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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson and Joint Secretary(Americas)(January 22, 2015)

January 22, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good evening friends and thank you very much for joining us here this evening even as we prepare for what would be one of our most important diplomatic engagements in recent times.

I have here with me my colleague Joint Secretary (Americas) Mr. Vinay Kwatra. The two of us will try and take you through the forthcoming visit. What I will do is make a few opening remarks following which any of you are welcome to put any questions either to Mr. Kwatra or to me. Subsequent to that, if any of you have any questions on anything else, then I will be willing to answer them.

We have approximately 30 minutes at our disposal. Mr. Kwatra is an important man, as you would agree, given that the next two days he is the most busy man in town. But I am grateful to him for having come across to interact with you even though it is for a limited time.

Following the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Mr. Barak Obama will be in India on a three-day state visit from 25th to 27th of this month. The visit comes four months after the meeting between the Prime Minister and President Barak Obama in Washington.

President Obama will be accompanied by the First Lady of the United States Mrs. Michelle Obama. President Obama is expected to arrive in New Delhi at 10 a.m. on the 25thof January. As is usual during state visits, following his arrival he will be received ceremonially at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Also, in accordance with normal protocol he will pay homage at the Raj Ghat.

We have scheduled bilateral discussions at the Hyderabad House between Prime Minister and President Obama. These bilateral discussions will be in a restricted format. After that they will be followed by a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister for President Obama and his delegation during which there will be delegation-level discussions too. In the evening, President Obama will meet Rashtrapatiji at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Rashtrapatiji will also host a banquet for the visiting dignitary.

On 26thJanuary, President Obama is the Chief Guest at the Republic Day function, after which he will also attend the At Home reception of the President. Prime Minister and President Obama will address business events during the course of the afternoon.

On 27thJanuary, President Obama is expected to address a select gathering in the morning. The First Lady and the President are also expected to visit Agra before their departure from New Delhi.

President Obama is the first US President to visit India twice, and the first US President to be the Chief Guest at our Republic Day celebrations. The visit of the US President is a culmination of a qualitative reinvigoration of our ties following the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Obama in September 2014. Since that meeting, India and the United States have acted with alacrity, collaborated in common pursuits, and have traversed a transformative path. By way of details let me try and put out some information for you to back up what I have just said.

We have had nine Indo-US dialogue meetings since September. In four months we have had nine meetings. In addition to the nine dialogue level meetings, we have had eight meetings relating to defence and security. These cover areas such as cyber, border management, counter IEDs, defence technology, trade initiatives, and global entry programme. Also, on the economic and commercial fronts there have been three meetings on matters such as smart cities, financial regulations, etc. In the science and technology sphere there have been three meetings on subjects including vaccination programme, scientific research collaboration in monsoon.

Since September there have been 10 MoUs signed between India and the United States in areas such as space, renewable energy, skill development, urban development, to name a few. Looking ahead, India sees vast potential for growth in our relations. From our perspective, the United States is a key partner for capital, technology, knowledge, and skills in our development path.

It is also a potentially important source of clean energy technology and hydrocarbons. It is an important partner in areas like defence technology and counterterrorism. It is an important factor in our space security and cyber security programmes.

The United States is India’s key interlocutor in adjustments to the global security and economic architecture including reforms of the United Nations Security Council. It is a partner in our quest for a rule-based, open international trading and economic order. And it is a partner in our efforts to seek peace and stability in our extended neighbourhood and globally. All these issues that I listed just now for you are likely to be the basis of our discussions during the bilateral meeting.

If I have to try and sum up I think I could say we see the visit of President Obama to India as strengthening our ties across the full breadth of our full spectrum relationship, ties between our governments, ties between our people, and ties between our institutions.

I think I will stop there. We are ready to answer questions from you.

Question:Sir, kya Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi President Obama ko receive karne ke liye airport jayenge?

Official Spokesperson: Ashish, you are aware that in state visits it is usual protocol for a Minister to receive a dignitary and usual protocol is being followed.

Question:Kya Pradhan Mantri President Obama ke saath Agra jayenge Taj Mahal dekhne?

Official Spokesperson:Jahan tak mujhe pata hai,I have just said, President Obama accompanied by the First Lady of the United States will visit Agra.

Question:Will the Prime Minister be accompanying President Obama when he goes to Raj Ghat?

