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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (West) on State visit of President to Cyprus, Bulgaria and Czech Republic (September 08, 2018)

September 10, 2018

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar:Good evening friends and its wind up briefing at the end of President’s three nation visit which started on September 02 from Cyprus and then to Bulgaria and Czech Republic. Today we have for the briefing Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam, Secretary (West) from the MEA and Mr. Ashok Malik, Press Secretary from the President’s Secretariat. Basically they will brief you about various special components of the program and also the outcomes, the tangible and not so tangible outcomes and what are the takeaways from the visit. So over to the Secretary (West).

Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam:
Thank you so much Dr. Anju. As already mentioned the Hon’ble President Shri Ramnath Kovind Ji undertook a three nation visit to Cyprus, Bulgaria and Czech Republic from September 2, 2018.

The President was accompanied by Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare and Panchayati Raj, Shri Purushottam Rupala Ji and Hon’ble members of Parliament Shri Sunil Kumar Singh Ji and Shri Ram Shakal along with other senior government officials.

Daily press reports have already been filed so I think people are already well familiar with different important elements of the President’s program during these visits. So we will skip that for now.

Let’s start with Cyprus which was the first leg of President’s visit. The visit was very successful, it helped in consolidating further the time tested relationship between our two countries. Last year the President of Cyprus had paid a state visit to India and this was the return state visit by our President.

The visit was important in two outcomes particularly. One of them was an MoU between the Financial Intelligence Unit of India and the unit for combating money laundering of Cyprus. This is expected to strengthen the institutional framework to facilitate investment cross-flows. This would, we hope, further intensify the investment relationship that is a very productive relationship between India and Cyprus. As you are well aware Cyprus is the eighths largest investor in India.

The other MoU which was also a very interesting MoU is an MoU in cooperation in the area of environment and we hope this would deepen bilateral cooperation to address climate change and other environment related challenges that the world and both our countries face today.

Given Cyprus’s niche expertise in financial services and investment banking both countries were of the view, both the Presidents were of view that strengthening of our investment partnership would be of mutual benefit. The one special element of the visit to Cyprus, there was a special gesture extended to Hon’ble Rashtrapati Ji by Cyprus and that was to call an extraordinary session of their Parliament which was addressed by our President. This, I think, added another dimension to the President’s program along with of course the address to the students of the University of Cyprus.

In Bulgaria as a special gesture the President of Bulgaria and the First Lady warmly welcomed our Presidents and the First Lady on their arrival in the Hotel in Sofia and this was a very nice gesture which set the tone of the relationship between our two Presidents. One could see the good exchanges between the two leaders, the good rapport which was established between the two leaders and that was visible throughout the visit.

We had a number of outcomes from this visit as well, in fact a very productive and substantive visit. One of the MoUs that was signed was program of cooperation between India and Bulgaria in the field of Science & Technology for 2018 – 2021. This outlines the joint project initiatives and research that would be undertaken by the two sides during this period.

The other MoU which is of interest is of cooperation on peaceful use of nuclear energy. This was through an MoU on cooperation between the Global Center of Nuclear Energy of India and the Institute of Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The two sides will exchange knowledge, undertake joint research and build mutual capacities for peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Another MoU has been signed in cooperation in tourism and this will help to jointly promote the tourism between the two countries and that also helps to strengthen the very rich people to people ties that exist between India and Bulgaria.

Another interesting outcome of this visit was an MoU between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Sofia University on establishment of ICCR Chair for Hindi Language. This would help in continuing with the tradition of Indology which is being carried forward by Sofia University for the last 35 years. Another MoU which was signed on the margins was on Memorandum of Understanding between Invest India and Invest Bulgaria and this would help to explore possibilities of investments on both sides.

A business forum was addressed that was a very important part of this program i.e. developing business ties between two countries. A strong business delegation of 60 business people and about 250 Bulgarian business representatives came to this business forum. The event was considered important enough for both sides to the extent that both our President and the Bulgarian President attended this business forum. I think this would help in taking forward the economic relationship between our two countries.

An interesting feature of the visit to Bulgaria was that on Teacher’s Day Hon’ble President was at Sofia University where he addressed the students on 5th September and he spoke on education as an instrument of change and shared prosperity. The students showed great enthusiasm for the President’s vision this very important subject. It was interesting that the students of Indology department and of the university greeted Hon’ble President in four languages Hindi, Sanskrit, Bulgarian and English. So that showed the level of interest that people of Bulgaria still have in India and Indian culture and Indian languages.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister also met with our President on the next day. AN interesting feature of this visit which set almost an informal tone for the visit was the visit by the two Presidents to the sets of a Bollywood film that is being shot in a studio in Bulgaria. So this was a positive message to the film industry. It also encouraged the artists and the crew to interact with the leaders and highlighted the role that films play in creating and building people to people networks and in supporting and promoting the process of tourism between countries.

