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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary in Beijing on Prime Minister's ongoing visit to China (may 15, 2015)

May 15, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Welcome to this press briefing. We have with us today Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, who will brief you on all that has happened in the two days that Prime Minister has been in China. As you know, yesterday we were in Xian and today we have had very substantive talks with President Li. Foreign Secretary will be making an opening statement where he will brief you and then he is willing to take questions also. With that, Sir, the floor is yours.

Foreign Secretary (Dr. S. Jaishankar): Thank you.

We have just finished our talks today between Prime Minister and Premier Li Keqiang. This followed a discussion between the Prime Minister and the President yesterday in Xian.

Just to give you a sense of the details, the flavour, etc., yesterday’s talks with President Xi were for about 90 minutes; then they were about an hour together at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda; and they were roughly about two hours together at dinner and the programme subsequent to the dinner.

Today we had 90 minutes of restricted talks between Prime Minister and Premier Li; about half an hour, maybe a shade more, of delegation-level talks; and then there was an event to do with leaders of Provinces and Mayors, leaders of regions. Twenty-four agreements were signed, and we released a Joint Statement. I think most of you would have seen the Joint Statement, most of you would be familiar with the agreements.

If I were to broadly describe the approach of the two sides to this visit and the discussions which took place, I think the approach was of two major powers dealing with each other, two major powers in the region and in the world. Actually in China there is a tradition of using certain phrases to connote the nature of the relationship. So you will see this referred to in the Joint Statement, it talks of the reemergence of India and China as two major powers in the region and the world who will be dealing with each other with mutual respect and sensitivity, and who will be taking into account each other’s concerns, interests and aspirations.

In terms of the relationship again, and this is a very careful choice of words, it is a constructive model of relationship. What you see in the Joint Statement is this: Two major powers dealing with each other in a constructive way, now expressing that in bilateral relations, on regional issues and on global issues. Two words that came up very often in the conversation both yesterday and today were, strategic communication and strategic coordination. Again I put those two words in the context of the two major powers.

Now what I would like to do is to walk you through clusters of issues so that the Joint Statement has a certain flow but perhaps this reflects the nature of the discussions a little more accurately. I think there was an overall sense that we needed to move on the outstanding issues, but we also needed to develop a more positive narrative of our relationship and to build higher levels of trust.

If I can give you again a flavour of the conversation, Prime Minister Modi for example said that when it comes to our relationship there is no question of going back, but standing still also was not an option, and the only way was to move forward.

Similarly today Premier Li spoke of the image of our relationship in the past being of adversaries and competitors and why today we need to credibly project a positive partnership. That sense that today the relationship is poised at a very important juncture where there are possibilities of moving forward again was felt yesterday by President Xi who actually quoted Chairman Mao about 10,000 years being too long. And he said, ‘Seize the day, seize the hour’. So there is that sense on both sides at the leadership level that it is possible for the two countries to do more, that the opportunities are there. Yes, we have issues and we must address those issues, but that should not lead us to neglect the possibilities and the opportunities we have.

In terms of the bilateral political, security, defence cluster of issues, there was a fair amount of discussion on the border and on strengthening peace and tranquility on the border. There was an agreement that we should expand the number of Border Personnel Meeting points (BPMs). At the moment we have four BPMs in operation: one in Bum La in the Eastern Sector, in Nathu La in the Sikkim sector, Chushul in the Western Sector, and the Kibithu which was opened recently in the Eastern Sector. So we will be looking in the near future to expand the number of BPMs.

There was also a sense that the frequency and the context in which these meetings took place could be increased, expanded; that both sides would work to implement the existing agreements; and that the leaderships will pay close attention to the border situation.

On the defence side, again there was agreement that there should be more exchanges and interactions. The Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission would be visiting India. Raksha Mantri has been invited to visit China. There was an initiative that in our military-to-military cooperation we should focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). So we would be discussing the possibility that between the two militaries now this becomes a subject for a joint activity or an exercise. There is also an agreement to activate hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries.

In terms of the political level visits, an important visit that we are expecting soon is from the Chairman of the National People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang whom Prime Minister would be meeting soon. That was the incoming political visit that we are looking at immediately.

Moving on, counterterrorism featured strongly. I think I shared with some of you yesterday that Kabul and Karachi came up in the conversation, again the sense that this was a shared threat for both countries and that we needed to work more closely.

