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Transcript of Foreign Secretary's special briefing on Prime Minister's visit to USA (September 23, 2021)

September 24, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you here today. Thank you very much for joining us for this special media briefing, on the occasion of the visit of our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi Ji to Washington. We have today with us to do a sense of the first days meetings. Honorable Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Also accompanying us here's Ambassador of India to USA Shri Taranjit Singh Sandhu and from Delhi, Joint Secretary of the Americas division Smt. Vani Rao. I thank them all for their presence here. We will request Foreign Secretary Sir to say a few words to explain what are the developments of the day. And then, we will take a few questions. Sir, the floor is yours,

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Namaste and Good evening to all our friends from media.

As you are aware, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi arrived at Washington D.C. last evening. He had been accompanied by a high-level delegation consisting of the External Affairs Minister, National Security Advisor and senior officials.

He has had a number of engagements today and I'm trying to give you a sense of some of those engagements. This included his meeting with the Honorable Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Scott Morrison, bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga. He also met select CEOs of US companies and these meetings were separate.

Let me start sequentially. This morning the Prime Minister met the CEOs of five major US corporates. As you know, the United States is our single largest trading partner. It is also a source of foreign direct investments and a major economic partner of ours. In that context, the companies that the Prime Minister, the CEOs of companies that the Prime Minister met today represent those companies that have already either already invested significant amounts and, and propose to expand their investments or are planning significant investments in India. I'll just quickly. I mean, I think you've already got a readout of the meetings, the CEOs have gone on record, but I'll try and put it in perspective very briefly.

The first company Prime Minister met was Qualcomm. This is a global leader in chip manufacturing. They are very high tech company. The Prime Minister discussed connectivity, 5G-connectivity and Digital India flagship program with the CEO of Qualcomm. He, the CEO was very, very optimistic on India. He called it the number one growth destination for companies in the world.

The second CEO the Prime Minister met was the CEO of Adobe. Again, this is a company that has made enormous strides using technology in the creative domain. Prime Minister discussed education technology, startups, innovation, and animation for the youth. There was a lot of discussion on how technology can benefit younger people, particularly students, school going students. And and again, a very, very useful meeting.

The third meeting was the CEO of First Solar. This is a leader in solar making equipment. The manufacturer, their technology is a new one. This is a very unique technology in the field of solar energy using thin film technology and discussion centered around their plans to invest significant amounts in setting up solar manufacturing facility in India. I'm told that they're looking at a facility, which is has a capacity of 3.3 gigawatts as you can, as you can imagine, that's very significant capacity and investments worth 675 million dollars, the CEO of First Solar discussed also the green hydrogen mission that the Prime Minister announced and there was also a sense of interest in the Prime Minister's vision of one world, one sun, one grid.

The fourth company was General Atomics, which centered around India's recent drone policy including the PLI scheme. And the last group was the Blackstone Group which has made, it’s a major asset management company. It has a very large presence in India. It is very significant investor in India. And from what I can see, they have the CEO announced plans to invest significantly more in the country. He referred to India as the number one performing country in the world. I'm quoting and there is a clear message from business leaders of their appreciation of the recent reform measures in India. That is made, it made India more business-friendly environment with liberal investment rules in across different sectors. And, and, of course, they felt that they were significant investment opportunities in India.

Prime Minister had a bilateral meeting with Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. This is the Prime Minister's first formal interaction with the Vice President. You are aware that he has spoken to her on telephone and the meeting, which is the first meeting, as I said in-person was warm. The meeting focused on several substantive issues of discussion.

Both the Prime Minister and Vice President Kamala Harris appreciated, the India-US bilateral relationship, which were which they felt were on strong footing with given the shared values, common interest in growing strategic convergence. And that was there. They exchanged views on recent on recent regional developments of mutual interest, reaffirmed their commitment towards a free open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The Covid-19 situation and respective national efforts to combat it was an important theme of their discussion. In particular, they took note of the ongoing efforts to contain the pandemic through expedited vaccination efforts. Here, I think the Vice President was noted that India had made very, very swift recovery from the second wave of the pandemic.

She also commented on the fact that India had been supportive and had assisted several countries across the world in combating the pandemic, including through the export of vaccines. The Prime Minister thanked, the US government for his generous support during the second wave of our pandemic. He also expressed thanks to the private sector and NGOs for that support. The two leaders discussed future areas of collaboration, including space co-operation, information technology, emerging and critical technologies, co-operation in the healthcare sector.

