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Transcript of Media Briefing by Joint Secretary (Americas) on US Secretary of State’s Forthcoming Visit to India

June 22, 2013

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here today. Let me begin with an apology for having kept you waiting. Sometimes there are situations which are beyond our control and this was one of those days. So, I beg your indulgence on that delay.

Let me introduce to you Mr. Vikram Doraiswami, Joint Secretary (Americas), who will talk to you about what you, I suppose, have come here for. Before that, let me just give you a brief outline of the announcement I have to make and then Vikram will fill you in with other details. This announcement relates to the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The External Affairs Minister, Shri Salman Khurshid, will host the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on his visit to New Delhi from June 23rd to 25th. This is Secretary Kerry’s first visit to India as Secretary of State, and his first meeting with the External Affairs Minister, since both of them assumed their respective offices.

Secretary Kerry is scheduled to arrive here on the 23rd in the afternoon. We will be providing you a detailed advisory regarding media opportunities on 23rd, 24thand 25th.The programme is still being finalized, and as soon as this is finalized this will be put on the website.

Secretary Kerry is visiting India primarily for the fourth India-US Strategic Dialogue which will be held on the 24th. During the Strategic Dialogue the External Affairs Minister and Secretary Kerry will review progress in bilateral relations and ties over the past year and exchange views on regional and international issues.

On the bilateral side the focus will be on the expansion of cooperation in the areas of defence and security, trade and investment, science and technology, clean energy and environment. It is expected that following the discussions several new initiatives to strengthen bilateral cooperation in these areas in particular will be identified. In addition to the Strategic Dialogue, Secretary Kerry is also expected to co-chair, with the Minister for Human Resource Development, the India-US Higher Education Dialogue. This will be on 25thJune prior to his departure.

These are the broad outlines of Secretary Kerry’s engagements. In addition he will also have some other media events which will be put out after consultation with the US Embassy.

I will now request Vikram Doraiswami, Joint Secretary (Americas), to make brief opening remarks on issues that are to be considered, following which you are free to ask questions on those. Vikram, over to you now.

Joint Secretary (Americas) (Shri Vikram Kumar Doraiswami): Thank you very much and please can I add my own apology for keeping you all waiting. I was called away for a frenetic last minute briefing for my bosses - we all report to different people - and so I did get delayed much beyond what was conscionable. So, my apologies for that.

This is Secretary of State’s first visit to India in his current capacity. As friends in the media know, he has visited India before as a Senator and as Chair of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is of course no stranger to India, but this is his first visit in his current capacity. It comes some five months after his appointment to his current post. So, we are very happy to have him come so soon in his tenure.

It is also External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s first interaction with the Secretary of State of the United States. Indeed it is the first high political interaction in the second term of the Obama Presidency. So, it is part of the process of taking forward the India-US relationship which currently is one of our more intense and more in-depth partnerships as it covers interaction across most of the spheres of government work.

We have had a very busy agenda with the United States for the first six months of this year. It has included high-level visits on both sides plus dialogues covering most of the areas of our cooperation. Taking that into account the Strategic Dialogue is our premier mechanism in the dialogue architecture which is both an opportunity to carry out some stocktaking of the relationship, what has happened over the past one year since the last round of the dialogue, but also to try and set a new vision ahead for what we expect to do in the remaining six months of this year and the first half of next year before the next round of Strategic Dialogue.

So, we will look at having a detailed conversation more or less around four broad thematic pillars. One would be the bilateral relationship which would cover our bilateral economic and security aspects of our relationship. It would cover energy and it would cover, well that covers under more or less one strategic pillar. The other would be the detailed political consultations that we have with the United States on regional and other issues. The third major pillar would really be global issues in which we consult each other on developments relating to multilateral and other fora including in the evolution of a regional architecture in Asia. That is the broad format in which we would have these discussions.

The Secretary of State will also be meeting Prime Minister on Monday the 24th. So, those are the two sort of book-ended arrangements. The Secretary of State is expected to be traveling with a high-level delegation which will also include the new Secretary for Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz. Also, the rest of the delegation would include the Science and Technology Administrator, the NASA Director, the USAID Director - these are all heads of Departments and in a sense the terminology is a bit misleading otherwise - the Pacific Commander Admiral Locklear, and senior officials from the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and so on.

