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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (August 28, 2014)

August 28, 2014

Official Spokesperson: Good evening friends and thank you very much for being here this afternoon. As you are all perhaps aware, the focus of today’s Media Briefing will be Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to Japan. I have here with me, on my right, my very young but very knowledgeable & learned colleague Deputy Secretary, Mr. Shilpak Ambule who you may have seen in other avatars. He is now here for the first time with me but he is not new either to this region or these issues. So with that introduction, what I will do is I will lay out some of the major highlights of Prime Minister’s visit to Japan following which we would be ready to answer any questions that you may pose on that. And subsequent to that, as usual, the floor will be open to any questions that you may have on anything else.

As you all know, the ground rules remain the same and that is one question per person. So, choose your question very carefully. If you have completed your chance, you will not get a second chance as there are several of you here. I intend to be very fair and equitable in providing everyone a chance in terms of asking a question.

So, let me begin by saying that Prime Minister will be visiting Japan on his first bilateral visit outside Indian subcontinent and this visit is from 30th August to 3rd September. In Japan, he will be visiting two cities i.e. Kyoto and Tokyo. His initial travel from Delhi will be to Kyoto on the 30th. You are aware that Kyoto is a heritage city and I’ve received several questions, why Kyoto? I would like to respond to them upfront so that you understand the importance and symbolism of Kyoto in this visit of Prime Minister. Kyoto is the place where there is a confluence of Indian and Japanese civilizational heritage and that is through Buddhism. This provides a special symbolism to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kyoto. You are also aware that the Prime Minister is keen on focussing on rejuvenating Indian cities as urban centres; and Kyoto is a magnificent example of how a city preserves its cultural heritage while also modernising itself. It, therefore, dovetails into Prime Minister’s own emphasis on rejuvenation of cities in India while preserving their cultural heritage as also his focus on what is widely known as "smart” cities. Kyoto, in the Japanese lexicon, is known as a smart city which is environmentally friendly, which preserves its heritage and which is at the cutting-edge of the technology. All these three are important in Prime Minister’s vision of rejuvenating our cities and that’s basically why Kyoto.

Let me try and lay out for you, the program in Kyoto. As a special gesture, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has graciously agreed to come down to Kyoto and he will meet the Prime Minister in Kyoto. He will also host him for a dinner on the 30thAugust. Subsequently, the two Prime Ministers will attend a public event on the 31st August. This public event will be at theToji templewhich again symbolizes the confluence of Indian and Japanese civilizational commonalities regarding Buddhism. In addition, the Prime Minister has an extremely busy schedule in Kyoto. He will meet the Governor of Kyoto and the Mayor of Kyoto. It is expected that city’s efforts at preserving its cultural heritage and also ensuring an environment friendly approach will be highlighted in presentations made by the Mayor. I think some of you are also aware that there are consultations going on between Kyoto and Varanasi on trying to draw experiences which have been successful in Kyoto and replicate them in Varanasi. Apart from the civilizational part of it and the environmental focus, Prime Minister will also visit the Kyoto University Centre which focuses on stem cell research and as I mentioned to you at the beginning these cover three distinct areas of interest for India in terms of our linkages with Japan i.e. civilizational commonalities, environmental friendly technology as well as cutting edge research.

From Kyoto, Prime Minister will then travel in the evening to Tokyo. Let me try and lay out for you the program in Tokyo. I am not going in sequential order but in order of what many of you may think are of news value. So, I will not say what happens in the morning and then in the afternoon. But I will give you a broad understanding of what are the major activities in Tokyo. On the 1st September, Prime Minister will be officially welcomed at a ceremony at theAkasaka Palace. Prime Minister and Prime Minister Abe will have detailed discussions both in restricted format as well as delegation level talks. Following these talks, they are expected to attend signing ceremony where we would sign any agreements that have been concluded in the talks. And they will also have Joint Press Remarks following this signing ceremony. After this Prime Minister Abe will host a Banquet in honour of the Prime Minister.

Now, this is the formal part of the discussions with Japanese Prime Minister. In addition, there are a series of ministers who are going to call on the Prime Minister. These will be ahead of the meetings with Prime Minister Abe in the evening. These will include the Deputy Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister, the Minister for Economy, Trade & Industry as well as the Minister for Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. If you think that that is the end of the day’s program- No. There is something more. The Prime Minister will address the business community at a luncheon hosted by theKeidanren,the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Japan-India Business Cooperation Committee. And this will be where he will layout his views on possibilities of cooperation between India and Japan in the economic sector. In addition, Prime Minister will also visit an elementary school in Japan and this is in accordance with his focus on education as being a very vital input in the India story as he sees it. That’s quite a handful for the first September.

