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Media Briefing by Secretary West during visit of Prime Minister to New York to attend UNGA Summit

September 25, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, good evening, Namaskar. After a historic visit to Houston Prime Minister had a very busy first day in New York. It was a combination of multilateral and bilateral meetings and if I could just give you a sense of what happened today, Prime Minister attended three UN related meetings. First was on UN Summit on Climate Change. We have shared a copy of the speech as well as the press release with all of you. The second was the high level meeting on Universal Health Coverage. Again we have shared the speech and press release and in the evening Prime Minister had attended Leader’s Dialogue on Strategic Response to Terrorists and Violent Extremists.

Throughout the day Prime Minister also had six bilateral meetings with the Amir of Qatar, President of Niger, Prime Minister of Italy, Executive Director of UNICEF, President of Namibia and President of Maldives. But other than Prime Minister’s engagements we also have the External Affairs Minister in town and the Minister of State for External Affairs. EAM had 11 bilateral meetings and I would just list out the countries for you. Iran, Port Da vo, Guyana, Bulgaria, Turkey, Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Equatorial Guinea and UAE.

He also had a meeting with the US Special Envoy on Afghanistan. MoS attended the CICA breakfast meeting earlier today morning which was hosted by Tajikistan. So overall we are looking at almost 20-25 interactions between Prime Minister, External Affairs Minister and MoS throughout the day. So a very hectic day of engagement for them. I have with me Secretary (West) who will brief you all on the UN related engagements and then I’ll come back to give you a sense of what transpired in the meetings of the Prime Minister. I also have Sanjay Rana who is Jt. Secretary (UNP) and after his remarks, after we are done we will take some questions from the floor. Sir, the floor is yours.

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma: Good evening to all of you and welcome to this briefing. Today was the first day of the multilateral UN part of the visit to the United States and Prime Minister participated in the Climate Action Summit and in fact he was one of the leading speakers at the Summit. India and Sweden are part of the Industrial Transition Track as co-leaders. PM in his presentation underlined India’s practical approach and roadmap towards increasing use of renewables to address the climate issue.

His speech was received with great interest, he highlighted increasing focus on biofuels, compressed biogas and boosting electric mobility. The other initiatives he spoke on was clean cooking gas which has impacted on millions of families and women and children. He also talked about Jal Shakti Abhiyaan for water conservation targeted at solving the water crisis situation. In his presentation he talked about the need for the private sector and the governments to cooperate in the area of technology innovation and developing low carbon technologies and processes. He proposed the launching of a leadership group in this context which would provide that kind of encouragement to the governments and private sector to work closely together.

He also spoke on one theme which is again becoming increasingly relevant and important and that is about India’s decision to end the use of single use plastic which will have global impact. Prime Minister announced the launch of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure which is aimed at assisting countries to develop their own infrastructure disaster resilient and invited countries to join this coalition.

Interestingly and significantly when we are talking about climate issue India has actually contributed to a project to install rooftop solar panels at the rooftop of UN building itself. So the renewable energy begins right here in the UN Complex at a cost $1 million, India has funded this project and just to mention that this will be formally inaugurated tomorrow at the commemorative event to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This event is being organized in the UN Complex.

Prime Minister also participated in the first ever UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage. He did speak about the Ayushman Bharat initiative to provide affordable healthcare. You’d be aware that this is the world’s largest healthcare assurance scheme under which 500 million people could avail free treatment worth up to Rs. 5 lakhs annually and there are also special pharmacies to provide medicines at affordable prices.

While you are aware that the Prime Minister mentioned and conveyed this to the high level audience because the sheer scale is mind boggling and if there is any conversation on universal health coverage a scheme like this is very-very special relevance. Prime Minister also informed about the National Nutrition Program. He mentioned about India’s commitment to eliminate tuberculosis by 2025 five years ahead of the global goal of 2030. He also spoke about the need to ensure quality medical insurance and medical infrastructure development. So therefore in short on the universal health coverage segment he outlined that India has actually initiated several practical measures and we have also very significant goals which will hugely impact on this global target of providing universal health coverage. India with its scale and magnitude provides those numbers which will make this global campaign definitely go in the right direction.