A joint statement was issued at the end of this visit and that is available on MEA website.

The last leg of the President’s visit was to the Czech Republic. The President had, of course, like in the other two visits, met a gathering of Indian community at a reception and very interesting and novel feature at this reception was the music that was played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Debashish Chowdhary and they presented two surprise items i.e. popular Hindi movie songs that was sung by the Bohemian Quartet. I think they really took everybody by surprise and won the hearts of all the people present in the room, at least mine was won.

The President had official meeting with his counterpart President Milos Zeman, he warmly welcomed him through a ceremonial reception. I think an important outcome of this visit was the proposal of the Government of the Czech Republic for a special carve out for mobility of high skilled Indian workers and business executives to work and live in the Czech Republic on a long term basis, initially limited to 500 visas a year. The new procedure will come into effect, we hope, in October 2018. So this was a very special outcome for this visit.

A number of MoUs were also signed during the visit and on the margins of the visit one of them is the cooperation between the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India and the Czech Academy of Sciences which will enable the two institutions to explore the possibility of undertaking joint scientific research. Then a work plan to support Indo-Czech projects in diverse areas of technology with the department of Science and Technology taking the lead from the Indian side and visa waiver agreement for diplomatic passport holders.

On the sidelines an MoU was signed for cooperation in laser technology between ELI Beamlines and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. ELI Beamlines is a cutting edge laser research institute which can offer breakthroughs in Nano-science, physics and life sciences.

Another MoU that has been signed on the margins of this visit is cooperation between the Haryana Agricultural University and the Czech University of life sciences. The President visited the Charles University and he met with Czech Indologist. This was a very special visit because Charles University hosts one of the oldest centers of Indology and Sanskrit studies have been conducted there since 1850. Four students welcomes the President in Indian languages Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and Sanskrit, so this was a very special welcome that University offered to our President.

All the three visits were highly productive, very substantive and resulted in good outcomes. All three countries are very important countries for us in Central Europe. With all of the three countries we have a history of very friendly, warm relationship not just at the political level but also at the people to people level, cultural level and the visit of Hon’ble President to these countries helped to consolidate these ties and to provide new energy, new vision and new outcomes for us to take forward in the years to come.

With that I would like to request Ashok Ji to brief you.

Press Secretary to President, Mr. Ashok Malik: Thank you so much Ma’am. There is very little to add after a very comprehensive briefing about the three country visit by Secretary.

This, as you know, is the first visit of the Hon’ble President in his second year. At the end of this visit he would have completed 13 countries. I would say that this would probably have been one of the most substantive visits while there have been tangible outcomes from all previous visits, this has been really rich.

When Rashtrapati Ji had taken up his office last year, he had directed that he wants his state visits to be substantive, to lead to tangible results and agreements and outcomes and not just be ceremonial. I must say with the cooperation and very hard work of my colleagues at the Ministry of External Affairs this has certainly been possible and we have been able to fulfil Rashtrapati Ji’s directions.

As Ma’am pointed out there have been about 12 agreements if you look at the three countries. In the agreements, in the events that the President attended and in the conversations with the leaders I would say that there were five broad categories of subjects that were discussed. One of course strengthening the already strong but holding much more potential political relationship between the three countries and India i.e. bilateral level and also multilaterally.

Issues concerning terrorism, UN Security Council reform and India’s place there and India’s membership of the NSG came up and we were broadly on the same page. Second, as Ma’am said people to people contacts, cultural links, these were emphasized the fact that the President addressed or visited universities in all three countries would tell you something about that aspect of our relationship.

Third, trade and investment formed a very important part of all three visits. There was an agreement related to rationalizing and cleaning up investment flows and checking money laundering with Cyprus. There were two business forums in Bulgaria and Czech Republic that the President addressed and tangible business to business agreements have been reached we understand.

There was a conversation and deliberations on technology and technology cooperation especially in critical and sensitive areas such as defense. Laser technology where the President received a very god briefing this morning at the ELI Beamlines center and of course the civil nuclear in the case of Bulgaria and a conversation has begun with the Czech Republic as well.

