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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary during Chennai Informal Summit (October 11, 2019)

October 12, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, good evening and welcome to this special briefing on the second India-China Informal Summit in Chennai. We apologize for the delay which was not of our making as you are aware that the dinner conversation went on beyond the scheduled time and that is why we have this delay and we apologize for that.

I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Vijay Gokhale. I also have Jt. Secretary (East Asia), Shri Naveen Srivastava. Foreign Secretary will give opening remarks but please try to understand that this is a dialogue conversation in progress so therefore today we will not take any questions, we will take questions tomorrow after the talks are concluded.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:
Thank you Raveesh and once again apologies for the lateness of the hour ladies and gentlemen. There have been nearly five hours of discussion and quality time that the Prime Minister and President Xi Jinping of China have spent together. Most of this was one to one with the exception of the half hour cultural program. I am sure all of you have seen the visuals of the tour that was given by Prime Minister of the World Heritage Site at Mamallapuram and at this stage I do want to compliment the state government of Tamil Nadu, the Prime Minister himself has complimented the state government of Tamil Nadu for the excellent arrangements of what they have done.

President Xi Jinping himself has also said that he was overwhelmed by the welcome that was given to him at the airport and the arrangements that have been made for him during his stay in Chennai.

The visuals, as you have seen, the walk around that Prime Minister and President Xi Jinping did in the three separate sites at Mamallapuram, they reflect the personal rapport that the two leaders have built over the two informal summits that they have held, the first one last year in April and the second one which is ongoing as well as 17 other meetings that they have held since Prime Minister took office in 2014.

President Xi Jinping and the Prime Minister during that tour of the monuments spoke of the historical and trading links between the Southern part of India particularly between Tamil Nadu under the Pallava and Chola dynasties and the Eastern coast of China particularly Fujian province, they both referred to port city called Quanzhou in Fujian where recently Tamil inscriptions and fragments of architecture reflecting a possible temple build by Tamil traders in the 12th century have been discovered. President Xi Jinping also said that he was aware of this. Both leaders have discussed how we can actually enhance knowledge in this aspect of our bilateral relationship. There was a reference to Bodhi-Dharma who had left the shores of India from Tamil Nadu and went by sea and took Zen Buddhism to China and Japan.

The Prime Minister also explained the significance of the World Heritage Site. At Arjuna’s Penance which is one of the national treasures that we have. Prime Minister explained the underlined philosophical ethos which was that man and nature live in harmony with each other and that the carvings on this particular monument reflect that harmony between man and nature and similarly when he took President Xi Jinping to the Ganesh Rath, he explained that this was a temple where 1300 years after its construction under the Pallava dynasty, it continues to be part of our living culture and our living civilization, worship takes place in this temple also today. India like China is a civilization with a long and continuous history.

The cultural program, ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you would have seen, it went out live. We greatly appreciate the work done by Kalakshetra, the huge effort put in by all the artists, both the people who danced and the musical accompaniment and the Prime Minister and President Xi were delighted with the performance and they took a photograph, they spoke to the artist, they congratulated them.

The discussions that took place over the meal actually stretched over a 150 minute i.e. roughly two and a half hours and this was well beyond the planned time for the discussions. Discussions were very open and cordial. This was quality time that the two leaders spent together one on one. The rest of the two delegations were in fact at a separate location having dinner.

The two leaders had detailed discussion on their respective national visions, on their governance priorities, the Prime Minister explained that having been recently reelected to a second term, he had received a renewed mandate for economic development and President Xi Jinping, of course, while acknowledging that Prime Minister has got a mandate said that he was looking forward to working very closely with the Prime Minister on all issues during the next four- four and a half years.

They also spoke about other developmental priorities. In particular there was some discussion on trade related issues, on economic issues, on trying to identify areas for investment that the two countries could to encourage and also on how to enhance the trade volume and the trade value. And in this also, obviously, included the issue of the trade deficit that exists and the unbalanced trade that exists.

Some of the other topics included the challenges that both countries face on account of terrorism. There was an acknowledgement that both countries are very complex, they are very diverse. Both leaders said that these were large countries and that radicalization was a matter of concern to both and that both would work together to see that radicalization and terrorism did not affect the fabric of our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies. And there was a general sense that both leaders had that this was a common challenge that we face and that we will work together to overcome it.

Broadly today’s discussion focused on the national visions and on how to progress bilateral relations. Tomorrow’s discussion where they will be continuing one to one meetings, will focus on international issues, on regional issues although of course the two leaders are free to discuss all other issues as well.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I can share with you today because these are still ongoing discussions so I have to respect privacy of both sides and I hope that tomorrow at the end of the informal summit I will be able to share in greater detail what the issues were that were discussed by the two leaders. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you all


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