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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary on conclusion of Chennai Informal Summit (October 12, 2019)

October 12, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar! Friends good afternoon and as promised we are back here to brief you on the second India-China informal Summit. You must have seen the visuals playing out on television screen yesterday and today I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India Shri Vijay Gokhale, J.S (East Asia) in the ministry of external affairs Shri Naveen Srivastava, who will take us through the discussions today and also yesterday what transpired in the meeting between the two leaders. After the initial remarks by the Foreign Secretary we will open the floor to questions. We will take questions in a bunch of three. Please identify yourself with your name and the organization and please raise your hand. I will identify you and then you can ask your question. There are mics, which will be given to you. Sir, the floor is yours.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Thank you Raveesh!

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen!

President Xi Jinping and his delegation have just departed from the venue for the second informal Summit. This morning in the follow-up to yesterday's meeting between Prime Minister and President Xi Jinping the two leaders had another conversation of 90 minutes on one to one basis. And that was followed by Prime Minister hosting a lunch in honor of the President Xi Jinping and his delegation. So in all, the two leaders had six hours of discussions on a one to one basis. You would have seen the media remarks made by both leaders at the delegation level talks. The Prime Minister has spoken of the Chennai connect as a follow up to the Wuhan spirit and while I am sure you have also carefully followed the remarks made by the President Xi Jinping to the media. I want to flag some points he had made.

He felt that the Prime Minister had sincerely welcomed him to India. He spoke of the informal summit as having produced visible progress. He described his experience in India as a memorable one and that he has enjoyed with the Prime Minister and both President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister have conveyed their appreciation to the State government of Tamil Nadu for the excellent arrangements including the very grand welcome that President Xi Jinping was given. The president himself spoke of the welcome and of the warmth with which public in Chennai has received him and his delegation. The discussions focused on what has happened after the Wuhan summit in the past approximately year and a half and both leaders have agreed that many of the dialogue mechanisms which have been formed or which have been reformed since the Wuhan summit have created a very good momentum in relationship and the engagement between India and China across all sectors had intensified.

They also agreed that strategic communication has deepened and they should be continued and both leaders have therefore agreed that the informal summit provides a very good platform for the leadership to engage and President Xi Jinping endorsed the idea that we should continue these informal summits between the leaders of India and China in the future. There was a good conversation on trade as we know that this is an issue which has been a concern here back home and President Xi Jinping after hearing out our Prime Minister on this issue said that China is ready to take sincere action in this regard and to discuss in a very concrete way, how to reduce trade deficit.

One of the important understanding the two leaders reached therefore was that a new mechanism will be established to discuss trade investment and services. This will be at an elevated level. From the Chinese side it would be the Vice premier, his name is Mr. Hu Chunhua, from the Indian side it will be the Finance Minister of India, Smt. Nirmala Sita Raman. The decision on when and how this mechanism will be activated will of course will be done now through diplomatic channel. This is not something which the leaders will go through. And President Xi Jinping also then welcomed investments from India into China including in the information technology and the pharmaceuticals sectors.

The two leaders also agreed that they should also explore through this new mechanism the possibility of establishing manufacturing partnership and the Prime Minister suggested that both sides could identify certain sectors, certain specific industries, where investment could come in and where manufacturing would help create employment, create jobs and enhance the market for both sides.

Obviously, when trade is being discussed one of the issues briefly touched upon was the RCEP, the discussions between sixteen countries on forming a common regional trading agreement and Prime Minister specifically said in this regard that India looks forward to this but it is important that RCEP is balanced. That a balance is maintained between trade in goods, trade in services and investment. And President Xi noted this and said that China and India are ready to discuss it further and that Indian concerns would be taken into account. It was a brief discussion but an important point.

President Xi Jinping raised the issue of engaging more on defence and security side. He said that there was a brief review of the on-going exchanges and cooperation up to which the President of China said that we need to step-up engagement in this area. This will enhance mutual trust between the two militaries and the security forces and they have extended an invitation to the Raksha Mantri, our defence minister, to visit China. Again the date, the timing and so on will be discussed through diplomatic channels.

