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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s forthcoming visits to France, Germany and Canada (8 April 2015)

April 08, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here. I see that it is a full house today.

You are aware that the focus of today’s media interaction is Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to France, Germany and Canada. I have here with me Foreign Secretary. Along with him are Special Secretary (Americas) and Joint Secretary (Americas). I will request Foreign Secretary to make his opening remarks following which Special Secretary (Americas) will deal with the matter relating to Canada. After that we will open the floor for questions. With those initial remarks, I will request the Foreign Secretary to begin the proceedings.

Foreign Secretary (Dr. S. Jaishankar): Thank you very much.

Prime Minister would be travelling to France, Germany and Canada in that order beginning tomorrow. If I were to pick a common theme for these destinations, I think you would all appreciate these three countries are all G7 countries, they are industrialised democracies. We have a considerable economic interest in partnering with these countries. They are very relevant to lot of our national development programmes. They are all democratic countries as well. So, in that sense we have a larger political convergence with them.

With each of these countries the Prime Minister’s programme is devised in a way in which the outcomes are most relevant, the messages are most effective. What I would like to do is to walk you down the programme for France and Germany. Then my colleague Mr. Swaminathan would do the same for Canada. And then perhaps we could briefly discuss the issues which would be taken up during the visit and take it on from there.

As I said, the Prime Minister would be leaving tomorrow. He arrives tomorrow evening in Paris. His day begins on the 10th with a ceremonial welcome in the morning. He then goes on to a roundtable. He has two back to back roundtables – one is with French CEOs with infrastructure as a theme, and the second is with French CEOs with defence technology as a theme.

On infrastructure, as you know it is something which is a very high priority for the Government and we do believe a lot of French companies have expertise and capabilities to contribute. In the case of defence, for us our relationship with France traditionally has had defence, space and nuclear as three important facets of that relationship. French companies are very capable, very experienced in the defence side, and we hope that the roundtable with French defence companies would lead to their taking interest in Make in India investments in India in the defence side.

After these two roundtables the Prime Minister goes to UNESCO. He will be speaking in UNESCO. Then he goes on to a lunch which was hosted for him by the President of the National Assembly, who is like the French Speaker. In the afternoon he has his talks with President Hollande. It begins with a tete-e-tete and then goes on to delegation-level talks. And the Prime Minister and the French President would together receive a report of the India-France CEOs Forum, which is actually meeting today, which would be deliberating and submitting a set of recommendations.

There will be some agreements which would be signed. Those details will of course only be known closer to time. Then Prime Minister and the President would take a boat ride on the Seine. So it is a sort ofNaav pe Charcha situation. Then there is a banquet which the President would be hosting for the Prime Minister. That takes us through the 10th.

On the 11th, the Prime Minister would be travelling to Toulouse where he will tour the Airbus facility. Again many of you would be aware that Airbus is a company which has been working with different Indian companies. So we see it as a partner for technology transfer and for investments. So, that is very much a thought as we put this programme together.

Then he goes to CNES which is the French space company. Then he has a meeting with the local government. It is like the way visiting Heads of Government visit States in India. Then he goes on to a place called Lille from where he would be driving to a World War I memorial. The purpose of the visit is really to bring out the role of Indian soldiers during World War I. About 10,000 soldiers gave up their lives in World War I in France. So this is obviously an occasion which is important to note the Indian contribution. This is a subject on which there has been a very good exhibition, some of you may have seen, at the Manekshaw Centre. Recently Raksha Mantri and Videsh Mantri both hosted the diplomatic community to introduce them and show them that exhibition.

Then from there he returns to Paris. There is a community reception. The community reception would actually be shown outside Paris to French possessions where Indians reside. Then he has a meeting with the former President Sarkozy.

On the 12th, which is a Sunday, the Prime Minister leaves for Hannover. In Hannover almost soon after his arrival he gets into meetings with German business leaders. The reason Hannover has been picked as the destination is we are the partner country for the Hannover Messe, the Hannover Fair, this year. We have a very very big presence of Indian companies there.