Finally the issue of sustainability which is very close to the President’s heart which is something by which the government of India is also driven. There was an environment related agreement reached with Cyprus. There was a waste to energy engagement between Haryana Agricultural University and a university in the Czech Republic and in all his conversations the President brought up the salience of the International Solar Alliance which is an institution India has promoted for the world and which is an institution with Rashtrapati Ji has a personal interest in.

Overall it has been a long and exhausting visit for all of us including for the Hon’ble President but we all are very happy that we have come out of it with very rich outcomes. Thank you.

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: With this we come to the briefing on our part. In case there are any questions you can ask them.

Question: Can you share details about the civil nuclear agreement that India has with the Czech Republic, how exactly is this going to work?

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: We have come with the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership which envisages the peaceful usage of nuclear energy for clean energy and for enhancing our capacity.

Now with Bulgaria we have signed this agreement and with the Czech Republic we are in the process of going ahead and then we are having a dialogue with them.

The idea is to have exchange of information, exchange of knowledge, training and also to do mutual capacity building through exchange of scientists, through conducting joint seminars, training courses so that we understand and increase our capability of understanding the final use of nuclear energy and what are the best technologies that we can acquire in order to achieve our goal.

Question: In the visits generally when we come out with the joint statements and other things, there has been no naming of terrorist groups in Pakistan and other places, we expected that it would be named, so what are the reasons it was not?

Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam: If you were expecting you should have told us beforehand. All the three countries are very strongly supportive of India’s position on terrorism. In fact I don’t know if I should say this that they support India’s position or it is their own position as well. They are very strongly in the camp that opposes terrorism and that condemns terrorism.

The three countries are all members of the European Union and the European Union has a list of proscribed terrorist organizations when the India-EU Summit took place and in the joint statement, there was this new addition and some of the groups were listed in that joint statement.

So when the European Union has got the list of terrorist organizations then all the EU members are automatically subscribing to that. So these particular joint statements were not as elaborate or as extensive as the joint statements that sometimes are taken out during other visits. So I don’t think that lack of naming of any particular terrorist organization should be taken as a sign of lack of support by any of these countries on the issue of terrorism.

On the issue of terrorism all three countries have unequivocally expressed their views and I don’t think there is any doubt on their position on that.

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: They have supported our CCIT convention, all three of them.

Question: Make in India Bharat Sarkar ka bahut ambitious scheme hai. Teeno desh ki visit mein nivesh ki kitani sambhavanayein talaashi gain?

(Make in India is a very ambitious project of India. During these three visits what avenues were explored for investment in this?)

Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam: Dekhiye Bharat aur Cyprus ke beech nivesh ka ek bahut mahatvapoorn rujhaan to hai joki maine aapko pehle hi bataya ki Cyprus nivesh ki drishti se dekhein to aathavein number par aata hai.

Baki dono jo desh hain unke yahan bhi technology available hai, jaise agar Czech Republic ko dekha jaaye to Rashtrapati Ji ne bhi apne bhashan mein kaha ki Bata company ek aisi company jisko Bharat ke aam adami shayad Bharat ki hi company maante hain kyonki shayad hi koi aisa hoga jisne school jaate waqt Bata ke joote na pahne hon. Aur aaj to unhone kaha ki unhone bhi kaha ki school jaate waqt unhone bhi Bata ke joote pahne they. To wo bhi ek Czech company thi jisne Bharat mei nivesh kiya tha.

To aaj bhi hum dekhein to nivesh ki samhavnayein to bahut hain lekin unko highlight kaise kiya jaaye, unko materialize kaise kiya jaaye, visits ke dauran is tarah ki baatein hoti hain aur is tarah ki sambhavanayein khulti hain. Jab business delegation aate hain aur aapas mei logon ke saath milte hain to wo nahi sambhavnaayein khojkar nikalte hain aur unhein waapis le jaate hain aur unhen fir fructify karne ki koshish karte hain.

Usko quantify karna to aise sambhav nahi hai kyonki koi bhi main hawa mein koi bhi figure chhodana chaahungi nahi iske liye lekin jab aisi positive visits hoti hain jismein atmosphere itna positive hai, itne acche business discussions hue hai, business companies badi sankhya mein dono taraf se bhaag li hain aur sambhavanaayein aseemit hain.

Bharat mein ek naye kism ka vistaar ho raha hai, kewal Make in India hi scheme nahi hai, Bharat mei kai kism ki naye kanoon ban rahe hain, puraane kanoon ko nikala ja raha hai, market kholne ki jo schemes hain Sarkar ki unke baare mein Rashtrapati Ji ne apne visits mein bakhaan kiya. In sab cheezon se Bharat ka ek naya parichay dene ka hamein mauka mila aur hamari business companies ko unki business companies ke saath baat karne ka mauka mila jisase future mein kaafi positive results aayenge, aisi ummeed ki jaa sakti hai.