The two leaders had a fairly long discussion on people to people relations and both Prime Minister and President Xi agreed that we need public opinion in both counties to broad base the relationship that we have between India and China. And under this rubric a number of issues were discussed. The first of course being the 70thanniversary of India-China relations next year. We have agreed that 70 events will be celebrated, 35 on each side, this has been more or less decided what sort of events will be and in effect it means that there will be at least one event each week in anniversary year, either in India or in China and both leaders agreed that this, sort of, intensive propagation of the public side of relationship should in fact lead to public opinion on both sides being engaged in the relationship.

The Prime Minister also specifically proposed that we need to give greater emphasis on tourism in both directions and he felt that 70th anniversary of China’s liberation which was just celebrated this year and the 75th anniversary of independence of India would be the two milestone years in which we should look to significantly enhance tourism from the existing levels to a new level and in that regard Prime Minister also suggested that in order to enhance P to P contact, contact between the public on both sides, we should also look among other things at home stay. And President Xi Jinping gave a positive response to this particular suggestion.

President Xi spoke of greater facilitation for yatris going to the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and Prime Minister suggested a number of ideas on the connect between the state of Tamil Nadu and Fujian province of China. This was the province in which the city of Quanzhou is located where recently or in the last decade or so Tamil inscriptions and fragments of a Shaivaite temple have been discovered and where there is now increasing evidence that traders from Tamil Nadu as well as from other parts of Southern India actually established community. Therefore among the various ideas is joint research on how we can explain to our public this connect that is there between Tamil Nadu and Fujian. There was a decision to establish state relations between Tamil Nadu of India and Fujian of China and various other initiatives in this regard. The ideas is we also strengthen the connection between southern India and China in the same way that Buddhism was a connect between the Northern part of India and China.

There was some discussion on international and regional issues. Both President Xi and Prime Minister emphasized the importance of both countries having independent and autonomous foreign policies. President Xi said that in the light of this both sides need to have many more intensive discussions, promote understanding, understand each other’s perspective on major global and regional issues. They both agreed that it is important to strengthen a rules based order in the international trading system, that the World Trade Organization is the central pillar of the global trading system and that in the process of reform both sides should work together.

Both sides also had a brief exchange on climate change, on the responsibilities that government of India and China are taking in enhancing our own consciousness towards environmental protection and climate change. Both have also agreed that we need to maintain a closer contact on international issues and on regional issues and among these some of them discussed included Afghanistan.

Finally, President Xi Jinping has invited Prime Minister to China for the next informal summit. This will obviously be at a mutually agreed time and the Prime Minister has accepted this invitation with pleasure.

So I would certainly sum up the events of the last two days in the following way. In the first place there was excellent discussion between the two leaders and what has come out of this summit is the role of leadership in both countries in steering our relationship into a forward looking direction. Both Prime Minister and Xi Jinping mentioned that we need to look to the future.

Secondly Prime Minister’s description of the outcome as Chennai Connect is the follow up to the Wuhan Spirit.

Thirdly, both sides agreed to consolidate strategic communications to enhance it all levels, to talk and share about any issues that we have, to build mutual trust including between the militaries.

Fourthly, we agreed that there would be greater understanding shown on trade relations and on our sensitivities relating to trade. We would try to find a way forward in addressing the trade deficit. A new mechanism at an elevated level would be created to talk about trade issues.

Fifthly, we both agreed that it was important to deal with the challenges of terrorism and radicalization in an increasingly complex world and where our own societies were diverse and both leaders were leaders of countries which were not only large in terms of area and population but also in terms of diversity.

Lastly, but not the least, there was a new focus on the people to people relations and understanding between both leaders that the public in both countries and we constitute between the two countries 2.7 billion people, the public of both countries need to be brought into the relationship, that the relationship needs to be predicated on how the public benefits in both countries and a number of ideas were exchanged on how we can build P to P relations.