I think the space we have taken is 5,000 metres. There is a central pavilion of 1200 metres. There are almost 400 Indian companies who would be displaying their products. I think we expect somewhere in the range of 100 to 120 Indian CEOs who will be there. The last time I got the numbers from Germany, there will be close to about 3,000 German business delegates who would be attending. The Fair authorities told me when I was there that the industry interest in coming to Hannover this year was exceptionally strong. There is clearly lot of enthusiasm for Make in India and for the investment possibilities in India. So, the Prime Minister does these business meetings in the early afternoon. Then he goes on to the City Hall and unveils thereafter a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Hannover. The opening ceremony of the Hannover Fair is in the evening. Chancellor Angela Merkel would be there for the opening ceremony. She will thereafter host a working dinner for the Prime Minister in Hannover.

The next morning there is a joint inauguration by Prime Minister and Chancellor Merkel of the India Pavilion. So, the first day there is inauguration of the entire fair at which Prime Minister would be present, and on the second day it is a specific inauguration of the India Pavilion. And the two leaders will actually walk about the Central Pavilion and then they go on to inaugurate and address an India-Germany Business Summit.

After that the Prime Minister would be leaving for Berlin. Arriving in Berlin, he visits the Siemens Technical Academy which is very well-known as a leader in vocational education. Then he has a meeting with the Vice Chancellor Gabriel of Germany who is also the Minister of Economics and Energy. And then he has a community reception in the evening.

On the 14th, the Prime Minister has a call on by the Federal Foreign Minister Mr. Steinmeier. Then there is a ceremonial welcome by Chancellor Merkel at the Federal Chancellery. This is followed by a working lunch that she will host for him. They will have their talks over working lunch. There will be formal statements after that. And then before departing for Ottawa the Prime Minister would be touring the German railway station, which also is a very unique, a sort of model railway station in Europe. That is again reflective of the Prime Minister’s interest in railway modernisation.

With that he leaves for Ottawa. I will now hand over the Ottawa part of the programme to my colleague Mr. Swaminathan.

Special Secretary (Americas) (Shri Ramachandran Swaminathan):Thank you, Foreign Secretary.

As Foreign Secretary said, Canada also will be one of the G7 countries that the Prime Minister will be visiting. The visit to Canada is at the invitation of the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I would say that PM’s visit is of great significance because it is the first standalone Prime Ministerial visit to Canada after 40 years. The last standalone Prime Ministerial visit was in 1973. So it is taking place after 42 years.

I would also say that bilaterally the intensity of engagement has been very high since July 2004. For instance the Canadian Foreign Minister, the Canadian Trade Minister, and also the Canadian Immigration Minister visited since July 2004. Also the Premiers of British Columbia as well as Saskatchewan visited India. In fact if you see, we regard Canada as an important partner in terms of fulfilling our own developmental objectives through investment, trade and technology.

Canada, as you know, is the 11th largest economy. Also, if we have to see in terms of the assets, their top five pension funds alone control nearly 700 billion dollar assets. So, there is great investment potential. Canada also is an energy superpower. And it is home to some of the best universities and research institutes. Of course you also know that Canada has a very vibrant Indian origin community of 1.2 million.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will be travelling to Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. He would have extensive interaction with both the political and business leadership. He would also have interaction with other opinion leaders from the Canadian polity and society. Also given that people-to-people contact is a very important component of our bilateral relationship, PM is also scheduled to have extensive interaction with the Indian diaspora both in Toronto and in Vancouver.

In terms of the details of the programme, PM should be reaching Ottawa, as Foreign Secretary said, on the 14th evening. On the 15th morning there will be a ceremonial welcome, and PM will be calling on the Canadian Governor General David Johnston. He will also be meeting with PM Harper. Thereafter there will be a working lunch. Once that part is over, PM will be moving to Toronto.

In Toronto that evening there will be a diaspora event. Preceding the diaspora event there will also be a reception that will be hosted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. On the 16th morning, that is the next day morning, again in Toronto there will be a pension fund meeting followed by certain business level meetings as well. PM also will be visiting the Air India Memorial in Toronto. Thereafter, Prime Minister will be flying to Vancouver.