In the afternoon Prime Minister Modi attended the Leader’s dialogue to discuss strategic responses to terrorists and violent extremist narratives. This took stock of the Christ Church Call to action to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. India has supported the Christ Church Call to sanitize cyberspace from contents which promote and eulogize terrorism, hate and violence.

Friends, I would like to mention to you that India’s rising stature and strong democratic credentials increasingly resonate multilateral fora and very much exemplified by French President Emmanuel Macron’s opening statement where he expressed appreciation for India’s association with the Christ Church Call particularly as a democracy that represents over a billion people.

I would repeat that, French President Emmanuel Macron in his opening statement expressed appreciation for India’s association with the Christ Church Call as a democracy representing over a billion people. He mentioned that it takes the entire initiative to new levels and gives it a greater sense of action towards dealing with extremist and terrorist content and use of online techniques.

In his intervention Prime Minister Modi called for Qualitative Upgradation in the ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing through bilateral and regional frameworks. He suggested institutionalizing counter terrorism cooperation at the multilateral level. He said India will work towards enhancing ongoing cooperation in capacity building of friendly countries in this area.

Prime Minister said that terrorists should be not allowed to get funds and arms. For this objective to be realized we need to avoid politicization of events like UN listings and FATF. These mechanisms need to be enforced and strengthened. Sharing India’s experience he said that democratic values, diversity and inclusive development were the most important weapons against ideologies that promote terrorism, extremism and radicalism.

Prime Minister called for global solidarity and readiness against terrorism in the same way as the world has shown solidarity against challenges like Climate Change. He said a terrorist attack anywhere in the world should be considered terrorism and not good or bad terrorism, not more or not less.

So that friends is an overview of PM’s presence at the United Nations on day number one. And once again to reiterate that India’s rising stature both as a democracy and a major influential country, that came out very strongly in all the three events that he attended. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much sir. Before I take you through the six bilateral meetings where Prime Minister participated. You know these are meetings on the sidelines and I would like to underline that it is not possible to have a detailed discussion on each and every aspect of the relationship. Bilateral agenda was the focus.

The first meeting was with the Amir of Qatar. There have been regular exchanges and visits taking place between the two countries. Amir expressed his gratitude to the Indian diaspora for their role in supporting the economy of the country. Some discussion also took place on the cooperation on counter-terrorism against the backdrop of the situation in the region.

The second meeting was with the Niger President. You are aware that Prime Minister had met Niger President on the sidelines of the ISA Summit a couple of years back. We have granted an assistance of $35 million for the construction of Mahatma Gandhi Convention center in Niamey. The project is nearing completion. President of Niger did invite the Prime Minister to attend the inaugural ceremony as and when this is done. Prime Minister said that the diplomatic channels of the two countries should get in touch on this matter.

The Niger President also raised the issue of cooperation in agriculture sector, in solar energy. He said that India has lot of experience in these two areas and some discussion took place as to how to take in forward. There was a suggestion which came out that a task force could be established to look into this area. And counter-terrorism cooperation also came up for discussion. A need was felt to coordinate and synergize the position between the two countries as we face the common threat of terrorism.

With the Italian Prime Minister, Prime Minister congratulated him on his reappointment. You are aware that he visited India last year and the focus of discussion basically was on the follow up to the understandings which were reached during his visit. The economic cooperation was the main area which was discussed, how can we expand trade, how can we further bilateral investment. Prime Minister invited the Italian SMEs, the Italian companies to use the low cost production in India and invest in India and Make in India initiative. There was also some discussion on defence cooperation, not much but it did figure in the discussion.

