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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (September 15, 2014)

September 16, 2014

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good evening friends and thank you very much for being here this afternoon for our regular interaction. The focus of today’s briefing will be the visit of  President Xi Jinping of China to India.

I have here with me my colleague Mr. Pradeep Rawat, Joint Secretary (East Asia), who is making his debut in front of you. He handles all matters relating to East Asia, that includes our important relationship with China.

As usual I will make some opening remarks following which if there are any questions that you would like to ask, the floor will be open. If there are any very specific issues that you would like to ask, Pradeep is available to respond to them. After that we will also be available if you want to ask questions on anything else that is of interest to you today. But the primary focus will be the visit of the Chinese President to India. With those opening remarks, let me start.

As you are aware, India’s new leadership is in an intensive state of global engagement, and it is in this context that we are all set to welcome President Xi Jinping of China on his landmark visit to India from 17th to 19th of this month. President Xi is accompanied by a very high-powered delegation.

He is accompanied by Madam Peng Liyuan as well as two senior members of the Politburo - Mr. Wang Huning and Mr Li Zhanshu. In addition, State Councillor Mr. Yang Jiechi, who was formerly Foreign Minister, will be in the delegation; as will be the present Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi. There are two other Ministers and that is the Minister for National Development Mr. Xu Shaoshi, and the Minister for Commerce Mr. Gao Hucheng. That gives you an idea of the importance of the delegation.

This is the third visit of a Chinese President to India. The previous two Presidents who visited India were: President Hu Jintao in 2006 and President Jiang Zemin in 1996.

The visit of President Xi was preceded by intensive contacts between India and China. Let me recall for you some of these contacts. In May, afterPrime MinisterModi was sworn in, Premier Li Keqiang was among the first foreign leaders to phone and congratulate him. Subsequently in June, Foreign Minister Wang Yi was amongst the first Foreign Ministers to visit India, and he came here as a Special Envoy of President Xi.

At the end of June, Vice-President Shri Hamid Ansari visited China for a bilateral meeting. In July,Prime MinisterModi and President Xi interacted on the margins of the BRICS Summit. In August, Foreign Minister Wang Yi andExternal Affairs MinisterShrimati Sushma Swaraj had a second meeting on the margins of the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw.

In September in the beginning, the Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman visited China for the Joint Economic Group meeting. This was her second meeting with her counterpart because she was also in the Delegation with Vice-President Shri Hamid Ansari in June. Finally, the National Security Advisor was in Beijing just last week to convey to the Chinese leadership the importance that India places on the visit of President Xi.

As all of you are aware, China is India’s largest neighbour. It is also amongst the most important trade partners that we have with the trade volume exceeding USD 65 billion. During the visit of President Xi we expect that all substantive issues which have a bearing on India-China relations will be discussed. Also, it is normal when the top leadership of India and China meet that they will discuss issues beyond bilateral matters. So, we expect issues of a regional nature impinging on Asia as well as global concerns that India and China share will be on the table for discussion.

Let me give you a glimpse of the programme so that you understand the importance that we place on this visit. As a special gesture,Prime MinisterModi will be in Ahmedabad and will receive President Xi when he reaches his hotel. Also, this is a first in terms of our bilateral relations thatPrime Ministerand President Xi will witness the signing of some agreements in Ahmedabad on the 17th. What I meant by it being a first is that usually agreements are signed in Delhi when the two leaders witness them. It is not that there have not been agreements signed outside Delhi. However, this is a first in terms of aPrime Ministerand the President of China witnessing signing of agreements outside Delhi. I will answer any questions if you want on that. We will come to that later.

In addition, Prime Minister has invited President Xi to visit the Sabarmati Ashram and it is expected that the two will spend some time during their visit there. This will be followed by a private dinner that thePrime Ministerwill host for President Xi. Following this dinner, the Chinese President will depart Ahmedabad for Delhi, that is on 17th, and he will spend the night in Delhi.

The main day of official engagements in Delhi is the 18th. As is normal for such visits, the President will be ceremonially received by Rashtrapatiji andPrime Ministerin the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning, following which he will also visit Rajghat.

Again as is usual, the first call will be by the External Affairs MinisterShrimati Sushma Swaraj who will call on President Xi. After that, we expect that there will be meetings betweenPrime Minister and President Xi at the Hyderabad House. These meetings will be both in a restricted format as well as delegation-level talks. Following these discussions, we hope that both the leaders will witness the signing of several agreements as outcomes of those discussions.