I think that about covers opening remarks. I would be happy to take any questions.

Official Spokesperson:The floor is open for any questions that you may have on this issue.

Question:Mr. Doraiswami, I just wanted to know if you also have cyber security on the agenda and also specifically the snooping that came to light in recent times?

Joint Secretary (AMS):Cyber security is part of our dialogue architecture. It is part of the Homeland Security Dialogue plus we also have a detailed interaction between the National Security Council on our side with the American side. So, this is certainly an opportunity for us to take up all issues on our agenda with them.

Question:Sir, voh higher studies-vali meeting mein kya kya baatein honi hain?

Joint Secretary (AMS):Vaise main maafi chahta hun ki meri Hindi itni achhi nahin hai. Agar aap ijaazat dein toh main Angrezi mein javab dun.

Higher education dialogue will happen on Tuesday the 25th. Our Minister for Human Resource Development also went to the United States in early May, as you all know.The way we look at it is, for us to realize our demographic dividend the most important opportunity for us is to be able to invest in training our people. So, there are two parts to that. One part is what the US calls community colleges and what we call technical education. We need to ensure that our technical education or community colleges actually produce people who are trained enough to get jobs in industry and, therefore, make the training of community college trainees directly linked to the end user which is industry.

As I understand, the Ministry of Human Resource Development is rolling out a large number of community colleges in India, 200 new community colleges are to come up in the next few months using existing facilities. So, the US will be a partner to a very large number of this. We hope to have specific cooperation items put down for technical education.

At the same time we are also looking at higher education as in premier colleges of India and cooperation with the United States’ colleges. On that part there were a number of regulatory issues that the US was looking at in terms of policy. We understand the UGC has taken those on board and there is an effort now to try and find ways in which not just the US but a variety of other advanced countries’ higher education premier institutes can cooperate with our universities.

The third part is online learning. Many countries have excellent capacity for what is called massive online open courses (MOOCs). We are very keen on the capacity to use the internet greatly to reach out to a number of young people who are otherwise left out of capacity to reach higher education. So, all this will be taken up. The Secretary of State will jointly launch the Higher Education Dialogue with our HRM on Tuesday morning. This will be carried on thereafter at the Secretary to Government level through the day which will include Vice-Chancellors from Indian universities, education specialists. So, it is a full day’s programme. It is not just a small event.

Question:Under this rubric of regional issues, is India going to raise the concerns about proposed talks of the United States with Taliban which are being talked about? They deal with Afghanistan also. Are we going to raise those issues? Secondly, what are the important issues so far as homeland security is concerned?

Joint Secretary (AMS):Afghanistan is of course part of our region. So, definitely it is on our agenda. And we would be interested to listen to the US since they are one of the lead players in this process as to what is happening over the last few days and their current engagements there to compare notes with them on what we understand of what is happening. Definitely it is on our agenda.

On homeland security, we have just had the second round of the Homeland Security Dialogue in the United States. It is a process that was set up after President Obama’s visit in 2010. We have had only two rounds of it so far at the Ministerial level. But this last round we had identified under it we have six Working Groups. One deals with what is called the global supply chain, which essentially, to make it simple, is all issues relating to trade and commerce, movement of goods and people through ports, seaports and airports, and ensuring the security and integrity of the movement of goods and people from both sides. So, there is airport security, port security, the best ways of doing things in a manner that is least invasive to people and to the movement of goods, but yet at the same time provides high-end security

The second Working Group deals with illicit finance and counterfeit currency which is very important for us given the significant challenge we face with counterfeit currency. The third Working Group deals with technology, which essentially is our interest in securing technologies for homeland security which are used by US law enforcement authorities.

The fourth Group deals with cyber security which deals with the operational aspects of conversation on securing critical infrastructure and preventing hacking. We are very interested in this part for obvious reasons, but our interest in this predates many of these disclosures. So, before any of you think that this is something new, this has been one of the original Working Groups from the start. So, the conversation that we wish to have with the United States on cyber security covers operational parts of law enforcement in cyber security.

The fifth Working Group deals with capacity building in which we look at the opportunities for our police forces and our law enforcement authorities to obtain training opportunities with premier law enforcement authorities in the US. And the sixth and last Working Group is the Working Group that deals with what is called Megacity Policing. As our population becomes more and more urban, the needs of high-end policing and better quality of policing services has been felt, and we look at many of the larger American cities which have used technology and policing skills in very high end bringing together of technology including fusion centres that transmit data both ways between local community and State level law enforcement authorities to federal law enforcement authorities. So, there is a lot that we can share in terms of homeland security with the US.