A new element this time in the visit was the leaders of the regions. We have created a forum for leaders of regions. The first meeting of that forum took place. As many of you area aware, some Chief Ministers and Mayors are here. This is in keeping with the Government’s emphasis on cooperative federalism.

Another important development was that we have formalized, institutionalized a practice between the International Department of the Communist Party and the Ministry of External Affairs, we used to organize visits of Chief Ministers and provincial Party leaders. In fact Prime Minister himself came to China on one of those invitations. We have today signed an agreement for a sister-state relationship to sister-city relationships. So as you can see, the federal, provincial, regional aspect of our cooperation is gathering ground.

We also agreed to open an additional Consulate. The Chinese will do so in Chennai, we will do so in Chengdu. Again that reflects a more intense, a more broad-based relationship which requires more servicing in a sense on both sides. That broadly was the political, defence and security side.

On the economic side - and we now use this term ‘close developmental partnership’ - I think the most important takeaway today was an agreement that we would set up a high-powered task force which will look at economic issues, which will look at the trade deficit, look at IT issues, look at pharma issues, agricultural issues, manufacturing issues.

There was a fair amount of discussion on what the problems were, what could be done. It was a fairly specific discussion in some cases. Some of it took place yesterday with President Xi, some of it in greater detail took place today with Premier Li. In this context I would flag, we would be the partner country, the guest of honour at the China-South Asia Expo this year in Kunming.

There was some discussion in the investment climate and ease of doing business and on review of the proposals to establish industrial parks in India - one is in Maharashtra, one is in Gujarat. An agreement was signed in skills development with an institution in Gujarat. There was a smart-city exchange. We will be doing exchanges of pilot projects. Urbanisation, how the Chinese have handled urbanization, what are their lessons, experiences there which we could pick up. And there was a fair amount of discussion on connectivity, in particular on the AIIB and BCIM corridor which had been agreed to some years ago.

Trans-border issues also came up for discussion; trans-borders rivers was discussed. We appreciated the data that the Chinese give to us. There was an understanding that we would be extending the agreements which are now due to be renewed. I would say perhaps we need a little more deliberation on where we could take this forward.

Prime Minister expressed his appreciation of the fact that the commitment to open a second route on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra was very speedily fulfilled. It will be happening next month.

Returning to the theme of two major powers, obviously a fair amount of talk was devoted to global issues. Again the broad sense of it, and I use a term which actually both Chinese leaders used, is a more equitable global order. I think from our side it was also a more contemporary global order.

Here I will just flag your attention to some of the developments. One, you would note that there is a separate statement on climate change. We have a history of cooperation here. We have a grouping called BASIC. India and China are particularly close in this. Given the fact that we have the Paris meeting coming up, our being in touch, working together on this is important. Two, we have set up a mechanism to discuss WTO issues. There again this is an area where we have both strong interests and positions, and we need to coordinate where those interests converge.

On UNSC, the Joint Statement reflects the Chinese support for India’s aspirations. On APEC, China welcomed India’s desire to strengthen links with APEC. On the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, whose summit level meeting would be coming up in July, China welcomed India’s application for full membership. And on the NSG, China also took note of our aspirations. I think that was for the first time it is reflected in a document.

That broadly is the sum of what was discussed and what has found a reflection in the expression in the outcome document. If you have any questions, I would be delighted to answer.

Question: It was widely expected that the e-visas would be announced on this visit. Why did that not happen? Were security concerns a factor?

Foreign Secretary: I do not know about ‘widely expect’. You might have reported it but we have to decide it. The fact is, there was an initial list of countries for whom the e-visa scheme was applied and then we are expanding it bit by bit. I think in regard to China so far no decision has been made.

Question: Sir, even while Mr. Narendra Modi said that on the Line of Actual Control there has to be clarification, what is the sense that you get from the Chinese really? Is there an unwillingness to move forward? Is there a resorting to status quo? Why is not a sense of urgency coming in from the Chinese side as well?

Foreign Secretary: Normally on border discussions we do not go into details but I think the Prime Minister’s own statement to the press today reflected the fact that we felt that the early LAC clarification would help to strengthen peace and tranquility on the border and take the border settlement issue forward. Obviously their view is not fully in accordance with us, which is why matters are where they are. But this matter was discussed.

Question: Just adding to that question, was there any response from the Chinese side to this when he spoke about clarification?