In the afternoon, President Xi is scheduled to give a keynote address under the auspices of the ICWA. Prior to this, Vice-President Shri Hamid Ansari will call on President Xi. In the evening, President Xi will meet Rashtrapati Shri Pranab Mukherjee following which the President will also host a banquet for the visiting dignitary. On the next day, we have calls by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the President of the Congress Party.

I think I have given you a broad idea of where we are in terms of the programme. But I would like to indicate and re-emphasise that we see this visit as an important milestone in our bilateral relations with China. We hope that this will lead to deepening of our engagement across the full spectrum of our bilateral relations with China, and we see this visit as an opportunity for progress on issues of interest both to India and to China so that both of us can benefit from the enormous opportunities that await our bilateral cooperation.

I forgot one last thing, which Pradeep reminded me, but that is par for the course. After the signing of the agreements in Delhi on the 18th, the two leaders will also address media statements to all of you. We will put up the entire media advisory of the media opportunities in the next half an hour or so after this so that you will have an idea well in advance of what the opportunities are. Now the floor is open.

Question:Has China formally proposed to us that they want us to join the Maritime Silk Road Initiative, and what is our response to it?

Official Spokesperson: Manish, the ancient trade routes in Asia including the Spice Route, the Incense Route and the Silk Route have been important channels of transmission of trade but also of ideas, of art, of culture, and of spiritualism. For example, you are aware that Buddhism spread from India to different parts of Asia through the Silk Route. Now let us await the discussions, and if there are any issues on this we certainly will address it with interest because India has a maritime history and a desire to continue its engagement globally including through the Indian Ocean. But I think it is premature to now talk about what the two leaders will discuss.

Question:After the External Affairs Minister’s statement about ‘one-China and one-India’, there have been suggestions in the media that it is about time for India and China to settle their border disputes. So, is this likely to figure in the talks? Is there some talk about Line of Actual Control being recognised asde factoandde jure international border? Is this a part of the agenda this week?

Official Spokesperson: I did mention to you that all substantive issues of interest to India and to China will form part of the agenda. However, what the leaders choose to focus on, to emphasise, and to work on, I think is best left to the leaders. We will certainly share with you the outcomes. But you are aware that it is not our practice to tell you in response to media speculation what the leaders intend to do three days from now.

Question:This is a follow-up of the same question. In the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief of Central Tibetan Administration Lapchang Sange was called here, he was present, and presumably that had irked the Chinese. So, in this summit-level meeting, do you think that this is going to be one of the issues that they will talk about Tibet and Kashmir?

Official Spokesperson: I do not know what you are trying to say based on what you think is an interpretation. As far as I am concerned, I told you that all substantive issues of interest to India and to China will be available on the table and this will be a discussion. Both the leaders are scheduled to meet in Ahmedabad as well as scheduled to meet in New Delhi. What is the outcome? We certainly will tell you later on. But let us not speculate in advance of what is important to which country. You are aware of what are our sensitivities: you are also aware of what the Chinese sensitivities are. And it is the intention of both of us to try and work out issues in a manner which we need to take into account the sensitivities of both the countries concerned.

Question:Is it possible for you to share what are the agreements to be signed in Ahmedabad and in Delhi, at least the major areas?

Official Spokesperson: Good try, but let me give you a hint. Obviously those which will be signed in Ahmedabad relate to aspects of that region. I will leave it at that. Let me tell you, you will have enough reporting to do from Ahmedabad and from Delhi. So, those of you who are planning not to be active there, get ready there are going to be lots agreements. That is all I can share but you are aware that it is not our practice to share what specific agreements will be signed on what day because also these will be based on discussions between the Prime Minister and President Xi.

Question:Is there any business delegation coming and how many are there?

Joint Secretary (East Asia)(Shri Pradeep Rawat):As you know, the economic engagement is a very important component of our engagement. As Akbar has mentioned to you, the Minister of Commerce as well as the Minister who is in charge of National Development Commission is also part of the Delegation. So, there will be some business component. Some may be with the President, some may be separate from the President’s delegation.