Obviously, it now falls upon the official level, the two foreign ministries, the other departments of the government of India and their counterparts in China to concretize the outcomes of the Chennai Summit and to see how we can carry this relationship forward. And I will only conclude by saying that prior to his departure just a very short while ago from the Summit venue, the President did convey to the Prime Minister that he was very satisfied with the discussions, he enjoyed talking to the Prime Minister, he looks forward to receiving the Prime Minister in China next year. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much sir. I will take the first set of three questions.

Question: If you could provide us more details about what sort of assurances has India got when it comes to the trade deficit in the pharmaceutical sector and others? Will Indian companies get more access to Chinese market or not because this issue has been discussed many times but we don’t really know what sort of progress has really been made, any assurances being made and just very briefly the second question, if Kashmir in anyway was raised or not because some analysts have said that this visit has actually overshadowed by the events in Kashmir and China and India have not agreed on the recent decision taken by the Indian government.

Question: Just to add to the previous question on Kashmir, were we able to communicate to the Chinese side about our not liking the manner in which they have conducted themselves, even being provocative on the issue of Kashmir and do the Chinese have better appreciation of Pakistan’s role in Kashmir?

Question: The question is on radicalization. A lot of discussion on radicalization and terrorism, were there specific areas that Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised with regards to Pak based terrorists and terrorism emanating from Pakistan?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: With regards to first question, obviously when such issues are discussed at the leadership level, the leadership does not go into details. It sets the direction and it has, in this case, not merely set the direction it has also decided to establish a mechanism at high level to talk about how we can balance trade. So in this regard I think this is a very positive development which has taken place. From our side the Finance Minister and from the Chinese side Vice Premier will now meet. I presume during those discussions specific details will be discussed on how our trade deficit can be addressed.

Since both first and second question referred to Jammu & Kashmir, I would like to state quite categorically that this issue was not raised and not discussed and therefore there is no question of my making any further comments on the matter. In any case the government of India’s position as expressed publicly is very clear. This is a matter that concerns the internal affairs of the country.

As far as radicalization and terrorism is concerned, as you know the objective of the informal summit is to have an overarching discussion on a strategic plane and I think the leadership therefore focused on what sort of tricks were there for complex societies like ours which are not unitary societies on how we should work together to combat it. There was no specific discussion of any kind but the global threat that was there including from ISIS and Daesh were discussed. Again a detailed discussion is not possible, they had a number of events and a number of issues to cover and in that context the main point that was agreed by the two sides is that for a country like China and a country like India increasing radicalization is something which is in neither’s interest.

Well, of course since Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has visited China, the President of China talked about it.

Question: Just want to understand also on trade, were there any discussion on services trade, relaxation of visas for Indian professionals and also defence cooperation, has the Chinese side offered any platforms in terms of warships, fighter jets, and things like that, if you can shed the light on it?

Question: Foreign Secretary you said that there was visible progress between Wuhan and Chennai. If you could detail what you considered to be visible progress between two countries?

Question: Foreign Secretary, about 3-4 years ago a government source has said that advances in technology will lead to incorporation of new elements to the confidence building measures for peace and tranquility on the border. So could you tell us what are the new technologies that have come up and whether more additions were made?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: As I have already said, on the trade side this new mechanism that is being established will discuss that issues including the question of relaxation of visas and all. This is not a discussion that is normally done at the leadership level.

As far as defence is concerned, acquisitions are matter which are handled by Ministry of Defence. Again these are not issues that are gone into at the leadership level so I will be unable to comment on it.

As far as the details of the visible progress I think we should recognize that since the Wuhan Summit at the political level there have been significant exchanges, at the economic and trade level there is a greater recognition by China and to that extent we have been able to put on the table that trade deficit is economically sustainable one and it is also something which is sensitive to our domestic industry and I think the fact that President Xi Jinping understood that this was a concern said that China will be ready to address the trade deficit and actually proposed a mechanism, I would say this is visible progress on the trade side. On the people to people side there are a number of new proposals as well.

On the issue of boundary question, as I explained there was a general sense by both leaders that peace and tranquility has been maintained, that we need to strengthen it. I have already in my pre-summit briefing indicated that both sides are discussing new confidence building measures in the light of new technology but obviously this is not something discussed at leadership level and therefore as and when these additional CBMs are agreed to, we will move ahead on that.

