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

June 14, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good evening and I welcome you once again to this special briefing from Bishkek. Prime Minister just concluded his bilateral meeting with the Russian President. I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India who will brief you all on that meeting and after that we will take a couple of questions. Sir, the floor is yours.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Thank you Raveesh. We have just returned after the very warm and friendly meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of the Russian Federation, President Putin. The warmth and the personal friendship were evident throughout this meeting and in fact the entire meeting was suffused with this relationship that they enjoy as colleagues and that they have enjoyed over the past few years.

President Putin specifically recognized Prime Minister’s personal contribution in strengthening this relationship. He mentioned this on more than one occasion, he also specifically said that Russia had conferred its highest award, the Order of Saint Andrew The Apostle on our Prime Minister in recognition of this effort and this initiative that Prime Minister has taken to develop the relationship with Russia.

Both leaders recognized the special significance of the partnership as an important pillar for stability in the world of the future and there was an understanding that this partnership, this relationship is an old relationship, it is a relationship based on trust between the leadership and between the people and that this relationship needs to be sustained, it needs to be developed, it needs to be given further encouragement.

President Putin has invited the Prime Minister formally to be the main guest for the Eastern Economic Forum at the Vladivostok in early September and Prime Minister has warmly accepted this invitation. So this will be a bilateral visit which the Prime Minister will make to Vladivostok in early September as the Chief Guest for the Eastern Economic Forum and thereafter for the India-Russia Annual Bilateral Summit.

The Prime Minister felt that this is a new area of cooperation, something that must be explored actively by both sides and therefore the Prime Minister informed President Putin that we will do serious preparations on our side to ensure that its participation at the Eastern Economic Forum is meaningful and the Prime Minister has therefore conveyed that business delegations as well as representatives of key Indian states will visit Vladivostok and the Russian far east prior to Prime Minister’s own visit in early September to identify and to scope out and to work on potential areas of business collaboration in this new region.

As you know the Russian Far East is extremely resource rich, besides oil & gas it has a number of other minerals, it has timber and this is an area in which we would like to work with Russia because Russia is also an important country in the Pacific region and this is part of our Act East Policy. So this is something that we are going to lay special emphasis on.

The two leaders reviewed trade & investment relations, they noted that we are on an upward trajectory, that in fact the targets that we have set for trade & investment have been exceeded, that our energy cooperation is going well. President Putin mentioned about the discussions going on between the Russian companies and the Indian consortium for the Vankor cluster which is supposed to be one of the biggest deposit of oil & gas which Russia has.

A new area of focus that was identified by both leaders is Arctic region oil & gas. This is an area where we feel we should look and engage further and we have already began that engagement. A delegation from Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has already has already had discussion with the Russian side last month and this is something that the leaders felt we should take forward.

Both leaders also looked at the Russian Far East offers is another important area and that is using skilled Indian manpower to develop this region. As you know this region is vast but is, underpopulated i.e. a very small population. So this too will be explored in the near future and all the areas will be discussed both at the Strategic Economic Dialogue which from our side is headed by the Vice Chairman of the NITI Aayog. That meeting will take place in July.

Prior to that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Special Representative of President Putin for the Arctic region in the Far East, Deputy Prime Minister Trutnev will visit India in June and we are also planning for the possibility of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Consultation which is headed by the External Affairs Minister on our side to also be held, if we can, before September before the annual summit. So these areas that I have outlined that is on energy, on manpower, on trade & investment and of the Russian Far East will be looked at in all these institutional mechanisms.

One of the areas President Putin particularly mentioned was the modernization of the Indian Railways. In this regard they are doing a study for the upgrading of the Nagpur-Secunderabad line and this was an area in which he felt Russia is interested in. Naturally discussions did take place on defence related issues and Prime Minister thanked President Putin for the rapidity with which the Russia had responded to our request for Make in India to manufacture the AK203 Kalashnikov rifles in Amethi. This is a project which was set up in record time and President Putin in fact confirmed that the first batch of orders was already underway. Both leaders were very pleased with this.

In a sense this marks the beginning of a process where we move away from a buyer seller relationship to one where there is technology transfer and Make in India and job creation and content creation in India. So therefore we will be discussing other inter-governmental agreements which we hopefully will try to conclude if we can by the time of the bilateral summit but certainly by the end of this year where there will be more such occasions where Russian technology and Russian manufacturing will be moved to India.

So in overall terms it was a brief meeting but a very-very rich meeting in terms of content and in terms of outlining where we will go with the next Bilateral Summit which will be held two or three months from now. And of course they concluded the meeting by saying they look forward to meeting each other at Osaka at the G20 Summit as you know. The Prime Minister will also meet President Xi Jinping and they also will be, it is planned that there also will be Russia-India-China trilateral meeting in the margins of the G20.

So the meeting ended with the assurance that both leaders will again meet in the very near future and in the meantime the areas that we have agreed upon, which I have just outlined, we will see movement on both sides in terms of visit, in terms of engagement, in terms of working on certain agreements to prepare well for the Annual Summit in September.

Question:Was there any discussion on the S400 for which US has been pressurizing India and has gone to the extent of offering the alternative to it? Second, was terrorism or Pakistan related discussion took place between Prime Minister Modi and President Putin in this meeting?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: There was no specific discussion on any particular defence equipment except the Prime Minister thanking the President of Russia for the AK203 Kalashnikov factory in Amethi.

What was discussed was how we are going to take forward this Make in India and some of the other specific areas where we would like to have cooperation were touched upon but given the brief time available no detailed discussion took place. Nor was any discussion on any regional or international issues because the focus was entirely on how to make the Prime Minister’s visit for the next Annual Summit successful and what we need to do in this new area, new dimension of cooperation in the Russian Far East and the Arctic. The discussion was focused on this issue.

Question: My question is, if the Russian President is expected to visit India for an informal summit because in fact the Russian envoy told Wion that the Russian President will be coming to India for second informal summit. Is this on the cards?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: At the moment no discussion took place today. We have had an informal summit with Russia last year and as I said at this moment the visit that has been announced is the visit of Prime Minister in early September.

Thereafter I am sure that plenty of other occasions where the leaders will meet both bilaterally and multilaterally. For your information in the last five years of the current government’s term i.e. 2014-2019, 27 meetings have taken place, 13 bilateral meetings, 14 multilateral meetings between the Prime Minister and the President. So I think that tradition and that consistency will continue and that is the objective and aim of both the sides.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you sir and thank you everybody.





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