Question:Trade deficit is one of the big stumbling blocks as far as India…(Inaudible)…are concerned. So, what is the roadmap to address trade deficit? Secondly, how much is China willing to commit to invest in India in the mid term or long term?

Joint Secretary (East Asia): Trade deficit is certainly an important issue. As you know, recently there was a meeting of Joint Economic Group for which our Minister has visited, and this issue did figure in that and there is agreement that we need to address this. Why that is important is because we need to have a sustainable path to development of bilateral trade. How this will be addressed, I think is a matter of detail which experts are already working on and in times to come we will certainly have a better idea.

Official Spokesperson: As regards your issue about investments, we have in the past discussed possible Chinese investments in India and we feel that this will also be on the agenda when the two leaders meet. Their outcomes we will share with you once that is done.

I may add that during the Vice-President’s visit to China we had signed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby both of us had agreed to facilitate the setting up of industrial parks in India. You are aware that Prime Minister is very keen to move on decisions at a rapid pace. So, we are working on trying to actualise the Memorandum of Understanding into reality with concrete outcomes during this visit.

Question:Sir, like you said, the government is working on these talks for the last couple of months ever since this government took over. Would you say there are any focus areas that the government has great expectations from in any set of spheres that the talks are going to be held? Any sort of focus areas, any key expectation that you would like to share?

Official Spokesperson: The key expectation is that we address issues of interest and concern to each other. As you know, the path towards the solution is based on a beginning of addressing those issues. So, this is a new government, this is the first time in a structured format that the Chinese President and the Indian Prime Minister are sitting down. And as I have indicated to you, these are perhaps instances which happen once in a decade. I explained to you when was the last meeting and the meeting before that – 1996, 2006. Therefore, this is an important occasion where the top leadership from India and China will sit and address all substantive issues of interest to both of us.

Question:There have been two intrusions – one in the Demchok area and the other in Chumar – ahead of the Indo-China talks? Is this likely to be affecting our talks in any way?

Official Spokesperson: This is what you say but let me assure you that our brave sentinels on the border will address any issue that happens on the border. We are confident that our borders are in safe hands. Therefore, what happens on the border will be handled by those who we have reposed trust in. As regards issues on the table here, sure, there are unresolved issues including the boundary question. And if your question is that would that be addressed, my answer to that is yes, we have already told you that all issues of a substantive nature will be addressed.

Question:During Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to India last time a visa agreement was agreed upon. Is there any possibility of conclusion of this agreement during President’s visit?

Official Spokesperson: During Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit in June, I do not think I ever told you such an agreement had been arrived at. I never said to you. So, I will not answer on what others said. There was no agreement reached in June on what you are saying.

Question:Last week there was interaction between Chinese media and the new Chinese Ambassador, and he mentioned that this time there would be an agreement about visa that would be signed. And last time we see that Wang Yi mentioned that he said that stapled visa is a flexible and goodwill gesture from China and if India agreed China will keep on this. What is India’s stand?

Official Spokesperson: On what?

Question:On the visa, about stapled visa and will this be talked about this time?

Official Spokesperson: Whether President Xi will talk about it is for us to wait and see the outcome. And so will be the issue of whether an agreement will be signed on this. As regards our stance, I think it is pretty clear that we expect no differentiation being made amongst any Indian citizen from whichever part of India he or she may hail.

Question:Sir, could you share some details about the banquet being hosted for President Xi? Can you confirm to us if MOS Home has been invited and he has confirmed his attendance at the banquet?

Official Spokesperson: Manu, I must confess, I do not know who is invited. I can share with you that the two of us are invited, so we will be going there, and we can share with you at the end of it who is there or not. But I have no idea of this list of who is being invited. This is the banquet you are telling about is the one hosted by the President ? Frankly, we have no idea about it but we have an idea that the two of us are invited. So, you can add two to that list that you are preparing.

Question:Do you share…(Inaudible)… fourth part of the agenda, and the Chinese have been pressing of late that Indian Navy and Air Force too, like Indian Army, should engage. Is there any proposal like that?

Official Spokesperson: You are all telling me what you have heard from the Chinese side. I am not the right person to answer what you have heard from the Chinese side. I can answer what you heard from the Indian side. And as far as we are concerned, I think consistently we have been saying we will tell you the outcomes once those are done. We will not be able to share, we are a little bit slow. You know me, I am very slow in responding to all your smart questions, your intelligent questions. I only am a conveyor of information, I do not produce it.