Official Spokesperson: Let me answer these questions once and for all. Let me list the occasions when the two will be together so that you need not ask other such questions.

At the ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan it is normal for the Prime Minister to be there to receive the visiting dignitary along with the President. At the bilateral talks, Prime Minister will be leading the Indian delegation and, therefore, it is normal for him to be there. Subsequently in the evening at the official banquet, Prime Minister will be there again as a guest while the President of India is the host.

The next day, Prime Minister will be there in the morning at the Republic Day celebrations. Subsequently in the afternoon again Prime Minister will be there at the At Home at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. After that the two leaders will also address a business event. Also, as you know, Prime Minister has this morning mentioned that the two leaders will record a programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’. These are the elements where the two leaders will be together. They are very large, they will have multiple occasions to interact with each other and adequate time to discuss all issues that are of consequence.

Question:Sir, President Obama ke saath Minister-in-Waiting kaun honge?

Official Spokesperson: As of now the proposal is Mr. Piyush Goyal.

I have clarified all issues relating to protocol. If there are no more questions on that, we will end this element now and move on to other things.

Question:Akbar, 2015 is going to be the tenth anniversary of the nuclear deal, and the Prime Minister and President are meeting within months of it. What is the way ahead? Have we been able to resolve liability issues? What concrete progress can you foresee?

Official Spokesperson: Even as we speak, our negotiators are working together in a collaborative manner in London. This is the third time that the Contact Group that was set up by Prime Minister and President Obama is meeting in the last four months. In fact it is the third time they are meeting in approximately 45 days or so. So, you can see the element of effort that is going into discussions on the nuclear issue.

As far as India is concerned, nuclear is an important component of our energy mix. It is a low carbon form of energy and, therefore, we see it as an extremely important ingredient in our energy mix. Therefore, we are engaged with the United States on discussing on this issue. I think all of you need to understand what are the issues that are being discussed.

Nuclear issue is a rubric. Under that rubric what is being discussed in specific terms is administrative arrangements. You will understand that following the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement we also have to have administrative arrangements which will basically be the rules of the road of how we can work with each other administratively. So, what is being discussed, number one, are administrative arrangements. Number two, also you are aware that India and the United States have previously also agreed that the United States will support India’s quest for membership of the NSG. We are in discussions on that, how to actualise that.

And of course, there are issues relating to clarifications and understanding of our nuclear liability regime. Let me explain to you that what is being discussed is how within the four walls of our legal framework, our legislation, we can provide assurances to our partners in the United States of any concerns that they may have either through their vendors or their lawyers. That is the discussion that is right now taking place in London. Two previous meetings have been held – one in Delhi, one in Vienna.

If I may summarise, nuclear is an important issue for us; there are a host of elements that are being discussed; and we are looking forward to utilising nuclear as a major element in our energy mix; and hope we can work towards that effectively with our close partner the United States.

Question:Could you give some idea as to what kind of proposals from the US are there regarding climate change especially in the context of the coming Paris conference? What does US expect India to do?

Official Spokesperson: Naaz, I am representing the Government of India. What you are asking is best directed to those who represent the United States. But let me try and put it another way. The Paris conference is another ten plus months away. This is a multilateral event where all countries will be involved. This is not a bilateral issue between India and the United States. So, please do not put it in the context of our bilateral ties. Yes, environment is an important issue for us and we are working on these independently. So, please do not link those two elements.

Of course we do understand that for the United States environment is an important issue, and it is a priority that has been mentioned by their leadership. Clean energy is also an important issue for us. But please do not link the Paris conference, which is about ten months later, with this discussion that we are having on clean energy as an important element in our energy mix.

I think you are aware that some time ago we have announced that the renewable component of our energy mix we are very keen to increase. So, the target has been expanded from 20,000 MW to 100,000 MW by 2022. That clearly is evidence of the commitment of the Government to efforts to using low carbon energy in our energy mix. Nuclear is the obverse side of that.

Question:Akbar, India is keen on becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, MTCR, Australia Club and Wassenaar. Apparently there are reports we have sought American help too in this direction. The Americans are saying you first become members of those places where China is not a member namely, Australia Club and Wassenaar. What exactly is the situation at the moment?