One point I did forget to mention both leaders have also agreed that the Special Representatives will continue to meet. Again when they meet, the dates on which they meet, where they meet are something that is decided through diplomatic channels.

Question: Few years back China showed interest to set up a new consulate general in Chennai, so what is the status of it, was it discussed in this venue?

Question: Did India express its concerns over cross-border terrorism from Pakistan considering there is perceived backing of China for Pakistan and China being the President of FATF the question of blacklisting of Pakistan is going to come up, was that touched upon, did China say anything about that and not backing Pakistan there?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Just a small note, FS has already shared what was discussed and I think asking whether this was discussed or not, I think that doesn’t make much sense. So if you have any different question then I think we would appreciate that.

Question: Sir, you mentioned that both countries sought greater understanding on the part of each other on the issue of trade but what about the greater understanding of the Indian concerns of terrorism emanating from Pakistan soil and also of Indian concerns over the recent Sino-Pak joint position on Kashmir, have we sought a greater understanding of the Indian position from China?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: You know both of the question are same. I think both sides are quite clear about each other’s position on such issues. The purpose and objective of the summit is to deepen the understanding across a whole range of issues that we have in the India-China relations. India-China relations are not predicated on a single issue, they range on everything from the issue relating to historical problems like the boundary to current cooperation we have in international and regional sphere. So what I had to say with regard to the issue of terrorism or whether on Pakistan, I have already said. I think it is very evident what our position is on both issues.

As far as the consulate general is concerned, as you know, we have an MoU which has been signed earlier to give them permission to open a consulate general here and for us to open a consulate general in one of the Chinese cities, the discussions on the specifics is underway. It will obviously also depend on when both sides want to establish the consulate general but there is already an agreement in principle. Therefore there was no need for the leaders to discuss it, the agreement in principle has already been signed.

Question: Jaisa ki aapne apni briefing mein batayaa ki China ke Rashtrapati ne bataya ki Imran Khan ka visit hua thaa aur uske baare mein unhone kuch share kiya. To Prime Minister ka kya reaction thaa, iske baare mein aap kuch share kar sakein to.

(As you said in your remarks that Chinese President mentioned about the visit of Imran Khan and he shared something about that. So what was the reaction of the Prime Minister, can you share something about that?)

Question: Pahle to Wuhan mein jis tareeke se tai hua thaa ki dono desh milkar kisii teesare desh ke andar project chalaayenge to kya us prakriya ko aagey badhaane par koi baat hui hai aur doosara maamla, aapne jis tarah se jikra kiyaa ki terrorism se lekar ek doosare ki sensitivities kaa dhyaan rakhne ke baare mein sahmati bani hai, to kya aage aisa koi assurance Chinese President kii taraf se milaa ki NSG se lekar UN Security Council se lekar aur jagahon par jis tareeke se asahaj sthiti Bharat aur China ke sambandhon mein aai hai waisa wakayaa aage nahi hoga aur China Pakistan Economic Corridor ke issue par bhi wo Bharat ke jo hit hain aur jo Bharat ki chintaayein hain unka dhyaan rakhenge.

(First, as it was decided in the Wuhan summit that both countries will drive projects in some third countries, so was there any discussion on to move forward on this direction? Secondly, as you mentioned there has been agreement to keep each other’s sensitivities in mind including from terrorism. So did we receive any assurance from the Chinese President regarding the uncomfortable stance in the India China relationship on issues like NSG or UN Security Council such thing will not happen in future and also on China Pakistan Economic Corridor that India’s interest and concerns will be taken into account?)

Question: Was the issue of Huawei was discussed at the meeting and you said that decisions will be formalized and actions will be taken, can you give a time frame on the decisions taken on the summit?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Aapne dono ne jo pahle do sawaal poochhey hain unka uttar main already de chukaa hoon kyonki Pakistan ke Pradhanmantri ne abhi-abhi China kii yatra kii hai to is baare mein Rashtrapati Xi ne Pradhanmantri ko batayaa, Pradhanmanatri ne sun liyaa.