(See, as you know that India and Cyprus have a very positive inclination about investment, which I told earlier that Cyprus is the eighth largest investor in India.

Talking about other two countries, they also have technologies. If we talk about Czech Republic then Hon’ble President also mentioned in his address that Bata Company is such a company which ordinary Indian believes is an Indian company only because there would be hardly any person who had not worn Bata shoes during their school time. He himself said that he also used to wear Bata shoes to school. So that is also a Czech company that has invested in India.

So if we see there are immense opportunities of investments but how to highlight them and materialize them. Discussions during these visits open up such opportunities. When business delegations visit and they discuss with people and identify new opportunities which they then they take back with themselves and try to fructify them.

It is not possible to quantify them and I would not like to quote just any figure to you but when such positive visits are conducted there the atmosphere has been so positive and such good business discussions have taken place when a lot of business people have taken part from both sides, then the possibilities are unlimited.

There is a new kind of expansion in India not just the Make in India. A lot of new laws are being implemented and old and archaic things are being driven out. Hon’ble President has talked about new markets that are being opened in India in his discussions. All this has allowed to introduce a new India and it has provided an opportunity for Indian business community to meet with business community of these countries and which we believe will produce a lot of positive results in the coming future.)

Question: Bharat lambe samay se Nuclear Supplier Group ka membership chaahata hai. In teeno mulk ne kya commitment kiya aur baaki ke jo country hain, kya unke liye bhi kuch taks aap logon ne diya?

(India has been seeking membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group since long. What are the commitments made by these countries and have you given them any task regarding the same?)

Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam:
Dekhiye aisa hai ki ye teeno hi desh Bharat ko support karte hain aur unhone strongly Bharat ko, is visit ke dauran bhi apna support diya hai.

Kisi ko koi task dena diplomacy mein appropriate nahi hota hai par jo mitra hain aapke, jo kisi issue par aapko support kar rahe hain aur openly apna support jaahir kar rahe hain, wo to ek bahut badi cheez apne aap mein hi hai.

(You see these countries support India on NSG membership and they have also reiterated their support in this visit also.

In diplomacy it is not appropriate to give tasks but if your friends are supporting you on any issue and they are doing it openly then that itself is a very big thing.)

Question: Raksha kshetra mein samjhauton par Rashtrapati Ji ne kya baat ki aur uske liye visheshkar Czech Republic se kya prayaas hue hain, kya sambhavna aapko lag rahi hai?

(What were discussions on defense agreements especially with the Czech Republic, what are the possibilities according to you in this area?)

Press Secretary to President, Mr. Ashok Malik: Dekhiye Indian defense requirements ke baare mein to aapko pata hi hai, Make in India ka ye karyakram hai.

Rashtrapati Ji ne Bulgaria mein bhi aur Czech Republic mein jo technologies commercialize aur scale up ho sakti hain, for mutual benefit, uski baat ki. Business forums mein unhone detail mein baat ki par ye kahna ki immediately kya result hone wala hai, ye kahna mushkil hai par kai technologies hain in dono deshon mein jo India mein commercialize ho sakti hain, jo scale up ho sakti hain.

Czech Republic ki economy is in very good shape but yahan limitations hain space ki aur population ki aur India ek natural fit hai, ye wo bhi maante hain aur yahan ke defense products hum khareed chuke hain par ab bechane aur khareedane se aage jaakar hum co-production ki baat kar rahe hain. Wo baatcheet chal rahi hai unhone bhi positive ravaiyaa hi adopt kiya hai aur kaha hai ki we are willing to invest and coproduce in India. So lets see where it materializes.

(As you know about Indian defense requirements and also that it is a program under Make in India.

In both Bulgaria and Czech Republic President spoke about technologies that can be commercialized and scaled up for mutual benefit. He spoke in detail in business forums also but it is very difficult to point out what are going to be the outcomes but he did talk about the technologies that can be scaled up and commercialized.

Czech economy is in very good shape but here there are limitations of space and population and they also believe that India is a natural fit. We have purchased their defense products but right now we are moving ahead from just selling and buying of these products and we are talking about coproduction. Those discussions are going on and they have been very positive about that and have said that they are willing to invest and coproduce in India. So let’s see what and how it materializes.)

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: Thank you all.

(Concludes)

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