In Vancouver there will be programmes in terms of a visit to the Laxmi Narayan Temple where PM will be interacting with the Indian community and also a visit to a Gurdwara where again there will be an interaction with the Indian community. Thereafter, Prime Minister Harper will be hosting a state dinner for our Prime Minister. On that evening Prime Minister flies back to India.

I would say the overall objectives that we want to achieve during the visit would be to elevate, diversify and deepen our engagement across a whole range of fields; I would also say impart new vigour through concrete steps, and also establish linkages in terms of key areas particularly energy, trade and investment cooperation, collaboration in skills development, education, science and technology as well as space; and also strengthen linkages in the field of security cooperation including counterterrorism and emerging areas of non-traditional security including cyber threat. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: Just one correction and a few additional remarks.

The correction was, I said 5,000 square metres for the Hannover space, it is actually 7,000 square metres. And I was just going to give you the focus at the end of the programme but I kind of handed it over prematurely to my colleague. I think in the case of France, as I said, our traditional relationship has focused on this trio of defence, nuclear and space, and obviously those will continue to be very much at the heart of the discussions that we are going to have.

In addition to that, both with France and Germany we will be looking at smart cities, at railways and vocational education. These are the contemporary themes. These are very high on the agenda of the Government. We are also going to be discussing with the French tourism because they have really been among the most successful marketers of tourism.

Where Germany is concerned, the focus will be on manufacturing. Germany is regarded as the best manufacturer in the world. In fact, Hannover Fair should provide us the opportunity to really match-make Indian companies with German companies. Again the Germans are regarded as having the best skill programme in the world which is part of the reason the Prime Minister would be visiting the Siemens Academy.

The third big element of the German programme is that their dominant position in renewables, particularly in solar energy, is something we will be looking at. So, those will be the broad themes. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson: You are aware of the ground rules. There are a large number of people, so we will take only one question per person. You have always abided by that and I would request you to abide by that today too. We have about 15 minutes or so for the Question-Answer session. Let us go country wise. Let us start with France.

Question:Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister is visiting France. Almost 75 to 80 per cent of nuclear energy is being used in France in the civil nuclear area. They almost have about 59 reactors there. What are our expectations so far as this sector is concerned? India is also now interested in using the nuclear energy in a civil way? What are our expectations and what kind of talks are going to be held in France as far as this sector is concerned?

Foreign Secretary: If there are more France questions, if I can get four-five questions, it would probably be easier for me to answer.

Question:I just wanted to know whether we could expect some progress in the negotiations on the Rafale deal during Prime Minister Modi’s visit.

Question:Sir, is the Prime Minister likely to take a strong stand at the CEOs Forum on defence, especially with Dassault, as far as their conditions on Rafale are concerned?

Question:Foreign Secretary, one of the agreements with France, we are told, is reportedly on the exchange of radar information in the Indian Ocean region and littoral states. Can you elaborate a little more on that and the need for such an agreement?

Question:Sir, are there any Indian CEOs accompanying the Prime Minister…(Inaudible)…?

Question:The question is about the fighter aircraft Rafale. Is Prime Minister Modi being accompanied by the Defence?

Foreign Secretary: I have three Rafale questions, one nuclear question, one CEO question and one Indian Ocean question.

As regards nuclear question, we have been discussing with all our major nuclear partners how to take the broader civil nuclear energy initiative forward. And France is among the earliest and most important of our partners which took a lot of initiative, gave us a lot of support at a time when the civil nuclear initiative was still in its early stages. We have an agreement with France for Areva the French company to build reactors at Jaitapur. Now, as with many other partners, we are still engaged in a stage where we move from our general political level, I would say broad-brush understanding, into a detailed techno-commercial situation.

There are a number of steps. It is not unique to France. Part of it is to sit down and discuss the viability of their offer, part of it is involved in dealing up with left over issues such as liability, etc. We do not have any major concerns on the latter score with France. Obviously after January we have been updating one by one our various partners on this issue. I do not think we have as yet sat down in detail with France, though French companies did participate in a nuclear insurance pool symposium that we did in India. So, my answer to you in a sense is the process of the realisation of the civil nuclear energy initiative would unfold. Whether the Prime Minister’s visit provides an opportunity to express itself in some sharp form, that is very difficult for me to share with you at this stage.