Let me now try and tell what we have on the second of September. The highlight of the program on the 2ndSeptember will be Prime Minister’s call on the Emperor, His Majesty EmperorAkihito. You are all aware that the Emperor and Empress of Japan had a very successful visit to India towards the end of last year. In addition, the Prime Minister will also visit another educational institution. This time, a college. He is expected to speak there to the students at the college. He will also address a seminar convened byJetro and Nikkei.He will inaugurate the Vivekananda Cultural Centre in Tokyo and attend a reception of the Indian Community in the evening. If you thought, that was all, I have something more and that is- Prime Minister will also be meeting political leaders across the political spectrum in Japan. They will all make courtesy calls on him and there will be discussions between them.

As you can all see that Prime Minister’s visit to Japan is extremely substantive. It has a wide range of events that we have planned for and we expect, as an outcome, that both India and Japan will be able to elevate our Strategic and Global Partnership to new levels. In short, if I were to summarize, for all of you, what we think of the visit, I would say we have ‘great expectations’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Japan.

I think I’ll stop at that and we would be ready to respond to any questions that you may have either on the program or on anything else.

Question: What is the update on the Civil Nuclear negotiation between India and Japan? Is there a possibility that the deal would be concluded? What is the progress so far?

Official Spokesperson: Thank you Manish. Let me try and put that in perspective. You are all aware that the Civil Nuclear Agreement talks started in 2010. It’s now four years of engagement. More recently that engagement has speeded up. We’ve had several useful conversations between our negotiators and the Japanese interlocutors. These discussions have yielded substantive results. However, all of you do understand that Civil Nuclear issues are of immense technical complexity and therefore our negotiators continue to focus on this and we are working towards satisfactory outcome for India and also for our friends in Japan. That’s where we are on that.

Question: Sir, as we were apprised of earlier that Prime Minister wanted to visit Japan as a first foreign visit but he could not for some reasons. But still we are eager to know that what is the most significant part of the visit is. What we want to achieve from that visit?

Official Spokesperson: Let me clarify to you, Prime Minister was always to visit Bhutan as his first visit. However, Japan was his first bilateral visit outside the Indian subcontinent and that remains so. He had written to Prime Minister Abe about it indicating that Parliamentary requirements preclude his visit to Japan at that stage but he had indicated that Japan would still be the first destination of his bilateral interactions outside the Indian subcontinent and that is the forthcoming visit.

Now as regards, what are our expectations of outcomes, I think I’ve told you that we expect the Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan to be elevated to a new level. Now let me try and add to that and that is when you have a Strategic and Global partnership, you work at two levels. One is what do we gain from it bilaterally. So let me try and tell you what our focus areas are bilaterally. Now the visit affords for us an opportunity to broaden our bilateral ties. It affords for us an opportunity to seek Japanese support for our new infrastructure development. It affords for us an opportunity to create new vistas for our exports of Indian goods and services to Japan and it affords for us opportunities for us to explore new areas for cooperation. Now as we look at the next generation infrastructure, you are aware that Japan figures prominently among those countries who have both the financial resource and the technical skills for such next generation infrastructure. You are aware of the Prime Minister’s vision and focus on improving Indian infrastructure. However, our strategic partnership is not only about bilateral ties and when we talk of strategic and global partnership, it is our view that both Japan and India can work not only bilaterally but can work with each other for the cause of global peace and understanding. That, in sum and substance, covers all areas of what we expect from this visit. I hope I have not disappointed you in that.

Question: At a time when India’s engagements with the world is expanding so much and we are trying to increase our options, diplomatically how important is to make this a first visit? Is there a bit of over-emphasis on the fact that this is a visit outside subcontinent and a bit of emphasis is being given by the commentators in various things (..Inaudible..)?

Official Spokesperson: I am not here to give you what commentators’ views are. That said, I have explained it very clearly. Let me repeat. In our view, this is a ‘visit of great expectations’. I think that sums it all.

Question: You said global peace and understanding is something that India and Japan working towards enhancing. Is India looking to enhance military ties with Japan? And if so, in what shape or form?

Official Spokesperson: As strategic partners, we have defence cooperation. For example, we have cooperation which requires regular military exercises, for example we have cooperation of navies and this cooperation deals with common perceptions that we have in terms of ensuring maritime security, in terms of anti-piracy operations- that’s one example of what I am giving you. You are also aware that we are engaging through a working group on the US-2 aircraft. There is a joint working group that is examining to see how we can proceed on that. So our ties with Japan encompass all issues and these include defence ties.

Question: Sir agar aap hamein bataayein ki PM se saath delegation mein kaun-kaun log jaayenge?