Official Spokesperson: Mr. Venkat Narain, I just explained to you that one of the elements in this discussion that we are having in various places including London is NSG membership. Therefore, I think you will have to wait till the outcomes of those discussions that are under way. The US has previously indicated its support for India as NSG member. Now what you are talking is sequencing and all. At this stage, you would appreciate that while negotiations are on it is not appropriate to come to conclusions. London is still five and a half hours behind.

Question:Akbar, you mentioned about the meetings that have been held in the recent past between India and the US. You also mentioned about the transfer of technology talks that are going on. I just want to know if there are any specifics on the transfer of technology. What is the progress so far as this is concerned?…(Inaudible)… the US is keeping certain things within and they are not ready to part with transfer of technology.

Official Spokesperson: What transfer of technology are you talking about?

Joint Secretary (Americas) (Shri Vinay Mohan Kwatra):TOT in which area are you referring to?

Question:In the key areas which have been mentioned and on which talks are going on.

Official Spokesperson: Again, how can we share with you details when we said that there are ongoing discussions? If you want to know on defence, if that is your interest, on that discussions are on. On other areas, maybe JS (AMS) can give you a run through on science and technology.

Joint Secretary (AMS): To give you just a broad answer, picking up on what Akbar said right in the beginning that there is a whole spectrum of economic endeavour which forms a component of our bilateral engagement. You take economic, commercial, health, education, technology, defence. There will be several segments in this where technology will play a key role, whether it is clean energy, whether it is defence, or even if it is in the very simple case of say industrial development.

So, I think technology cooperation I should say rather is an important component in all these segments. I think each segment would be taking its own important decisions with regard to what technology the two countries should cooperate in, what should they jointly research on, what should they jointly develop, and what exactly gets transferred also. And you would agree that in each domain the nature of technology discussions vary. In some cases it is a commercial transaction where you pick up technology off the shelf, integrate it into your system. In some cases it is a more negotiated version. I think in all these aspects those discussions are continuing.

Question:Sir, kya donon deshon ke beech bilateral investment treaty, aur transfer pricing jaise muddon par charcha honi hai?

Joint Secretary (AMS): Jaise ki Akbar ne prarambh mein hi aapse zikr kiya hai ki aarthik kshetra mein aap jitney prashn utahyen, jitney mudde uthayen, sabke sab joh hain hamaari sahbhagita ka ek abhinna ang hain, hamaari vaarta ka ek abhinna ang hain. Uske andar bilateral investment treaty, yeh pratham baar nahin hain ki aisi discussions hongi. Lekin jaise aapko pata hoga ki kuchh samay pehle bilateral investment treaty ka joh hmaara standard raha, jiska review maddenazar chal raha hai toh voh review is samay pragatisheel hai. Jaise uska samapan poora hoga, Bharat aur America ke beech mein in vishayon par baat-cheet joh hai voh lagatar saath mein jaari hai takniki roop se.

Question:Sir, FDI in retail has been one of the core issues close to the heart of Americans. Is it going to be discussed, and is there any scope of finding any solution within the four walls of the Act that has been passed last time?

Official Spokesperson: Again you are asking the wrong person the wrong question. You are asking me what will be raised. I have explained to you what are issues of our priority. I would suggest that you direct these questions elsewhere if there are other issues beyond this. This maybe a view you have. You are aware of Government of India’s stance on this. So let us move ahead on that.

Question:Sir, talks are going on in London but can we hope to see some breakthrough when PM Modi and President Obama meet? Will there be any breakthrough toward implementation of the nuclear deal?

Official Spokesperson: Madam, if I knew about this I would be the wisest man in this room. I certainly am not. If any of you know, I am not aware. The talks are under way. There has been progress since we started. This is the third round of talks. So what we can say is that the talks are under way; there has been progress in the past; nuclear is an important component of our energy mix and we look forward to utilising the full potential of our nuclear establishment in using civil nuclear energy for our energy mix.

Question:Why are we talking in Vienna and London when it is all about India?

Official Spokesperson: Good question! Do you have any problem with Vienna and London? They are nice places.

Question:Akbar, my question is on the nuclear issue. I am told that solution lies in ratification of the CSE. Is that on the cards before President Obama arrives?

Official Spokesperson: I think what you are asking me is to keep on projecting into the future. I can only explain what has happened so far rather than projecting into the future. Just wait and see what the outcomes are. It is not our practice to share outcomes on anything with anyone. If there are successful outcomes, we will certainly share with you.