Foreign Secretary: I can only say the issue was discussed, the relevance of LAC clarification was brought out and there was a fairly healthy discussion on this issue.

Question: On the economic issues, you talked about the trade deficit issue being addressed by an high-powered task force being set up to address some of those issues. Has there been any forward movement or any willingness to address the access issues that Indian companies, various pharmaceutical or IT companies have constantly been putting on the table specifically to do with state on enterprises even China giving access to Indian IT companies? Has there been any forward movement on that count?

Foreign Secretary: I think the reason why it was agreed that we would set up a high-powered committee was a sense that there was not enough movement on this issue. If there had been movement, we would not need a high-powered committee. So this is an area where actually we have a position which has been explained in some detail. The bureaucracies have been in touch with each other. It is not that the Chinese side is in denial about this or says that there is not a legitimate issue out here. I think the challenge for us is, when you see a problem one side has proposed certain ways of how you could do this but it is not getting done or it is not getting done adequately enough. And that is really why need that high-powered committee.

Question: Foreign Secretary, there was talk about a possible agreement with the Chinese side on sharing real time actual river flow data to India. Where are we on it? Any real time data from the Chinese side?

Foreign Secretary: I know that we get data. When I went to Tibet some years ago I actually saw the station on the Sutlej which I think generates this. But I am not very sure about the real time part of it, I must confess. I do not want to mislead you, so I do not want to tell you it is a yes or a no. But my sense is that there is a time lag here. But I do not think that is the issue with the data. I think the issue with the data is the number of days for which the data is made available because it is given in flood season. And their sense of flood season is different from our sense of flood season. So, I think those are some of the gaps which we would like to plug early on.

Question: Sir, you talked about how terrorism was a concern that both of you talked about it. Aatankvaad ek aisa mudda hai joh shayad donom deshom ke liye ek badi chinta ka sabab hai is vaqt. Uska zikr aapne kiya aur kaha Karachi, Kabul donom ka zikr aaya. Baat-cheet mein Cheen ka aatankvaad ke baare mein uski samajh aur soch ke baare mein kya samajh paaya? Aur isi ke saath is baat-cheet ke zariye kya is poore ilaaqe mein is poore area mein aatankvaad ke khilaaf joh muhim chhedni hai, us mein Pakistan ki positioning, India ki positioning, Cheen ki positioning tamaam muddom par, is par koi baat-cheet hui?

Foreign Secretary: Aisa hai ki aatankvaad hamaare liye toh bahut badi baat hai aur kaafi saalon se is par hamaari focus hai. Unke netaon ne bhi kaha ki unke liye bhi yeh badi chinta hai. Discussions mein baat toh hui ki agar donom ke assessment ek hi page par hai to isko kaise aage badhaaya jaye. Hum log military level par exercise karte hain, counterterrorism exercise karte hain. Par voh ek operational level hai. Strategically isko aapas mein kya karna chahiye, kya zyada karna chahiye, in baaton par discussion thi.

The Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) also came up for discussion.

Question: POK mein Cheen ke investment ko lekar Bharat mein bahut saare savaal uth rahe hain. Kya iska kahin zikr hua?

Foreign Secretary: The issue did come up.

Question: Did the Indian side ask the Chinese to put a timeframe to the boundary terms that have been going on? If yes, what was the Chinese response? And there is an MoU today between Prasar Bharati and CCTV. Would they exchange maps of how India should be seen and how China should be seen?

Foreign Secretary: On the first question about putting a timeline, my sense is that this is not a problem where you put a deadline and say let us try to resolve it by that. I think the problem is too complex and too serious to contemplate that.

As far as your second question is concerned, I saw the agreement I think it will be in public domain, I am sure you can see that for yourself.

Question: You spoke about Kabul and Karachi attacks and the fact that terrorism was discussed. Did India specifically raise the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil; and the fact that China and Pakistan share great relations will China really send that message out to Pakistan or …(Inaudible)… rein Pakistan in and ensuring that homegrown terror from Pakistan stops?

Foreign Secretary: I am trying to give you a sense of the discussion. It is normally not done for people to give you a line by line readout of conversations. As a sense of a discussion I can share with you that yes, the issue of terrorism came up; yes, we had concerns which all of you are well aware of. The Chinese also had concerns; they spoke about it as well. Now if we and the Chinese are discussing terrorism, most issues have a context and a real life sense to it, so I do not think you need to test your imagination too much in that regard. I think that is really as much as I can fairly say in public.