Jahan tak third country projects hain, specifically is par baat nahi hui lekin wo jo nayaa mechanism ban rahaa hai uska mandate ye bhi hai ki kaise dono deshon kii companies, private sector – public sector, teesare desh mein kaam kar sakti hain. Jaise maine kahaa ki is mechanism ka uddeshya hai trade in goods, services and investment, aur manufacturing partnerships bhi. To abhi ye kya shape lega ye to dono delegations milne ke baad hi pataa chalega.

(The first two questions that you people have asked I have already replied to them. Since Pakistan Prime Minister had recently visited China hence President Xi told Prime Minister about it and Prime Minister listened to the same.

As far as projects in third countries is concerned, specifically there was no discussion on this but the new mechanism that is being created its mandate also include how, private and public sector companies of both countries can cooperate in third countries. As I said the purpose of this mechanism is trade in goods, services, investment and manufacturing partnerships too. So what shape it will take, it will be known only after the meeting of both the delegations.)

As far as the third question is concerned, the issue of Huawei or 5G was not discussed between the two leaders. On as far as the time frame is concerned, obviously now the leaders have left it to the official level to work out the exact time, dates, agenda and scope of all these meetings, whether it is the trade mechanism whether it is Raksha Mantri’s visit to China, whether it is the SR meeting and so on but I would hazard the guess that the Prime Minister expects us to do this before the next informal summit so we are looking at a compressed time frame of certainly less than one year.

Question: On RCEP, can you discuss what was discussed between the two leaders and also there were some reports that opposition leaders were not allowed to meet the Chinese President, can you clarify?

Question: You said that both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in dealing with the challenge of terrorism in the region. So what are the areas we are looking at to cooperate with each other in tackling terrorism and second point, the summit was actually taking place actually under the shadow of Kashmir, both sides have their positions days ahead of his arrival here, what is the single biggest outcome of the summit here in Mamallapuram?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: As far as second question is concerned I think I have given six or seven points in my summing up on what the outcomes of the summit were. As far as terrorism is concerned I have already said what I had to, I have nothing further to add.

As far as RCEP is concerned, again, as I said the Principal point of the Prime Minister is that in any free trade agreement it is important to have a balanced agreement which involves not only trade in goods which is bringing duties down but also in services and in investments. And this was the point that Prime Minister made to the Chinese President. Equally the President of China accepted that there are concerns and he said that he would take them into account. Beyond this it is for negotiators to go in to the details of the RCEP. The Prime minister and the President don’t do that.

As far as your question regarding whether opposition leaders were allowed to meet the Chinese leader or not, I wish to remind you that this is not a formal summit. In a formal summit which normally happens in Delhi and involves the formal welcome ceremony, formal talks and other elements which are mandatory including the visit to Mahatma Gandhiji’s samaadhi, on such occasions meetings are arranged at the request of the dignitary on other political leaders. This is an informal summit, the objective of the informal summit is to build leadership relations between Prime Minister and the President, it is not a part of the elements of an informal summit for there to be an interaction with other political leaders. This is not a departure from practice. In an informal summit the elements are different from the elements of a formal structured summit.

Question: Aap jo trade ke liye naye mechanism kii baat kar rahe hain koi timeline uske liye decide kii gaii hai ki kab tak wo mechanism aur kyaa rooprekha hogi aur doosara aapne kahaa ki climate change par baatcheet hui, kya kuch concrete measures kis tarah ke dono desh lenge, usko lekar agar aap elaborate kar paayein, kya us par koi charchaa hui?

(The new mechanism that you told about trade, has any timeline decided for that and what will be its framework and second you said that there were discussion on Climate Change, what concrete measures both countries will take, could you elaborate a bit on that?)