In terms of Rafale, my understanding is that there are discussions under way between the French company, our Ministry of Defence, the HAL which is involved in this. These are ongoing discussions. These are very technical, detailed discussions. We do not mix up leadership level visits with deep details of ongoing defence contracts. That is on a different track. A leadership visit usually looks at big picture issues even in the security field.

In terms of Indian CEOs who are accompanying the Prime Minister, in each of the destinations there would be Indian CEOs. In France there will be a CEOs Forum. It will be a structured forum. There will be CEOs there. They will prepare a report, they will submit a report. In the case of Germany there will be a very large number of Indian CEOs. I think 120 was the figure I gave you. There will be a number of other business delegates. There will be opportunities where they will interact with the German counterparts. Maybe they will also interact with the two leaders – Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister – but there will not be a structured India-Germany CEO Forum itself. I think in the case of Canada there will be a Business Forum as well.

Finally, the Indian Ocean question. We cooperate with a number of countries in the Indian Ocean. I read that report as well. I am not sure looking at the possible outcomes in front of me many of which are still being looked at, it is not that there is going to be any specific outcome in that regard. But France is a military power which has operated for many years in the Indian Ocean region. We see them as a security partner of some value, and we work very closely with the French.

Question:Sir, Germany mein Prime Minister ki joh baat-cheet honi hai us mein Ganga cleaning ko lekar ke Rhine river ke model ki baat agar hai toh please batayen.

Question:Sir, PM ke saath flight mein 6 Cabinet Ministers our 3 Chief Ministers bhi ja rahe hain. Kya agenda dar asal Chief Ministers ka rahega?

Question:Sir, is visit mein Prime Minister Berlin mein railway station par ja rahe hain. Uska purpose kya hai aur kis tarah voh visit hogi?

Foreign Secretary: I did not mention Ganga cleaning not because it was unimportant or was not happening but simply because it was not in my short list of focus items. But it is very much part of our agenda with Germany. In fact the Germans have already been active. In the discussions which the Prime Minister would be having in Germany, how to get the German government and German companies more deeply involved in Ganga rejuvenation will be very much a theme.

In terms of who is going with the Prime Minister, to the best of my recollection it will be one Minister only who will be at the Hannover Fair.

As regards the question on railways, railways is an issue which is of deep interest to the Government. I recall once Prime Minister mentioning to a foreign dignitary that if you look at the size of the railways, the employment of the railways, the amount of capital and technology which would be required to modernise the railways, it is almost the size of a country. And if you can modernise Indian Railways, it has a very great multiplier effect on the entire Indian economy.

I think part of his interest in railways, and we will be discussing railways with the French also, is to look at the entire chain. We are discussing with many countries station development because that is where the railway journey begins. So, from station development to speed raising to semi high speed, high speed to more efficient movements of goods trains, I think there is the whole chain out here. And it is something which obviously is close to his heart. He feels strongly about it. He is taking a lot of interest. So, I think that is broadly the reason why we have that visit to the railway station.

Official Spokesperson: Canada now.

Question:Sir, Prime Minister Toronto mein 15thko Ricoh Coliseum mein address karenge, aapko nahin lagta ki uski Madison Square mein jo address hua tha usse comparison hoga? Aur India ko kya benefit hoga isse?

Question:India has already entered into a nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada. Would there be any agreement relating to supply of nuclear fuel during Prime Minister Modi’s visit?

Question:Sir, my question is regarding BIPA. The Government has been working to renegotiate BIPA with several countries. As the Prime Minister visits Germany, France and Canada, is a discussion on BIPA renegotiation and resigning on the platter?

Question:Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi Toronto jayenge, Canada visit par jayenge, aurvery hardliner Sikhs live there. Main yeh jaanna chahta hun ki blacklisted Sikhon ke baare mein koi baat hogi? Kyon ki yeh maamla uthaya gaya tha aur Narendra Modi ne kaha tha ki jab main satta mein aaunga toh zaroor is baare mein baat hogi.