Official Spokesperson: Jahan tak mujhe yaad hai, Pradhan Mantri ke saath jaayenge National Security Advisor aur Videsh Sachiv, Shrimati Sujatha Singh,Secretary DIPP Shri Amitabh Kant, Expenditure Secretary, Mr. Ratan Watal,and other officials who are involved in work related to this aspect. As you know, Prime Minister has, over the last few trips, made it very clear that he is focussed on taking a lean team and that is the focus that has continued during all his trips and will be continued during this trip also.

Question: Sir, is there any business delegation also going along?

Official Spokesperson: It is normal when we go to countries where we have extremely strong business ties that our Chambers of Commerce work with their counterparts in Japan and launch business delegations of very important businessmen. So there will be businessmen travelling but separately. These are businessmen who work out schedules, they are important CEOs of various companies, and they travel separately from the official delegation. I understand that as a part of this visit too, there will be important businessmen who will travel separately from the Prime Minister.

Question: Sir you spoke about infrastructure projects, what are the chances of signing a deal for bullet trains? There are reports that there is a competition between Japan and China for selling us bullet trains.

Official Spokesperson: Good try. I never answer about agreements. The chances of agreements is a speculative answer, I never get in to that. All agreements, as you know, we will only inform once they are signed. So chances, this is for all of you to speculate about. I will make this open once agreements are signed. But let me assure you, we are working on several agreements. I will not get into the details of those agreements, in what areas they concern and what issues they will be focussed upon. This is for you to indulge in the next three days.

Question: I am just wondering, why the trip to Kyoto was added after the first announcement on the 15thAugust?

Official Spokesperson: Do you any objection to our addition? Our hosts don’t seem to have. As we work these things out, our ideas get formulated. India and Japan have a relationship which is very strong and where we are able to exchange our views very openly on things. I’ve explained to you the reasons why Kyoto is important in this connection. Now if your question is, why it was not done before; that doesn’t answer anything because if you get a thought first that’s not always the best thought. The thought which can come to you later can also add value to it and we think that the addition of Kyoto adds immense value to Prime Minister’s visit to Japan as is evidenced by the fact that Prime Minister Abe has graciously agreed to come to Kyoto and receive the Indian Prime Minister despite him having formal talks in Tokyo. We see this as a very very gracious and significant gesture of the special relationship between our two countries and but for the visit to Kyoto, that gesture would not have been forthcoming.

Question: Mr. Modi will, next week, also welcome to India Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot. I think he is the first Head of Government to visit India outside of the sub continental leaders. What can you tell us about Mr. Modi’s hopes and expectations for his future relationship with Australia?

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much for that question and let me tell you we will have a separate briefing on Prime Minister Abbot’s visit to India because we think it is very significant. We think that it will also help in working in improving our bilateral relations. He is the first bilateral visitor to India and we lay great importance to it. However, we will do that separately in time before Prime Minister Abbot’s visit to Delhi. There will be a separate briefing focussed on that because we need to do justice to that separately.

Question: I was wondering if Prime Minister is scheduled to take bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo and if does, what’s the significance of that opportunity?

Official Spokesperson: My understanding is that Prime Minister has previously visited Japan and he has had the pleasure of travelling in this exquisite technical wonder that is the bullet train. At this stage, we are not planning that given the tight schedule that I’ve explained to you. However, the Prime Minister has had the benefit of travelling in the bullet train and he doesn’t miss out on anything, if on this occasion he doesn’t take that route.

Question: The business delegation that is going from India to Japan consists of some of the most powerful business leaders including Mukesh Ambani, Adani and so on. The bilateral trade between India and Japan and Japanese investment in India are nothing much to write home about, particularly if you compare it with China. That apart, do we have any target figures like we want the trade to be this much and FDI to be this much?

Official Spokesperson: I’ll ask Shilpak to respond to that.

Dr. Shilpak Ambule: We are working on that figures and I think, by the end of the visit those will be revealed to you.

Official Spokesperson: We take the point that the figures do not reflect our potential and that said that’s why what Shilpak says is that we are working on mechanisms and means to provide a quantum change in those figures and that we will let you know as an outcome of the visit rather than prior to that.

Question: Will there be ministerial level talks between India and Japan? And will there be any development regarding Ministerial level of talks when Modi visits Japan?

Official Spokesperson: I mentioned to you that the present delegation does not consist of any ministers. So we do not expect any ministerial level talks, but that said External Affairs Minister had recently met the Japanese Foreign Minister in Nay Pi Taw when both of them were there for the East Asia Summit Foreign Minister’s Meeting and the ARF. They had a very good conversation. There is a mechanism whereby they meet. There is also a mechanism whereby Defence Ministers meet. The Japanese Defence Minister was here in India earlier this year, prior to that the Indian Defence Minister had visited Japan. So at this stage, while we have mechanisms, during this visit there is no prospect of a ministerial level meeting in Tokyo or Kyoto.