The fourth meeting was with the UNICEF Director. We have completed 70 years of cooperation with UNICEF. Prime Minister highlighted some of the initiatives of the government of India which is supporting children. For example he did mention about Jan-Jeevan Suraksha. He talked about Indradhanush which is a targeted program on preventive health. This is on vaccination. He also mentioned about Poshan which has a very strong focus on nutrition in children.

The fifth meeting was with the President of Namibia. Again mostly the focus was on bilateral cooperation. The Namibian President thanked Prime Minister for the assistance which India provided during the drought in that country.

And just before coming here the last meeting was with the President of Maldives. You are aware that Prime Minister chose Maldives as first country to visit after his reelection for the second term. The progress on the developmental cooperation, several projects which are ongoing in Maldives, those were discussed. There was also some discussion on cooperation in Cricket. There is a proposal for training the Maldivian cricketers in India and that training is actually going to start next month, in October and some discussion also took place about a cricket stadium which is supposed to come up in Maldives. We asked them for a detailed project report so that India can look at the project and decide on its future course of action.

So these are the six bilateral meetings. I will briefly run you through the program tomorrow before I open the floor to questions.

We start off with a bilateral meeting with the US President at 12:15 hrs. At 15:30 hrs. we have India-Pacific Leader’s Meeting. At 16:30 hrs. we have Gandhi at 150 event and the last event of tomorrow will be the Goalkeeper’s Global Goals 2019 awards by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which would be held at 20:10 hrs.

So this is what we have for tomorrow and now if you have any questions we’d be happy to take them.

Question: If I could just refer you to the comments by the US President Trump this morning in a conversation along with the Pakistani Prime Minister, he actually said three times, used the word ‘aggressive’ referring to Prime Minister Modi’s statement yesterday and said that he was not expecting the statement that Prime Minister Modi had made. I was wondering if you had any kid of a response to that and just a clarification, did the Prime Minister mention the Comprehensive Cooperation on International Terrorism during the session today because we didn’t hear the CCIT being referred to.

Jt. Secretary (UNP), Shri Sanjay Rana: It is there in the speech, not the exact phrase but in multilateral forum.

Question: President Trump ne aaj fir se kahaa hai ki agar Bharat aur Pakistan chaahein to wo madhyasthataa karne ko taiyyar hain Kashmir par.

(President Trump today once again said that if India and Pakistan agree he is ready to mediate on the Kashmir issue.)

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma: There is a meeting tomorrow between Prime Minister and US President, so let us wait for the meeting.

Question: Prime Minister had six bilateral meetings and EAM had 11 bilateral meetings. Although we have said that Prime Minister will not speak about Kashmir in UNGA speech at least as of now but were there questions, were there clarification sought, was this a conversation at all between the interlocutors, both with the PM’s interlocutors and EAM’s interlocutors. My second question is on international conference that strategic session on terrorism, did it culminate in any joint program of de-radicalization or something or was it just primarily a kind of exploratory exercise?

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma: Well, on the terrorism side the Christ Church initiative which is an evolving area, it is a kind of process which involves the supervision of online content in a way that extremists and terrorists tendencies don’t find channels to disseminate this kind of material. So it cannot happen in one go but I think the entry of, the presence of India especially as a large IT nation and a democratic country, was strongly welcomed.

So this is in process of evolution. It will take time, there are several issues which are involved. In digital workspace you are aware between freedom and between supervision, there has to be a balance. So I think we wouldn’t have expected a declaration so early but I think it is moving in the right direction.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I did mention that the focus of discussion was bilateral ties but yes, in a couple of meetings the situation in the region did come up. You are aware that on the situation in J&K we have engaged with several countries at different levels. But given the nature of the meeting on the sidelines the focus was mainly on bilateral relationship.