Question:One tends to bump into a lot of Indian taxi drivers in the streets of Vancouver and other places. They are actually medical doctors and they end up driving taxis in Canada because the Canadian Government does not recognise Indian degrees. This has been going on for a long time. Is there any possibility of this being taken up with the Canadians during the PM’s visit?

Special Secretary (Americas): The first question was in terms of the diaspora event and what is the purpose of having that event. As I mentioned, Canada has a 1.2 million strong vibrant Indian community, and it is also one of the important part in terms of our own bilateral engagement with Canada. Therefore, the Prime Minister will be interacting with the Indian community, and one opportunity will be in Toronto where, as you mentioned, it will be in Ricoh Coliseum where there will be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to meet with a large cross section of the Indian diaspora.

There was a mention about nuclear cooperation. You may remember that Canada is one of the old countries with which we started our civil nuclear cooperation. It was in 1950s. One of the other things which is common between us and Canada is that both of us follow what is called PHWR (Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor) technology. Separately Canada also, as you know, is the second largest uranium producer in the world. In fact 16 per cent of world uranium reserves are in Canada. We have of course concluded our nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada in 2010 and did the administrative arrangements by 2013. And it will be the effort of both the Governments to realise the potential of these agreements and that is what will happen. It is a work in progress, it will continue during the visit as well.

There was a mention about BIPA. BIPA, as you know, is discussions that we are having with many countries. As such I would say that it is not in focus in terms of the visit of the Prime Minister this time but then certainly Canada is also one of the countries with whom we are engaged with in terms of the BIPA negotiations.

There was a question about Sikhs. I would say that there are fringe elements in every society, and we also have mechanisms to deal with Canada in terms of radicalisation of societies at a larger level. We also have an institutionalised security dialogue with Canada. And also we have a Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism. So we have many instruments through which we engage with Canada.

There was a mention about the medical degrees and whether there is going to be a recognition. What I would say is we have an ongoing dialogue with Canada in the field of education. Equivalence of technical degrees of each other is one of the points in terms of our own discussion, and we will continue these discussions.

Official Spokesperson: We have just about two minutes for anybody else on Yemen or anything else.

Question:Sir, your junior Minister has called journalists ‘prestitutes’. Has this ever happened before, and do you have anything to say on it?

Foreign Secretary: No.

Question:Thank you, Akbar. This is your last briefing on Indian soil and I assure you that you are leaving giant shoes to fill in.

My question to Dr. Jaishankar is on Maldives. The situation in Maldives is back to 2012. MDP says that it feels like a forlorn, forsaken child. They say that when Prime Minister visited Sri Lanka last he interacted with the opposition, but here in Maldives the opposition is being neglected. What is your view on the Maldivian situation and what India is doing?

Foreign Secretary: Very quickly, on Maldives I think Akbar has indicated earlier that we are monitoring the developments in Maldives, and that continues to remain the position.

Question:Foreign Secretary, in about an hour, 11 Indians are going to return by a special plane from Pakistan. I just wanted to know if the Government at any level had any direct contact, have the Prime Ministers exchanged messages over this. What is your reaction to the Pakistani gesture of not just bringing them from Yemen but also flying them back by a special plane?

Foreign Secretary: First of all I think our reaction to their gesture is very positive. It is a very good gesture, it is a very generous gesture. They have taken great trouble to do something and we need to appreciate that. I would also add that the Yemen situation, it is very interesting that in adversity actually everybody’s best side has come forward. You find different countries actually helping out people irrespective of nationality.

In our own case we have actually helped I think 409 people from 32 countries to be evacuated from Yemen. It includes some Pakistanis, it includes other SAARC neighbours like Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Nepalis and a number of other countries. So, I think we approach this whole issue as an opportunity to really cooperate with each other. Often people take that as a sort of statement, I would say almost as a slogan or as a posturing, but the reality is difficult situations in international relations do call for countries to work with each other. What will be happening soon is a very good example of that.

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

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