Question: Sir, as you said infrastructure would be one of the major components for discussions. I want to know about a specific project, the East-West Metro corridor of Kolkata? Will the Prime Minister be discussing this project with the Japanese counterpart?

Official Spokesperson: You know what my answer to that is. How will I prejudge what the Prime Minister is discussing? I can give you broad idea of what are the issues. I will not get into specifics. We will let you know at the end of the discussions, what were specifically discussed. But I don’t think it’s fair to tell our host through you what is doing to be discussed with them when we meet in the privacy of diplomatic chambers.

Question: Sir, it’s a follow up to the question on our defence relations with Japan. What is the status of negotiations for purchase of military aircraft from Japan?

Official Spokesperson: I think I made that clear. I mentioned to you, what we have is a Joint Working Group. My understanding is that the Joint Working Group met recently, just about less than a fortnight ago. So discussions are on on that and once they reach their logical conclusion, we will certainly share with you. But when a discussion is on-going, I don’t think I’ll be able to share with you and I think this was the second meeting of that group. So, they had a meeting earlier and they had a meeting only recently; so things are progressing, if that is what you want to know, and progressing quite well.

Question: I am sorry; I came in a little a late, so I am not sure if you have said this. Is the Prime Minister visiting theRenkoji templeshrine where Netaji Subhash Bose’s ashes are supposedly kept?

Official Spokesperson: I have laid out in great detail where he is visiting. That’s available now on the record and you can have a look at it.

Question: Sir, there were some talk of cooperation between India and Japan on rare earth metals. Where are the talks right now? And dare I ask, is there an agreement in the offing?

Official Spokesperson: Let me tell you where we stand. Agreements in the offing are for you to speculate. But that said, yes there was an understanding previously and my understanding is that the two companies involved are working through the nitty-gritty of the commercial aspects of that deal. Once they work out the commercial aspects, the deal is ready to be signed. But that said, you have to understand that commercial issues are such that no company shares in advance that we have reached an agreement until they finally do, because it impedes their ability to make the best bargain. So I can tell you that the two companies involved in that are working through commercial aspects and like all good companies who work through these, they want the best advantage for them. Whether they can do it by the time the Prime Ministers meet, you can guess I will not speculate.

Question: Just need a clarification on the matter of BJP leader Subramanium Swamai. Whenever he is being invited to the foreign countries to give a seminar or anything, he just proactively interacts the Indian demands especially with Sri Lanka, Indian demand on the fishermen issue also. So that’s what happened last week with the Defence Ministry seminar. Is he representing Government of India politically? Just need a clarification of MEA.

Official Spokesperson: Anybody who represents the Government of India is either designated to represent the Government of India or he is an authorized representative. For example, if there is a minister, I don’t need to designate him or her as a representative of Government of India. If it is not somebody who is holding a ministerial position, or a government position or an official position, then if he or she goes to a country and has to the represent the Government of India then he or she is designated as an envoy or a special envoy. So, the answer to your question is in that response.

Question: Shall I know what the agenda is and who all are participating tomorrow in India-Sri Lanka fishermen issue meet?

Official Spokesperson: I think this is being done by our Ministry of Agriculture. So you will have to address this issue to them.

Question: Just to ask you that the BSF chief, a couple of days ago, mentioned that there has been the heaviest firing between India and Pakistan since the 71’ war. There was a meeting of sector commanders, I think yesterday. So, is there anything that you would like to share with us on what’s the situation along the LoC?

Official Spokesperson: Welcome to the Ministry of External Affairs. They all know my answer and that answer is that anything that happens on the border is for our brave sentinels of the border to handle. We have full confidence that they will provide a befitting reply.

Question: (..inaudible..) LoC?

Official Spokesperson: BSF is not LoC sir. Also There is no such thing as "working boundary” in our lexicon.

Question: Jammu & Kashmir Assembly has passed a resolution asking and urging the Central Government to restart dialogue with Pakistan. Is the government looking into it because we hear the Foreign Affairs Advisor to Nawaz Sharif saying Kashmir is top of their agenda and talks cannot go on unless and until Kashmir discussed?

Official Spokesperson: Since you have asked two question and you know that I always respond to one. There are two in those and I will respond to one and as you know I will choose the question that need to respond to and that is - as regards engagement with Pakistan, we have made it very clear that we will engage in the framework of the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration; and both these provide for discussing all outstanding issues including the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. So, our view is very clear - a bilateral framework to discuss all outstanding issues including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. I hope that clarifies our stance once and for all.

If there are no more questions, we will end this interaction. Thank you very much.

(Concluded)


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