Question: Mr. Sarma if I could press on the question of this flip-flop on mediation. Surely, the Ministry of External Affairs has given it more thought that Trump keeps raising the question of mediation. So tomorrow’s bilateral meeting is not going to resolve it because it seems he keeps going back to it. How do you read this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, Secretary’s response is after giving some thought. You are aware about our position, we have mentioned about this in the past. But my request would be to just hold on for the meeting tomorrow as I think it is not very far and we do intend to immediately hold a briefing after that where all the queries which you have on this topic will be answered.

Question: ………… Inaudible……..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
No, I think you know the format and how it happens. At the beginning of the meeting normally there are few questions that are taken by both the leaders.

Question: Do you take some media people with you?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
That we are working on, you know we have access restrictions.

Question Contd.: Apart from Doordarshan.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We are trying to sort it out as the numbers are of course big here, so we have to see how to work that out.

Question: What will be the composition of tomorrow’s meeting, will Trade Minister or Trade Secretary will be representing because in the Howdy event they have indicated that they will talk about the pending issues of trade?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Let us not prejudge what is going to happen. The delegation is pretty standard but I think let’s just hold on, I think all the questions related to the bilateral meeting will be answered after that.

Question: Prime Minister few months ago invited all the leaders to have a global convention on terrorism, did he mention this issue in the leader’s dialogue or did he take up this issue with other leaders?

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma:
Yes, there was a mention of global conference on terrorism. That is something that he mentioned, as you said, few months back. So he did draw reference to that but there is some work which has to be done towards realizing that, so we work with friendly countries towards that objective.

Question: …………. Inaudible………..

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma: It has to be very carefully done to go in the right direction so I believe we are preparing for that.

Question: You just mentioned that the Prime Minister said that there should not be any politicization of UN listing or about FATF, is this a message for a specific country, who have been mentioning that India has been trying to put them into the blacklist?

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma:
Well I think the messaging is that terrorism is a global issue and we need to join hands and combat it. I think to draw very political message that itself is probably looking it at the wrong way. What he is trying to convey is that no country is immune to the threat of terror so let’s all work together and let’s not differentiate between this kind of terror or that kind of terror. So he is actually saying that let’s not get into very political ways while analyzing and dealing and approaching terrorism.

Question: UNSC mein ek group four banaa thaa UNSC mein permanent seat ke liye, to us par latest kya development hai aur doosara ki Pradhanmantri ke is daure mein us par kya Pradhanmantri bolenge, Prakash daalenge ye UNSC mein jo permanent seat ko lekar jo baat hai us par kahin koi charchaa hai ye kahin is par koi baat hai?

(A group G4 was created in the UNSC for the permanent seat, so what is the latest development on that and second, during this visit will the Prime Minister speak about that, have there been any talks regarding permanent seat in the UNSC?)

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma:
UN reforms par bhi kaam chal rahaa hai, thoda sa uspar aur deshon ke saath bhi baatcheet chal rahi hai, intergovernmental process bhi hai lekin ye samajhana ki kuch dinon mein ye ho jaayega par hum log G4 ke maadhyam se isko aagey badhaane ki koshish kar rahe hain. Bahut se desh hain jo ye sahmat hain ki jo aaj ka Sanyukt Rashtra hai usmein kuch khaamiyaan kyonki 1945 mein jab iski sthaapana huii thii aur aaj ke world mein fark hai, wo kaafi had tak badal chukaa hai. To wo sahmati hai lekin kis tarah se reform karna hai, lakshya tak kaise pahunchana hai, is sab par abhi sahmati banana baaki hai. Jaise bhi vistaar ho Security Council ka to hamaari ummeed hai ki Bharat ke liye jaroor expanded UN Security Council mein ek jagah to hona aavashyak hai khaskar hamaaraa jo, ek to hamare population ko dekhate hue plus hamara jo potential bhi hai, industrial, economic. To hum to yahi ummeed karte hain ki jo G4 ke saath hum ko kaam kar rahe hain, aur deshon ke saath bhi hum baat kar rahe hain, kai desh samarthan karte hain Bharat ka is maamle mein. To jab sahi dishaa mein jaayega to jaroor pahunchega par is waqt samay ke baare mein baat karna thoda sa premature hoga. UN processes jaari hain ispar, itna aashwasan dete hain aapko.