Question:Since PM Modi is very keen on MoU…(Inaudible)…I would like to ask you about India’s priorities. Will the economic issues be the topmost priority in the meeting?

Official Spokesperson: Let me repeat. India’s development is the primary and the topmost priority of our foreign policy. And we see the United States as a key partner in that development including through possible technology transfer, through possible investment and capital, through sharing of knowledge and skills. So that is our priority.

Question:Aapne kaha ki economic agenda mein smart cities bhi ek priority hai. Teen baar charcha bhi ho chuki hai. Kya is daure mein koi MoU par dastkhat ho rahe hain?

Official Spokesperson: Good question.Aap jaante hain, shayad aap pehli baar aaye hain yahan par, main kabhi future ke baare mein nahin kahta hun.I just said, please wait for the outcomes. We will share all the outcomes with you. We expect substantive outcomes from the discussions, we will share them with you.

Question:Sir, can you tell us about any separate engagements for the US First Lady like a visit to a school?

Official Spokesperson: I think the US has responded to your question today. That answer is available in the public domain.

Question:Can you tell us about the defence framework agreement that has been finalised?

Official Spokesperson: If you are referring to an agreement which was there already ten years ago, there is an agreement which has been in place for ten years. There was an agreement between Prime Minister and President Obama that it will be renewed. If that is what you are referring to, it is already a framework that is in place.

Question:Will there be any MoUs or agreements signed?

Official Spokesperson: Please wait. And let us not look at our relations with the United States or any other country, in terms of MoUs or agreements. While MoUs and agreements are reflective of progress in an incremental manner, they are not the basis of a very broad relationship. We have just explained to you, the relationship covers every aspect of our international engagement. Please do not reduce it to an MoU.

Question:Will Pakistan be an issue that is going to be discussed?

Official Spokesperson: I think I mentioned that as global strategic partners we address all issues including the situation in the region and beyond. If that fits into that element, it is possible. I cannot give this in advance. But I can certainly say we will discuss the regional and global situation, and the challenges that are posed to both of us in terms of our policies.

Question:Sir, some of the reports suggest that President Obama’s visit is on…(Inaudible)… parade and visiting the Taj Mahal. Now you have said that here is a political change in the relationship. Would you describe it?

Official Spokesperson: I just laid out a whole list of issues in which we are engaged. I just explained to you that this is based on four months of extremely intensive interaction with outcomes on several areas. The breadth of our relationship as I just told him, do not reduce the importance. Yes, the Republic Day is a symbol of India’s national aspiration as a republic. And it is always our approach of having our close friends and partners there indicating affinity between us. And yes, the Republic Day symbolises that.

However, I have also told you what we are doing one day before. I have also told you what we are doing after the Republic Day. Taken together I think we are looking forward to a relationship which is unparalleled in its breadth.

Question:Akbar, during Obama’s stay here, other than PM Modi and Rashtrapatiji, is any other leader meeting Obama?

Official Spokesperson: This is in accordance with standard protocol. There will be many occasions for different people to interact with him on different occasions. I have given you multiple occasions where there will be meetings. Obviously, Prime Minister will be assisted by others. Rashtrapatiji will invite a large number of others to come and interact with him. And this is in accordance with normal protocol.

Question:President Obama will also be interacting with representatives from India Inc., for a while. Could you give us a sense of a particular agenda, main points that will be under discussion especially in …(Inaudible)…Make in India campaign which has seen a big push?

Official Spokesperson: Sometimes you ask me to answer on behalf of other countries, now you are asking me to answer on behalf of India Inc. I dare not answer that. That said, let me try and put this in perspective. There is a CEOs forum of Indian and US CEOs. The effort there is for the two leaders to listen and understand what issues that CEOs of the two countries would raise. That is the focus. What they will say, I think many of you who cover business related issues would be in the best position to indicate.

Question:Opposition ke bhi kisi leader se President Obama ki meeting hogi?

Official Spokesperson:Dekhiye, main ne aapko pehle bhi bataya tha ki protocol ke tahat joh bhi hota hai us programme poora usi protocol ke tahat hota hai. Kayi baar aate hain hamaare paas visitorsand we follow the normal protocol in these matters.

Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this interaction.

(Concluded)

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