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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (West) on PM's forthcoming visit to Tashkent for SCO Summit (June 22, 2016)

June 22, 2016

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Good evening friends and welcome to this special briefing on Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to attend the SCO Summit, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization. To brief on this important visit, I have with me Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta. I also have with me Mr. G. V. Srinivas, our Joint Secretary Eurasia.

Secretary West will make a brief opening statement and then she is open to taking questions. With that I give the floor to Secretary West.

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: Thank you Vikas, and good afternoon friends. I think what I am going to say has been exaggerated a bit by Vikas as an opening statement. I am just going to offer some remarks on the background to this upcoming visit.

India’s association with The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the SCO, dates back to 2005 when we attended as an observer for the first time. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its present form came into being in 2001 and it has, to this point, six members. There is Russia, there is China, there is Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The issue of expanding the SCO was decided by the group in 2010. Discussions started within the group in 2010. The decision on actually expanding the SCO was taken by the SCO in 2014 and in 2014 we applied to join it as a member. The decision that India would be admitted to the SCO was taken last year when Russia was in the Chair of the Group at Ufa.

The Prime Minister has attended the outreach that BRICKS leaders had with SCO members in Ufa last year. And at this upcoming summit the process of India’s accession to the SCO will start with a signature on the base document, which is called the Memorandum of Obligation.

As Vikas said the PM goes to Tashkent tomorrow for the SCO summit. The SCO summit kicks off with a gala dinner and cultural program. He will be meeting the host, the present chair of the SCO, President Karimov of Uzbekistan tomorrow.

After that he will be attending, what they call the Extended Session of the SCO, the following day, that’s the 24th. There will be a couple of bilaterals as well and he returns to India on Friday evening i.e. 24th June.

So that in brief is the agenda for the next two days. If there are any questions, I will take them.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: The floor is now open to questions.

Question: So during the SCO summit full membership of India will not be announced?

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: As I said, I am using the words very carefully, the process of accession of India to membership of SCO starts with the signature on this base document. There is a schedule laid down for us to sign up to the other documents that are required, that India need to accede to. This is a process for which there is a schedule and that will happen as the year goes by.

Question: What exactly happened since last year when we were accepted as member and this year?

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: We have been in discussion with the SCO about the documents themselves that have to be signed because those were given to us after that. Because as I said, there is the Memorandum of Obligation, which is the base document and there are more than 30 other documents that are required to be acceded to and we were given those in this last year. They have to gone through and then they have to be reviewed and so forth. Because we basically commit to undertaking everything in those.

Because typically what happens in any international organization, when you join is that you have to in a sense commit to implementing all the obligations that other members have undertaken, till that point. Aligning our processes with what had been agreed already.

Question: .. Inaudible…

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: Well, let me put it like this, because those are documents that are agreed by others, those documents are not re-negotiated, but we certainly have to work out what we need to do.

Question: You said there will be a couple of bilaterals. Will there also be a meeting with the Chinese leader?

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: Yes, there will be a meeting with the President of China. There will also be a meeting with the President of Russia and there will be a couple of others as well.

Question: Mam, could you give us some more details of the crucial meet with the Chinese President where he is expected to push for the India’s membership of the NSG and also will he meet the Pakistani President, who is also expected attend the SCO?

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: I really wouldn’t be able to tell you what would be discussed till the discussion happens. I can’t really commit to what will be the subject matter, but as is typical on these occasions, there is a full review of the bilateral agenda. Typically that is what happens.

I don’t have details of all the other meetings. In fact we don’t even have a formal communication on who is representing Pakistan at the Summit.

Question: I mean I know we are all obsessing about the NSG, but the Chinese component is significant. Can one expect any kind of substantive debate in Tashkent in parallels to the meeting, firstly? Sorry for asking two questions. And this is a Chinese run club or China and Russia plus some small countries. Does the dynamics of the NSG debate play into the speed or lack of it in terms of signing the documents of accession to the SCO. Thank you.

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: You know, how should I say, it’s really, in a sense, coincidence that the NSG meeting is happening on the exact same date as the SCO. I somehow don’t expect that people who are attending the NSG are being asked to speculate about what the discussion in the SCO may be. So for the very same reason I would find it very hard speaking to the SCO to actually speculate about what the impact of discussions in the SCO and the discussions in the NSG may be.

As far as the pace of India’s accession to the SCO, being a function of Russia, China and the four countries of Central Asia. Let me put it like this, that we see ourselves as following an approach of fairly flexible multilateralism. So we are quite happy to engage in multiple processes. The SCO is a group which brings together countries of our extended neighborhood. We have been working with other SCO members in several fields. We have been talking to them in working groups relating to trade, transport, culture and terrorism and so on and we hope that our engagement in these areas will intensify through this. The SCO is a major group in terms of countries that have a huge potential in terms of energy. In fact, there is a talk of an SCO energy club emerging so we will wait and see how that develops.

Question: How will India’s membership of the SCO benefit us since Pakistan is also going to join the SCO at the same time? Do you foresee a situation where Pakistan will allow its territory to be used by India to transport goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia or we still have to wait for Chabahar to be activated? Thank You.

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: Thank you for that question. Let me answer that in at least two parts if not more. Our membership of this or any other group is not predicated on the absence of any country. I don’t think that is the way we approach our multilateral engagements.

The issue of the transit of India’s goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia is something that we talk of bilaterally with Pakistan, we talk of in several other forum. This would be one more where we talk of connectivity issues. We really see this as a net gain, as a supplement to what we have already. So I think from that perspective we see this as a group which has value and we see value in India being within that.

Any other questions, yes please.

Question: Mam, could you please shed some light on this instrument of obligation that we are going to sign? Does it also includes security cooperation with say, China and Pakistan, specially?

Secretary West, Ms. Sujata Mehta: Cooperation in the area of security is part of the subject matter of the SCO. So to that extent, of course it does. I mean all countries which are members SCO cooperate with each other. In fact there is a regional anti-terror mechanism that is formally established within the SCO, and we too will be part of that. So, certainly we envisage a cooperation in these areas as well.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Thank you all. This press conference comes to a close.


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