(There is progress on UN reforms, and we are in discussion with other countries on this topic, it is also an intergovernmental process but believing that it would happen in just few days is wrong but we are trying to push it forward through the G4. There are many countries which agree that the United Nations of today has certain shortcomings because when it was formed in 1945 and today’s world are entirely different. So that agreement is there but how to proceed with the reforms and achieve the goals, agreement is yet to be reached on it.

Whenever the Security Council is expanded we believe that it is essential that India should have a place in the extended Security Council especially considering our population and our potential, both economic and industrial. So we hope that the discussions that we are having with the G4 and with other countries also, many countries support us for this. So when it will move in the right direction then it will definitely achieve its goal but at this moment talking about the timeline would be a bit premature however I can assure you that the UN process on this is ongoing.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Is baare mein sirf ek add karnaa chaahungaa ki 25 tareekh ko jo G4 Foreing Ministers ki meeting hogi, jo har saal hoti, usmein is maamle mein normally jo exchange of views hota hai wo hoga.

(I would like to add just one thing on this issue that there will be Foreign Ministers meeting of G4 which is held annually, there would be the usual exchange of views on this issue in that meeting.)

Question: 27th ko jab Prime Minister General Assembly ko address karenge to Pakistan Bharat ke baad mein bolega. To kya right to reply mein Bharat uska usi din jawaab dega?

(When Prime Minister will address the UN General Assembly on 27th, Pakistan will speak after that, so will India reply to Pakistan on the very same day using its right to reply?)

Secretary (West), Shri A Gitesh Sarma: Mujhe lagta hai is Vishay par aaj baat karna sahi nahi hai lekin jab hum apna statement dete hain to mere khyal se wo kisi ek desh par focused nahi hai, hamara world vision hai, hamaari jo approach hai international affairs par to hum to wahi saamne rakhenge jo generally hota hai. Agar aap soch rahe hain ki kisi ek desh par focus rahega aisa kahna, ya sochana ya apeksha karna mere khyal se sahi nahi hoga.

(I think it is not proper to talk about this issue today but let me tell you that when we make our statement then it is not focused on any one country. We will put forth our view of the world and our approach to international issues and which generally happens. If you think there will be focus on one particular country then thinking, believing or expecting it would not be correct.)

Question: Few questions on EAM’s meetings. One with the US envoy on Afghanistan. This was I think the first engagement after the talks were called off, was there a discussion on the implications of that particular decision taken by the US. Two, on Turkey, was there discussion on the Kashmir issue on their statements that have come after the Article 370 revocation and third, with Qatar, was the issue of Kashmir discussed?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I do not have details of EAM’s meetings because I was not present in the meetings. I was present in the meeting with Qatar as I mentioned that some discussion took place in the context of counter-terrorism and against the backdrop of regional situation. I would not like to really specify to what extent each topic and each element was discussed.

EAM has been tweeting and I think he has shared what was discussed in most of the meetings. I understand that with Qatar again the focus was primarily on bilateral relationship but as and when I get more details about all these meetings, he has been busy and had 11 meetings in a day and then I will be in a position to share those details with you.

Question: Is there a possibility of a deal or understanding with the US on trade issues tomorrow?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Look, I will take you back to the meeting between Prime Minister and President Trump where there was a broad understanding that differences in trade have to be addressed, it needs to be addressed quickly and that is the direction which was given. Discussions are taking place. At this stage for me to say how and where we are on that would be a bit premature. Let’s wait, I think it is a matter of time now and then we will have something definitely for you tomorrow.

Question: America ke saath jo kal baatcheet hogi usmein hamara focus area kya hoga?