Question:Sir, the understanding on the disputed boundary is that neither side will squat in the disputed area while both sides patrol. The Deputy Commissioner of Leh Mr. S.S. Gill has just said that the Chinese civilians incidentally have been squatting in the disputed and protesting the construction of an irrigation canal under the MNREGA scheme. Is there any element of protest or at least the invoking of the border mechanisms of which MEA is a party?

Official Spokesperson: Vikas, I think I just said that what happens on the border, we are confident; that we have full trust in the brave sentinels of the Indian border to take care of.

Question:This idea of the Chinese President visiting Gujarat, has this come up from Chinese side or Indian side?

Official Spokesperson: Good question! Let me explain to you. I think it is no secret that Prime Minister is extremely keen that India be showcased beyond Delhi. He has made this amply clear that he would hope that when visitors come to India that they also see the beauty and the magnificence of our country beyond Delhi. Therefore, this is a first of that nature. It is expected that we will be having many other such occasions where visitors from outside will be hosted in other places beyond Delhi.

Question:Could you just repeat the programme on the 19th?

Official Spokesperson: I will put up the programme shortly so that you have no problems with that. But my understanding which is what I just gave you, a couple of calls. There are other elements to that programme which we will put up because part of the programme relates to what we are facilitating. But also the Chinese President has other elements of that programme which they are managing themselves. So, I will put that up shortly after we finish this interaction so that you have all information in black and white.

Question:Do you think that the BDCA between India and China has failed to check repeated intrusions by the Chinese?

Official Spokesperson: I do not think so.

Question:In the context of the current reports of the transgression in the Demchok area, according to reports our brave sentinels have asked MEA to intervene on their behalf because they have got nowhere. So my question is, has the MEA taken this up with the Chinese side?

Official Spokesperson: I must confess that your reports seem not to be corroborated by what my colleague has information here. I have explained in as diplomatic language as you said. I do not want to go further and accuse others.

Question:…(Inaudible)… proposal on smart cities or high-speed trains?

Official Spokesperson: Both these issues are of importance to the Prime Minister. He has made it very clear that he is looking for investment in India from all quarters. Smart Cities is a major project as is railways a major project. And you would not be incorrect in thinking that these elements are likely to figure in any discussion. And these were prior to this also raised in the Joint Economic Group meeting which was held recently.

Question:In recent days Indian officials have on different occasions said that this visit would help Indo-Chinese relations going to new orbits and take a dramatic new direction. Could you explain the basis for those comments?

Official Spokesperson: The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Wait for it.

Question:Sir, Leh ki District Magistrate ne abhi abhi confirm kiya hai ki Chinese sainikon ne ghuspaith kiya hai. Kya aapke paas iske baare mein koi taaza jaankaari aayi hai, ya phir joh information hai voh updated hai?

Official Spokesperson:Dekhiye, main toh bas aapko voh javaab de sakta hun jo mere paas information hai. Aur main yeh keh chuka hun ki humein confidence hai joh hamaare veer sainik hain vahan par voh in saare maamlon ko suljha sakte hain.

Question:…(Inaudible)… What really has been the takeaway form the SR-level talks so far and when are we expecting the appointment of the SR?

Official Spokesperson: You are aware that 17 rounds of Special Representative talks have been held. Given the Prime Minister’s own penchant for quick decision making, I can assure you that a decision on this is imminent.

Question:There is a perception that in trying to negotiate trade and investment deals with China that India is hoping to play on the strategic rivalry in Asia between Japan a US ally and China. Would you care to comment on that?

Official Spokesperson: This is a perception of whose?

Question:…(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: I do not answer that. Each one of the seventy of you has a different view on that. It is not my job to answer perceptions of individuals or groups. But that said, India is interested, as Prime Minister has said, that if this is an Asian century, it is a century where India’s development is integral to that. Therefore, all efforts will be made in our relationship with every one of our interlocutors to pursue India’s economic development.

Question:Premier Li Keqiang had come to India last year. He had spoken about the need for India and China to cooperate on nuclear energy. Obviously even China is nascent in nuclear technology, but are there going to be talks and what is the nature of the possible cooperation between India and China on nuclear energy?

