is coinciding the crisis in Sri Lanka, especially the food security in Sri Lanka is quite at stake. So did you talk anything about the situation in Sri Lanka and whether the four countries can cooperate when Sri Lanka is going through worst crisis of its existence.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Since you managed to bring it in the context of Summit we will allow that for the moment.

Vijayalakshmi: Sir Vijayalakshmi hoon India TV se. Ye jo I2U2 ka jo advance hybrid renewable energy project hai iska koi timeline hai? Kaise ispar kaam hoga? Kab se shuru hoga ya thodi jankari mil paye? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir, I am Vijayalaxmi from India TV. Is there a timeline of this I2U2's advance hybrid renewable energy project? How will it be implemented? When will it start? Or can we get some information?

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you. With regard to the question on the food corridor, the line of effort in this particular project relating to the food corridor is to shape it in a manner that benefits the small and marginal farmers here. The proposed food parks that are being talked about have a set of objectives which would be sought to be achieved in this. One of them includes, through these food corridors, how do you reduce trade barriers between the economies of the I2U2, how do you, and this is a very important factor - how do you harmonize the Food Safety and Quality Standards? Three, besides harmonization, how do you also use this as an opportunity to benchmark yourself to export the perishable food products that you would grow in this corridor and export them globally? Not only the project is very specific, I think the outcomes of the project also both in terms of trade facilitation mechanism, as also in terms of genuine exports of the product, in this case, the food products, is very, very specific. Naturally, the corridor would allow access to the strategic markets of the Gulf starting through the UAE, where it's targeted. It would automatically also lead to a significant job creation opportunities within the Indian setup. As far as my understanding goes, this would essentially be an effort governed by the private sectors involved in both the countries and the area of economic activity of food park will be in the state governments. I understand that as of now, the start-up idea is to put it up in two states, I mean, both the states are still exploring that opportunity. I think one of them is Gujarat, other is Madhya Pradesh. So these are two states in which this particular food corridor, food Park project would be taken up. There have also been discussions on the initial identification of what kind of food products crops would be grown there. And initial list is not an exhaustive list, but includes things like banana, potato, rice, spices, onions, some of the focus crop areas obviously. Going forward, this list might expand depending upon how the activity takes place on the ground.

I think there were a couple of questions relating to the timing of the I2U2 Summit. I think, as I mentioned in my opening remarks also, the idea of the I2U2 Summit was conceptualized in October last year. Since then, the Sherpas of the I2U2 countries have been very intensely engaged not only in shaping the substantive content of the discussions for the leaders today, but also on the timing of scheduling this summit. So I think the cooperation within the I2U2, among the I2U2 countries and for India, each country in the I2U2 is a strategic partner. I think this cooperation, its direction, its principal economic orientation, stands on its own merit, and is to be taken as such and not in the context of any other country.

Aapka ek prashn tha ki I2U2 ko pashchimi Quad ke roop se paribhashit kiya jaye ki nahi? Mere hisab se I2U2 ko I2U2 hi paribhashit kare to uttam rahega, wo apne aap mein pradaksh hai usko kisi aur roop mein paribhasha dene ki mere khyal se is samay avashyakta na hai, na hi wo tark sangat aur na hi tathy sangat hai ek prakar se dekha jaye to. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) You asked a question, whether to define I2U2 as a Western Quad or not? According to me, it would be better if I2U2 is defined as I2U2. There is no need to give it any other definition at this time. If you see, defining it differently is neither logical nor factually relevant.

With regard to whether there were any discussions on the crisis in Sri Lanka and how does I2U2 look at this, as I mentioned to you that the principal domains of economic cooperation within the I2U2 are essentially six or seven of them. There are specific projects relating to these six or seven domains which are under consideration. Two of them I listed very specifically. It is our assumption and also our effort, even our objective, that specific cooperation in these project benefits the economies of the region, but also benefits the larger global issues of food security in this case. Specifically Sri Lanka did not come up for discussion. The format of discussions focused on the joint economic cooperation among the I2U2 countries and also as an extension how does it help other countries in the region and beyond.