Question: Sir, you spoke about activating hotline between army headquarters between the two armies. By that, do you mean the DGMOs level hotline? If yes, what would be the timeframe of activating the hotline? Secondly, hotlines were also being discussed between Northern Area Commander and the counterpart and the Eastern Area Commander and the counterpart. What is the decision on that? Thirdly, China is reluctant to host our Northern Area Commander, he was denied visa five years ago. Is there any agreement now that they would be hosting the Northern Area Commander?

Foreign Secretary: My answer to your first question is, the agreement is to have hotlines between the military headquarters. Exactly at what level of the military headquarters, I think needs to be worked out, but the important thing is it is between military headquarters. We do not have an understanding on hotlines at the Command level.

As regards timeframe, I think it will happen fairly soon because given the focus there was, the importance which was attached to maintaining peace and tranquility, the fact that there was enthusiasm on both sides to have more border personnel meetings, you can see that the desire to avoid any untoward incident is very strong on both sides. If you take that as reflecting a sense of priority and urgency, I would imagine the hotline would come about sooner rather than later. But we did not put specific date and a time to it.

On the Northern Command issue, I think there was a time when there was some hesitation on the Chinese side for some inexplicable reason on accepting visits from Northern Command. That got sorted out some years ago, in fact quite some years ago. I am not very sure that it is a live issue any more.

Question: Ek toh main yeh jaanna chahta hun, bullet trains ko lekar feasibility study ka joh karar hua, yeh kya sirf Gujarat aur Maharashtra tak restricted rahega ya uske beyond bhi jayega? Dusra, …(Inaudible)… aapke Pakistani counterpart ne kaise hamein blame kiya hai Indian agency ko Karachi ke attack ke liye, us par bhi agar aap kindly respond karein.

Foreign Secretary: Jaise mujhe yaad hai, feasibility study high-speed train ka joh hai, yeh Delhi-Nagpur section ka hai. Aapka dusra savaal joh hai, yeh meeting Cheen ke baare mein hai. Cheen ke alaava kuchh aur prashn hai, toh aap mujhe Dilli mein puchiyega.

Question: You mentioned about connectivity and BCIM corridor. Could you share a little bit of detail? Secondly, from the Chinese perspective they see the BCIM corridor as a construct of Belt and Road Initiative. Do we look at it at as a separate entity or do we look at it in that framework? Secondly, a short question on Nepal. You mentioned about humanitarian issues developing and possibilities of cooperation. Are you looking at a post-humanitarian phase? When it comes to reconstruction phase, is there a possibility of India and China cooperating at that level in that framework?

Foreign Secretary: In the case of BCIM corridor, my recollection is that our understanding to work together on this corridor predates this One Belt, One Road. Whether someone thereafter moves it from this file to that file is their internal business. As far as we are concerned, we have a commitment which, if my memory serves me right, we made when Premier Li Keqiang went to India. There is a Joint Study Group. The Joint Study Group has held meetings. My sense of it is that it is moving and moving positively.

On the Nepal and disaster relief issue, the idea that we and the Chinese could do something on disaster relief was a larger issue, it is not only Nepal. If you look at the last few months, we have had numerous instances where disaster relief situations have happened. Considering the fact that both countries have growing capabilities, it makes sense today that at least if countries with capabilities in Asia work together, when you speak of an Asian century these are little things which would create cooperation among Asian countries.

Insofar as Nepal is concerned, I think what you are saying perhaps is not the right way to look at that situation. I think the important thing in Nepal is that we all coordinate with the Government of Nepal. They are the people who are hankering this issue and with whom all of us need to be in touch. How the Government of Nepal wants its international partners to work out is something which we will see in due course.

Question: Ahead of PM’s visit here China has vocally came out with maritime cooperation, especially with regard to silk route projects as well as our Mausam projects in order to reduce friction between the two countries. They have also proposed trilaterals with Sri Lanka as well as Nepal on strategic coordination between the two countries. Have they flagged these issues? Have these things been discussed?

Foreign Secretary: There are a lot of things which come out in the Chinese media; I am not sure that you should necessarily take them as the government proposals. I read the same newspapers as you do, but I am not sure that these reflect authoritative official positions. Obviously there was a lot of discussion on connectivity related issues, a little bit less so on maritime issues, but nothing in the direction which you would tend to suggest.