Official Spokesperson: Both India and China are developing economies with enormous appetite for energy. Both India and China have invested a lot in trying to promote civilian uses of nuclear energy. Both India and China are members of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors. And this gives them a status of understanding the importance of nuclear energy and how to use it. Given the challenges that both India and China face in terms of their energy mix, both are committed to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Therefore, it is normal if two countries with such huge energy requirements, with such huge interest in promoting nuclear energy meet, there could be discussions on possible cooperation in this area.

Question:Sir, are the Left party leaders meeting the President? Do you have any information?

Official Spokesperson: I do not but maybe Pradeep has.

Joint Secretary (East Asia): At this point of time we do not have information on all the meetings that will be taking place.

Official Spokesperson: I think what we told you was that there are some meetings that we facilitate, there are some other meetings that the Chinese President through the Chinese Embassy could have. So, what we have we shared with you. If there are any others, if we know of, we will certainly let you know.

Question:Sir, this morning the Pakistan High Commissioner said Hafiz Saeed is a Pakistan national and he is entitled to roam around in Pakistan. In view of the points that you have made to Pakistan on 26/11 and also the question the answer to which was roam around etc., was the fact that he was in POK close to the Line of Control and with the Pakistan Army. What are your comments on that?

Official Spokesperson: Shrinjoy, our views on Hafiz Saeed are pretty clear and I will repeat them. To us he is the evil mastermind of the attacks on Mumbai. To us he is one of the accused in an Indian court of killings on the streets of Mumbai. We have repeatedly asked Pakistan that he should be apprehended and taken through the normal judicial process. Alas, he has never been arrested on account of 26/11 ever. Therefore, what you say is obvious that he is only free because he is a Pakistani citizen. Now if your question is that Pakistan always says that there is no information provided by India, and therefore they are not able to take action against him. My answer to that has also been said before but let me repeat. The answer is that 99 per cent of the evidence in this case is in Pakistan. That is because the entire conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. The planning for this dastardly act was done in Pakistan. The financing for this act was undertaken in Pakistan. And the people who were involved in them were from Pakistan. Therefore, it has always been our view that it devolves on Pakistan to ensure that criminals like Hafiz Saeed are brought to book and justice is delivered in the instance of the crime in Mumbai. I hope I have answered your question clearly.

Question:There are reports that Pakistan is recruiting Sri Lankan Muslims for spying on India.

Official Spokesperson: Again, what do you want me to do with reports? I do not answer to reports. If you say that there is a diplomatic equation in this, I can answer that. If you say there is a report or there are reports, what do I do with it? As far as I am concerned, if there are reports of the nature that you are saying, there are channels between India and Sri Lanka to address them. These need not be diplomatic channels. There are other direct channels available between us and the friendly government of Sri Lanka to tackle such elements who you say according to reports are putting in jeopardy our national security. And let me assure you that these channels are available and they are functioning very smoothly.

Question:Hindi Divas,an annual event, was held yesterday in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. On this special occasion, Indian Acting Consul General S.D. Moorthy stated that 15 per cent of the Indian population of North India learned Indian link language Hindi and similarly people who speak Tamil in the North-East region of Sri Lanka should take an initiative to learn Sinhala as their link language. What is India’s stand on this matter particularly?

Official Spokesperson: I must confess this is the first I have seen of it. Let me have a look at what you are saying and what he is purported to have said, I will then respond to you. I assure you I will respond to you the next time because this the first time I have heard of it and I have not seen anything or heard anything about that. But we will get back to you on this.

Question:Recently the Sri Lankan President stated that Thirteenth Amendment is not possible. What is India’s stand?

Official Spokesperson: Our stand has been repeated and I can repeat it again for you. Our stand is that any decision that has been taken by the Sri Lankan people and which their leaders have assured to us on repeated occasions should be implemented. And we have been assured and reassured by the leaders of Sri Lanka that they are committed to full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and we will go by what they have told us.

Question:Is there any official communiqué or engagement on the part of Bangladesh regarding Trinamool Congress MPs alleged involvement in money laundering and other cases? Last Friday you said that …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: I can update you now. What I said on last Friday remains the factual situation even now. I have checked this up. We have not received any report of the type that was mentioned in that news organisation’s publication on Friday. So, the situation remains. We have not received a report on this matter from our Mission in Bangladesh.

Thank you very much. We end this interaction now.

(Concluded)



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