(What would be our focus during our bilateral meeting with America?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye, is par main har baar bolta hoon ki kya hogi baatcheet ye main kal hi bataa paaunga. Aapko pata hai ki mujhe lag raha hai aur jaisa humne pahle bhi bataya, Foreign Secretary ne har baar jab bhi meeting hone ke baad jo briefing hui hai, focus primarily bilateral relationship rahta hai. US ke saath jab hamaari baat hoti hai to regional aur global situation bhi discuss hota hai, but kaun kitna discuss hoga wo flow of conversation ke saath hamein dekhna padega. Is samay ye batana ki exactly kya-kya hoga wo thoda premature ho jaayega.

(See, I have been saying time and again that I will be able to tell about the discussions tomorrow only. You know and as Foreign Secretary told in every briefing after the bilateral meeting that focus will be primarily on bilateral relationship. Whenever we have discussions with US then regional and global issues are also discussed but how much and what will be discussed that would depend on the flow of conversation. At this moment saying what will be discussed will be a bit premature.)

Question: CICA ki meeting ka aapne zikra kiya jismein hamare Videsh Rajya Mantri aur Pakistan ke Videsh Mantri Shah Mahmood Qureshi dono they. Kya dono ke beech wahaan par kya kuch hua, kya unka focus point that CICA ki meeting mein, Indian MoS ne kya point rakha?

(You mentioned about the CICA meeting in which our MoS and Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi both were present. What did happen between the two in that meeting, what was their focus point and what point did Indian MoS made there?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Ye ek breakfast meeting thi aur jaisa maine jikra kiya ki This was being chaired by Tajikistan aur jo hamara focus hai counter-terrorism par basically usi ko rakha gaya saamne. Pakistan kii taraf se jo unko kahna tha unhone kaha, ye open meeting nahi thi aur isiliye iske baare mein main jyada jaankaari nahi de sakta but unka jo filhal rukh hai aise meetings mein har samay jo jaakar bolna hota hai wo usi type kii bayaanbaazi kar rahe hain but hamara jaise ki abhi Secretary ne bataaaya ki ek global vision hai aur hamara single country focus nahi hai, hamara focus counter-terrorism par hai aur kaise baaki saare desh hamaare saath milkar is muhim mein hamaare saath kaam kar sakte hain. Is par focus tha hamaara.

(As I mentioned this was a breakfast meeting and it was chaired by Tajikistan and our focus on counter terrorism was put forward in the meeting. Pakistan said what they had to. This was not an open meeting hence I cannot provide you much information about it but at this moment the disposition that they have at this moment and the kind of statements they are making in such platforms, they did the same here but ours, as Secretary mentioned just now, that we have a global vision and we don’t have single country focus. Our focus is on counter-terrorism and how other countries can join us in this campaign and work with us, it was our focus.)

Question: My question is about the meeting the Foreign Minister had with the Iranian counterpart and you know why this is so significant because Iran has a position of …… to our expectations.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I do not have the details now, as and when I get details but let me tell you that there are certain aspects of bilateral meetings which we will not share publicly. You see there are certain discussions taking place but I will not get into details of each and every point which has been discussed. Broadly I said bilateral relationships, in some cases we have been engaging with other countries to explain our position that was done as and when required. That is how the bilateral meetings panned out.

Question: Was the Howdy Modi event discussed during any of the bilateral meetings?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Not really. I think there were some references when Prime Minister did mention that yesterday he was in Houston but it was a very passing reference. I don’t remember but I think in one or two cases, it is more like an opening statement which you say when you just get into the bilateral meeting you do say some pleasantries and it was part of exchange of pleasantries between the two leaders.

Question: My question to you all is that yesterday the Prime Minister, very enthusiastically endorsed Trump for presidency in 2020. Is that what India really means that this man should be the President of America in 2020?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, I think you will have to go through what exactly he said. It is not for me to qualify a statement but I think you will get your answer if you go through the transcript of his speech. That will clarify the question which you have asked and we can discuss it later.

Thank you all very much.


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