Question: On the One Belt One Road, can you articulate for us what India’s concerns are? Is not there a contradiction? Us being one of the founder members in the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank, whose one of the sole aims is to fund these OBOR projects, why are we sitting this up?

Foreign Secretary: I think the answer to your second question is a no. There is no contradiction. The answer to your first question is, the One Belt One Road is a Chinese initiative. It is a national initiative of a country. If any country wants other countries to discuss and collaborate on national initiatives, it is for the country which takes the initiative to take an initiative to discuss that initiative. We are open to discussing this with the Chinese whenever they wish to discuss it.

Question: But they have not put that proposal before us even today or in the last few days?

Foreign Secretary: We have not had a detailed structured discussion with the Chinese on One Belt One Road.

Question: Foreign Secretary, you have a separate Joint Statement on climate change between India and China which seems a little out of place given that the US and China have already signed the agreement and China has already indicated it will stick to its emission limit? Did China ask us to adhere to any emission dates, any deadlines on that? You also have …(Inaudible)… in your Joint Statement on climate change which talks about China and India will announce their INDC figures as well. Is there any date for that if India and China were to do that together? Could you throw some light on why there is a separate Joint Statement on climate change and what it achieves now that the US and China have already signed a much bigger climate change agreement?

Foreign Secretary: First of all, I am not sure I necessarily accept some of the comparisons you are making that they have done this and we have done this and that is bigger and this is smaller. I will kind of bracket that and put that away. I think the issue is a fairly straightforward one. It is an issue on which we have a history of cooperation, we have a history of communication, we have worked together in this negotiations closely, and these negotiations are coming to head at the end of this year in Paris. So it makes perfect sense for two countries which have a strong common interest, which have a history of working together to express in some public way that they remain committed to working together in this regard, that their interests will largely converge on this issue. I think that was the intent with which we came to this.

In terms of how much, this was discussed in a broad way and in a broad way because frankly there was so much agreement on it it did not merit a more detailed discussion. In terms of coordinating on the INDC, I am not aware that that is contemplated. In a sense these are parallel processes. What it says is we are fully engaged in our domestic separations on INDCs and we will communicate the INDCs as early as possible and well before that. It does not say we will communicate it simultaneously together in a coordinated manner.

Question: It is a two-part question, Sir. Last September there was a commitment of a USD 20 billion investment in India over five years. Has that moved forward in any concrete way this time? Secondly, does this task force on trade imbalance have a timeline or specific goals?

Foreign Secretary: I think on the investment, you will have to wait for that story to unfold in Shanghai tomorrow because there is a business event, there will be business agreements signed. Since we are predominantly a market economy, a lot of this is actually done with private sector in India. I would put it this way that we can see more visible enthusiasm among Chinese businesses to invest in India. This interest to invest in India was also expressed by Chinese leaders at different points of time in their meetings with us. How that interest translates into business agreements obviously will depend on people on our side, people on their side. Our sense is, some of it is translating and you will see the results of that tomorrow.

We are also objective enough to recognize that we need to keep improving the ease of doing business in India. That is something on which we have a very open mind. If there are concerns which are expressed tomorrow during the business event in that respect, it is something which we will listen to with a great deal of respect and open-mindedness.

On is there a timeline on that joint task force, no because the whole thing materialized only this morning that in the course of the discussion recognizing the fact that we have not made enough headway, the sense was look we need to do something about it. I think it is up to us now in the next few weeks to sit down, work it out and decide what will the task force comprise of, what will be the agenda, how does it go forward. Those things will be worked out.

Question: Sir, you have talked about China making first time a statement on our candidature for NSG membership. Given the fact that they were one of the few countries who opposed our nuclear deal exemption at the NSG, what does this mean? Secondly, what about the other three export control regimes, Wassenaar, Australia Group and MTCR?

Foreign Secretary: I think the NSG has a certain prominence among the four which is why it was picked out. I am not sure China is even a member of MTCR, so I do not think it makes sense discussing MTCR with them. That is my recollection. In terms of is it significant or not, the fact that there is a reference in the document and that this is an ongoing subject of discussion, I am sure you can draw that conclusion for yourself.

Official Spokesperson: With that we come to the end of this interaction. Foreign Secretary has to leave now.

(Concluded)

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