Vijayalakshmi ji jo aapka prashn tha hybrid se leke mere khyal se. Hybrid project 300 MW ka jaisa ki maine jikr kiya. Isamen lagabhag 200 MW wind energy ke roop se hai, 100 MW solar ke usmein hai aur battery storage component jo ismen hai wo lagbhag 100 se 500 MW ke beech ki sakshamata ka hai. Ye battery storage wala jo area hai woh thoda naya or emerging vala area hai. Lekin ek sthir aur nirantar electricity supply ke liye ye ek saksham, sudridh battery supply storage system jo hai nitant avashyak paaya gaya hai isake liye. Ye project jaisa ki maine kaha bharat ko ek renewable space mein ek global energy supply chain ke hub banane men sahayata karega. Dwarka, Gujarat men isake sthapana ka prastav hai. Ispe aage iska kiss tarah se implementation ho, private sector ki involvement ismen kaise ho, kaun-kaun sa private sector isamen sammilit ho ye sab implementation ki jo details hai ye sherpa star pay ismen kafi baate ho chuki hai, kafi baate ismein honi thodi baki hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Vijayalakshmi ji, I think your question was related to hybrid project. As I had mentioned, the hybrid project is of 300 MW. It has about 200 MW of wind energy component, 100 MW of solar energy component and the battery storage component in it is of the capacity of about 100 MW to 500 MW. This area of battery storage is a new and emerging area. For a stable and continuous electricity supply, having a capable, strong battery supply storage system is absolutely necessary. This project, as I said, will help India become a hub of global energy supply chain in the renewable space. It is proposed to be set up in Dwarka, Gujarat. How to implement it further, how to involve the private sector, which private sector should be involved in it - on all these details of the implementation, lot of talks have taken place at the Sherpa level, but some more discussions are required.

I think there was a question of Sidhant on the periodicity, I think this is under discussion, but we would expect such Summits to take place at regular periodicity given in particular the nature of the agenda of cooperation, which is very robust, very extensive and given that we have only just started off now. With extensive discussions on two projects in many areas, we would expect that periodicity to be frequent. That frequency is something which will get decided as we go along. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Sir. Let me take next round of question.

Yeshi: Sir, the trilateral question.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Your question on the India –Israel - UAE trilateral, I think you will find that irrespective of how the different other mechanisms come up, which focus on specific areas of cooperation, the domain of other bilateral or trilateral mechanism that continues regardless of what happens under the other structured mechanisms like I2U2.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Sir.

Chandrakala: Sir this is Chandrakala from ETV Bharat. You know, of course, as geopolitical shifts unfold across the Western Indian Ocean, how significant is the new grouping and what would be India's role in I2U2?

Shrinjoy: Sir Times Now. Sir you spoke a lot about economic issues. Everything you've spoken about so far has related to economic subjects. Considering the energy crisis in the world today did petroleum come up? And also Sir, economic issues apart, did issues that related to Ukraine, Iran, considering Israel and America were there, Afghanistan, terrorism did these issues come up?

Kallol: Kallol from the Hindu Sir. Sir since the food parks are related to the farmers, has this plan been discussed with the farmers?

Maha: Sir Maha from NDTV. Sir I wanted to ask you in the context of food security, did the issue of Ukraine come up? And because the US has been critical of India's wheat ban, did that come up?

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you. The crisis in West Indian Ocean and India's role, how do we relate it to I2U2 I think that was your question. Let me also combine this with the question which came from Times Now that you know, we spoke that I referred to only economic issues, whether the question relating to Afghanistan, terrorism, energy security, etc. come up or not. Let me put it this way in order to put it in a perspective of how exactly the leaders of the I2U2 and how India looks at the lines of effort and the lines of objective of this cooperation. The principle orientation and the approach of I2U2 of cooperation is economic cooperation. As I mentioned, the objective is to mobilize the private capital in the I2U2 economies and deploy it for tangible areas of economic activity, specific projects in the fields of which I listed - water, energy, transportation, space, health and food security. This is currently the defined scope of I2U2 economic engagement between the four countries involved in the space. As I mentioned, India has strategic partnership with each of the I2U2 countries. India's role in this would be a pivotal role, will be a key role, and will also be a role in which we would facilitate and undertake many of these areas of actual economic activity in our country. Going forward, as I mentioned to you, if you look at areas of cooperation, like linking up the I2U2 countries’ capital rich nature, how do we link it to the start-up innovation sector in India, for example, to FinTech? As I mentioned, India has phenomenal and remarkable capacities in the space of FinTech, both in terms of products, in terms of services, and now increasingly in terms of platforms. Obviously, these would offer a sound basis for us to be able to expand our economic capacities into the I2U2 economies. So India's role in the I2U2 segment would be pivotal. With regard to the question on discussions with the farmers, I think when the specific food corridor project is implemented, and the manner of its implementation will naturally ensure that all the stakeholders involved in this process are taken on board and are fully consulted before these projects are implemented. Whether the issue of wheat ban, Ukraine etc. came up, the answer is no, it didn't come up.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. Thank you all for joining this special briefing. May I thank Foreign Secretary Sir as well as Secretary (Economic Relations) as well as Joint Secretary (ED) for sparing their time. Please stay with us. After a short break of about 10 - 15 minutes, we will resume with our weekly media briefing. Thank you.

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