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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary on the bilateral meeting between India and China on the sidelines of SCO Summit 2019 in Bishkek (June 13, 2019)

June 14, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Friends, good afternoon and welcome to this special briefing from Bishkek. I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India. As you are aware Prime Minister arrived in Bishkek a couple of hours ago and he had his first engagement which was a bilateral meeting with the Chinese President.

To brief you all on the meeting I request the Foreign Secretary to go through the details and after that we will take questions. We will limit the questions only to the bilateral meeting which has taken place. Sir, the floor is yours.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Prime Minister’s first engagement after he arrived in Bishkek earlier this afternoon was a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China.

The meeting was originally scheduled for 20 minutes but went for a longer period and both the leaders had a very warm and a very cordial discussion on a range of subjects. President Xi Jinping congratulated the Prime Minister for his victory in the general election and he said that this was reflective of the aspirations and the trust that the people of India had placed on the Prime Minister.

Both leaders then did a review of the bilateral relationship and they agreed that there is a new momentum in this bilateral relationship since the Wuhan Summit in April last year.

The Prime Minister specifically noted that what had improved between both the sides is strategic communication at all levels and in that context some of the issues that we had been able to resolve through that strategic communication included long pending issues like the opening of the Bank of China branch in India as well as the resolution of the issue relating to the listing of Masood Azhar in the 1267 Sanctions Committee.

The two leaders agreed that while the outcome of Wuhan was a very positive one it was necessary now to move the relationship forward into new areas and therefore the Prime Minister specifically conveyed to President Xi and he agreed that both sides need to raise our expectations from the relationship and in that context the Prime Minister welcomed President Xi Jinping to India for the next informal summit, the second informal summit after Wuhan. He said that both sides must prepare very thoroughly for this summit that the outcome of the summit must meet the expectations of both sides and President Xi Jinping very warmly confirmed his readiness to visit India this year. He said he looked forward to discussing all issues from a strategic and long term perspective and that both sides should now begin intensive preparations for the visit.

There were some discussions between the leaders on the issue of trade. As you know since Wuhan, the Prime Minister has reiterated that it is important for us to tackle the trade deficit with China and in a number of areas that we had mutually identified there was progress in terms of the regulatory procedures that have been simplified by the Chinese side. The Prime Minister took note of this, he expressed his appreciation for the simplification of the regulatory processes that included non-Basmati Rice, sugar, certain agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and he therefore hope that now that these regulatory issues are out of the way there would be a significant uptick in our exports of these products to China or imports by China of these products.

President Xi Jinping took note of this, he said initial steps have been to redress some of these issues. He said that China will be taking further steps and both sides agreed that in some manner, we have to, in the next few months, see how we can achieve a significant breakthrough in this regard through discussions between the two sides.

Both sides agreed that next year is a critical year in our bilateral relationship, it would be the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations. In this regard the Prime Minister proposed that we need to mark this occasion in befitting manner, in a manner that reflects this new relationship and he therefore proposed that to mark the 70th anniversary India and China should hold 70 important events, 35 each in India and China and the two leaders have tasked their respective External Affairs Ministers to discuss this matter at the second meeting of the High Level Mechanism which will take place as you know the first meeting of this mechanism took place in December last year and it is a mechanism explicitly established to enhance people to people relations and people to people contacts.

There was also a brief discussion on the boundary issue. The two leaders have asked the Special Representatives to meet and carry forward the discussion and have instructed them to expedite discussions in this regard for achieving a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question. The two leaders have said that the approach should be constructive and it must be driven by the larger context in which we see India-China relations, in which the two leaders see India-China relations in the coming years in the new century of course but also in the coming years.

Both the Special Representatives, on our side the National Security Advisor, on the Chinese side the Foreign Minister and the State Counselor Mr. Wang Yi were present in the room when the leader’s met.

So overall this was a relatively brief meeting because it is a meeting on the sidelines of the SCO Summit but it was very substantive in content. The atmosphere was very positive, the Wuhan Spirit was very much in evidence and this is the beginning of what will be a series of other interactions the two leaders will have. They are expecting to meet and greet each other at G20 Summit two weeks down the road, in Osaka. They will of course be meeting at BRICS this year, at the East Asia Summit this year and then there will be the bilateral informal summit. So we see this as the beginning of a process after the formation of government in India, to now deal with India-China relations from both sides in a larger context of the 21st century and of our role in the Asia Pacific region in this regard. I think I will stop here Raveesh and maybe take a few questions.

Question from Wion: Was Pakistan raised during this discussion, the terrorism emanating from that country destabilizing the entire region?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:There was a very brief discussion on Pakistan. Obviously time was a constraint but Prime Minister in fact said that we have a consistent position with respect to Pakistan, we discuss all issues through bilateral mechanism and we look for peaceful settlement through negotiations. We are committed to this process, the prime minister recalled that he has made efforts in this regard and these efforts have been derailed.

The Prime Minister did informe President Xi Jinping that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere free of terrorism and that at this stage we did not see this happening as yet. And that therefore we expect Pakistan to take concrete action on the issues that India has proposed in the areas of concerns that we have flagged to Pakistan, that Pakistan should take concrete action in this regard.

Question from Newsx:It appears that the Pakistan point was raised by the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, I just want a confirmation on that or it was a mutually agreed topic before the two leader’s bilateral and the second is any area of specification for the November informal bilateral summit that have been decided?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:Both leaders are free to raise issues at the discussion and I think the point that I am making is that the position that we conveyed is what I have just said. As if now there is no decision on date or venue of the informal summit. The important point here was the reaffirmation after the formation of government that he will visit India this year, that we should begin intensive preparations and that the leaders have directed both the sides to begin the process. Obviously this also means the discussion of the logistics aspect of the visit.

Question:Was at any point during the discussion on tariffs by the Trump administration on China and certainly will also be effected by certain tariffs there, was that discussed at all and also tomorrow Hassan Rouhani is going to meet the Prime Minister for a bit, what is going to be on the agenda?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:There was a general discussion on the global situation and obviously in that context the issues has come up of the China-US relationship but there was no time for a very detailed discussion in these matters. The focus of this bilateral meeting has been to reaffirm that in the five year term of this government which coincidently also closely matches the term of President Xi Jinping in his second term as president. The two countries have a historic opportunity to move forward on a number of issues, to address a number of problems and to take India-China relations to a new level. And I think the focus was on this. No detailed discussion took place, a general direction was given. It is now for the officials of both sides to see how we can carry this forward.

Question:Meeting with Hassan Rouhani, what is the agenda?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:We will brief you after the visit,can’t comment on that today.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Thank you sir. This concludes the special briefing, thank you all.



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