Question:Are shale gas exports and DTI on the agenda? And the status of DTI please?

Joint Secretary (AMS):Shale gas is a very important part of what we want to talk to the United States about. We are very interested in the opportunity for expanding our energy cooperation. We already have an India-US Energy Dialogue which is co-chaired by Deputy-Chairman Ahluwalia sahab, and by the now the new Energy Secretary. That next round is to take place in India. So, we will be offering dates for that. But over and above the discourse, this has verticals relating to new and renewable energy, hydrocarbons, coal, power, etc.

Our interest in the hydrocarbons piece is particularly strong now as the US is on its way to becoming a net exporter of energy, both in the acquisition of energy resources, in terms of getting permission to import gas from the United States based on the US law that currently requires prior clearance of all exports to non-FTA signatory countries with the US. So, a number of our companies have already lined up purchase agreements with US companies which require to be cleared by the US Department of Energy. That process is on. We have continued to flag our interest in this over the last several months. We have been assured that the processes will be taken forward and indeed we already have one which has already come through directly for India which will export gas to GAIL.

But we are also interested in the US capacity in terms of technology, capital and regulatory experience in managing shale gas. We need to look at whether we have the resources and if we do have the resources, how best can we utilize them in a manner that secures the interest of the citizens and also deploys the highest possible technology to it. So, this is definitely on the agenda for the Secretary of State’s visit.

As regards DTI, not just the DTI but the India-US defence relationship is very much on the agenda and that will include conversations on the DTI.

Question:Is there any specific proposal for space collaboration also because the NASA Administrator is coming?

Joint Secretary (AMS):Yes, there are. We are hoping to finalise a few more things on the space side. Secretary (Space) will also be there on our side. So, we are really looking forward to further develop our partnership in space.

Question:On the trade and economics side, can you amplify on some of the key issues which will figure prominently in the discussion? Most of the trade-related irritants are on the American side and they seem to be very unhappy with some of the issues relating to patents and copyrights and all that. Could you just give us an insight?

Joint Secretary (AMS):We are quite happy to discuss any issues that they want to table on the trade and economics side but we want to begin with the fact that they now have a new US Trade Representative who has recently been confirmed two days ago in his new post. USTR Mike Froman takes charge shortly. We would like to resume the trade policy forum which is co-led by the USTR and our Commerce Minister. We hope to have a meeting very soon of the India-US CEOs Forum. There are ample fora to discuss whatever issues that might have arisen in the bilateral trade and economic relationship, which I must emphasise are on both sides. There are market access issues that we have, and those that they have. We can clearly discuss what we think are areas of divergence and areas of convergence and find solutions to these.

Part of the problem has been that because many of these mechanisms have not met in a long time, in over two years, there has really been no forum to bring these issues up. So, these then tend to spill out into the public domain rather than find resolution. But issues on the American side as well as issues on our side will also be raised.

Question:Vikram, you spoke about a new architecture in Asia. What is this about?

Joint Secretary (AMS):There is an evolving architecture in Asia. We are not creating it ourselves but it is an ASEAN-driven process which includes the new mechanisms with which ASEAN deals with the countries of East Asia, with India, with the extra-regional great powers like the United States and Russia, that includes the East Asia Summit process, the Asian Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus Process, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. So, all these areas are now areas in which India and the United States are actually sort of associated partners in a sense. So, our conversation with them will also include conversations about how this architecture is beginning to evolve.


Joint Secretary (AMS):Of course, China is also a part of these processes.

Question:What about the visa issue? And the American nuclear suppliers seem to have a problem with our liability law and they had expressed some reservations. Our stand is that this is the law and we have to. How does that affect our proposal to import certain nuclear materials and equipment from the United States?

Joint Secretary (AMS):On visas first. Per se we are not raising this as a visa issue. We recognize the point that it is every country’s sovereign right to decide whom they allow and how many people they allow and in what format they allow. The question that we are concerned about is the specificity of the US laws that apply to the temporary movement of highly-skilled personnel under what are called H1B visa, which is highly-skilled nonimmigrant visas, and the movement of people on business intercompany transfers, which are L category visas in the US system. Our concern is that these are actually trade and economic relations matters rather than visa matters. It is not a consular matter in that sense.