Question: Obviously Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President have a very good personal rapport but going by the recent experiences when it comes to Chinese government does it always translate into action in terms of many Indian issues particularly with respect to Kashmir thing and that issue was even raised in this meeting. What is the biggest takeaway in your view in that sense?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Aapne jo kahaa trade ke issue par timelines abhi tai nahi hue hain kyonki ye muddaa hamaare liye pechidaa hai to hamaari koshish rahegi ki jitni hi jaldi ye mechanism shuru ho hamaare liye utna hi achha hai mujhe poora vishwas hai ki jis tarah se China ke Rashtrapati ne kahaa ki wo hamaari samasyaaein samajhate hain aur baatcheet karne ke liye taiyaar hain, mujhe poora vishwas hai ki ye mechanism jald hii tay hoga lekin kis date tak hoga aur kahaan pahla meeting hoga ye main abhi nahi kah sakta. Climate Change par bahut general discussion hua dono leaders ke beech mein, dono ne kahaa ki ye dono deshon ke liye challenge hai aur duniya ke liye bhi ek chunauti hai to kis tarah se dono desh is par kaam kar sakte hain, baatcheet ke antargat usko hum aagey le jaayenge.

(The timelines that you asked about trade issues have not yet been decided, since this is a complex issue for us so it will be our efforts to have an early start of this mechanism. I have full confidence that the way Chinese President said that they understand our concerns and are ready for a dialogue, I am fully confident that the mechanism will start very soon but the date and venue of the first meeting, I cannot tell you at this moment. On climate change the discussion was very general in nature. Both leaders said that it is a challenge for both their countries and also a challenge for the world too so how can we cooperate in this matter, we will take it forward though discussion.)

As far as the second question is concerned, the good personal rapport I think was fairly evident in the visuals and this rapport has been established in the 18 meetings that the Prime Minister has had formal, informal, in the sidelines of multilateral meetings, informal bilateral summits and so on. Now you mentioned that even if the personal rapport is good there are issues in the relationship, the fact of the matter is that in all relationships there are issues and closer and bigger the relationship is the more likely it is there will be issues. The fact that there are issues does not detract from the positive effect that good interpersonal relations at the leadership level have in building the larger relationship. So I think we have to look at this in perspective. Some of the issues are issues which predate these two leaders, these are historical issues but we also need to bear in mind that the way this relationship is being managed by our leaderships has ensured that there is no fundamental disruption that there is a forward looking trajectory and to that extent this informal summit contributed to that process.

Question: This is in the backdrop of very escalating China-US relationship on trade, how significant is this informal summit when it comes to China India relationship related, you did mention some of the trade related issues but going forward how do you feel this issue?

Question: Can you say that what is the reason behind selection of Mamallapuram for this second informal summit and also what are the plans we have to develop relationship, the century old relationship between the Tamil Nadu and China also and third one, do we have discussion about river and border issues with China and India?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: The India-China trade has no direct bearing or connection with what is happening between China and United States. They are in the midst of a discussion and I understand there is some news today, I have only seen news reports of the possibilities of them reaching some kind of an understanding or an agreement. We are of course awaiting the details but as far as we are concerned there is a very significant market in China, the Chinese have significant market in India. We need to find ways in which we can enhance exports and in which China can increase imports from India and that is the objective of this mechanism.

I appreciate the question about Mamallapuram and I actually want to clarify that I am somewhat surprised at reports in media that we are looking at alternative sites. Neither is there any public statement on the record nor are the government sources which claimed any other venue than Chennai. The Prime Minister was very clear right from the outset and he had given instructions to all of us that the venue of the summit will be in Chennai in Mamallapuram because it is world Heritage Site and because Tamil Nadu has a long standing historical and trading and cultural ties with China.

As far as the initiatives between Tamil Nadu and China are concerned we will be issuing a press release which will have more details on some of what I have said including specifically on the proposals which Prime Minister had made and President Xi Jinping has accepted in that regard.

On the border issue, I have already said the leaders have directed the Special Representatives on both sides to continue the discussions and have a meeting. On the river water issue as you know we have a partial understanding that China will give data in the flood season in respect of certain major rivers. Our efforts has been to try and expand the scope of this. We will continue to discuss that with the Chinese side and this is something where we have an official annual mechanism for discussions on sharing of information relating to cross-border Rivers.

I just also want to mention because you spoke of Mamallapuram that the External Affairs Ministry and Government of India again greatly appreciate the very solid support that we got from the government of Tamil Nadu for this summit. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much friends. We are hard pressed for time but thank you all for joining.

(Concludes)
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