The conversation is ongoing with the US. We need to see how the segment dealing with highly-skilled nonimmigrant visas is dealt with in the comprehensive immigration reform that the United States is taking up. We want to be very clear that we are taking up issues that have relevance for our business relationship and the provision of services by our companies to the United States. These are matters of concern for us. Insofar as the US has policies that it is looking at in the overall immigration package, whether it is Green Cards, whether it is legalization of illegal immigrants, those are matters of domestic importance to the United States. We wish them well on that process. But we have no comment to make on their internal policies on that.

It is only in terms of the H1B and the L visas that we are engaging with them and we are putting our concerns forward on behalf of Indian industry. And we are also trying to ensure that Indian industry and government can work together more closely to ensure that our concerns are duly understood by those involved in the immigration reform in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

In terms of liability, you are correct, we have said that this is our law. But we have also said we are more than willing to engage in explaining our law to anybody who has specific queries, and we will do our best to address these queries within the four corners of the Indian law. We have nothing to hide about our law.

Question:My question is connected with the visa. Many American universities are now coming to India and a lot of students are also going to US for studies. They are facing a lot of problem for even student visa. Many visas were rejected. Will this be discussed? When we are allowing them to come to India, they should reciprocate it and allow Indian students to go there.

Joint Secretary (AMS):On visas, as I said, the issue is we have to be very careful about what we ask them to do in terms of what facilitates business and the legitimate rights of enhancing the bilateral economic relationship and the facilitation of the movement of people.

Insofar as student visa cases are concerned, the US keeps assuring us that they are doing the best they can to ensure that students with valid admission papers and the correct I-20s are able to go to the United States to study. We have no reason to disbelieve them because insofar as the economic opportunity is concerned, it is obviously a good economic opportunity for the receiving universities. I do not see why they would not want Indian students to come because increasingly a large number of Indian students are going. We are not where we were twenty years ago. Not everybody is going on only 100 per cent scholarships. A fair number of Indians are going including on paid terms. So, obviously there is interest. And the fact that they are wanting to come and drum up studying opportunities in India suggests that this is the issue.

The issue is that the processes are complicated at times. So, maybe people are not able to fill these things up properly. We will certainly encourage the American Embassy here and the Consulates here to find the greatest possible ways of addressing these challenges. But I must also say in their defence that they have been extremely forthcoming in trying to respond to these problems including by citing pretty staggering figures of the number of visas that they are issuing every year, certainly much more than we are issuing right now.

Question:On liability law again, so you do not expect any breakthrough on finally getting the US side to be on terms with the Indian side. Is that so?

Joint Secretary (AMS):I do not know about breakthrough. We have a law and we are happy to discuss the law. If they have issues about the law, we are more than happy to clarify them. We are not expecting either them to expect us to change the law or to change their position. But if we can find clarity and a common ground on the implementation of the law in terms of nuclear business, by all means.

Question:What is India’s position on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Maldives and the United States?

Joint Secretary (AMS):You will need to ask the Maldives that or the US that, not me.

Question:Will there be a discussion on India-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, and cooperation in GM crops and biotechnology?

Joint Secretary (AMS):Agriculture is one of the themes on our agenda but largely in the sense of science and technology cooperation. We have a pretty robust programme of cooperation in science and technology as applicable to agriculture. That includes the application of science and technology to crop details, to our Indian Council for Agricultural Research and to more scientific prediction of cropping. We are also looking at cooperation in terms of meteorology as applied to agriculture. This is dealt with on the agriculture and S&T side.

GM, I do not recall that this is part of our discourse currently. I do not think it is. Not in this dialogue at least.

Question:There have been reports that India sought temporary custody of David Headley. Has India indeed sought his temporary custody and what has been the US response to it?

Joint Secretary (AMS):Let us be clear about this. We have sought the extradition of both these individuals to start with. We will wait for the American response before we look at other options.


Joint Secretary (AMS):This was done some months ago. Quite some time ago now.

Official Spokesperson:With that I think Vikram has answered all your questions and there do not seem to be any more questions on the US. Thank you very much.


New Delhi

June 21, 2013


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