The Prime Minister and the Vice President acknowledged the vibrant people-to-people ties between our two countries and appreciated the mutually beneficial education linkages, the flow of knowledge, innovation, talent between our two countries and the need to nurture them.

The contribution of Indian professionals, especially in the IT domain, biotechnology, space and other areas which represent the knowledge economy was appreciated by both and there was a sense that India had capable professionals and R&D capacity is in the high-tech sector, including research and development capacities and the US which is known for cutting edge technologies and innovation were obvious partners.

The Prime Minister invited Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff to visit India. This was graciously accepted.

The Prime Minister's meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was the first in-person meeting that the two leaders have held in the post pandemic period. They discussed a broad range of issues which covered bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. They noted with satisfaction the high-level engagement between the two countries, particularly the first recently held India-Australia 2 plus 2 dialogue, which was held in New Delhi. They reviewed progress since the last Leader's Summit that was held virtually in June 2020 and they resolved to continue their close partnership and cooperation for the mutual well-being of both sides. I must say, the Prime Minister mentioned that the Indian community was very well looked after during the Covid crisis in Australia. He specially mentioned that the Prime Minister, and I think there was an appreciation of the contribution of the Indian diaspora in Australia.

The Prime Minister's meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, His Excellency Mr. Yoshihide Suga was also the first in-person meeting that the two leaders have had. The Prime Minister has spoken to Prime Minister Suga on a number of occasions. They have jointly inaugurated the Varanasi International Convention Center 'Rudraksha', but as I said, this was virtually done. Prime Minister Suga was to visit India, but could not do so because of the Covid pandemic and both sides attached great importance and Prime Minister Suga mentioned that specifically on a number of occasions to the special relationship that India and Japan enjoy and the global partnership that binds the two countries together. Prime Minister specifically thanked Prime Minister Suga for very successfully hosting both the Tokyo Olympics and Para Olympics in the midst of a global pandemic.

The two Prime Ministers discussed, exchanged views on recent global developments including Afghanistan. They also reaffirmed their commitment towards the free, open inclusive Indo-Pacific region. They agreed to enhance bilateral, security and defense cooperation, including the areas of defence equipment and technologies.

He also welcomed increasing economic engagement, including the launch of The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative between India, Japan and Australia, which has been an ongoing dialogue since last year and there was emphasis on the need to develop bilateral partnerships in manufacturing, in the MSME sector, skill development. Prime Minister Suga informed the Prime Minister that in order to operationalize the Specified Skilled Workers agreement. As you know, we have a mobility agreement which enables Indian professionals to work in Japan for certain periods of time. The Japanese side has decided to initiate skills training and language training in India from early 2022.

Both sides discussed the Covid pandemic, the importance of digital technologies in dealing with the pandemic. The India-Japan Digital Partnership was also mentioned specially in the startup sector and the exchange views and further collaborations in areas, like 5G and cyber security. The two Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to advance efforts to facilitate the smooth and timely implementation of the Mumbai Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Project.

There was a mention of the bilateral development projects that Japan is supporting specially in the Northeastern part of India under the India-Japan 'Act- East Forum' noticed possibilities of further such cooperation in areas such as healthcare, disaster management and bamboo value chain development. I'm talking of the Northeast.

Both sides expressed confidence that the momentum achieved in the relationship in the last few years would continue under the new administration in Japan and Prime Minister said he look forward to welcoming the next Prime Minister of Japan to India for the India-Japan Annual Summit. As you can appreciate, the ongoing visit of the Prime Minister has added momentum to the pace, depth and diversity of bilateral relations, and strengthened their convergence on issues of mutual interest.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary : I don't know if he wants to add anything.

Ambassador Shri. Taranjit Singh Sandhu: I think you have been very comprehensive sir.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary : So so then we're happy to go …

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you as per the ground rules, please identify yourself and the organization represented by you. Okay, please.

Speaker 1: Hi Sir, I am Sidhant from WION. My question, is during the bilateral with Australian Prime Minister was there any mention of the AUKUS security pact? Did he briefed about the Pact? He's already done so during the phone conversation. Also, with the Japanese Prime Minister, any review, when it comes to the bullet train project?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yeah.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: So please go ahead we'll take a few questions together.

Speaker 2: Sir, you said that in the meeting with Vice President, Kamala Harris views were exchanged on regional developments. Was it specifically regarding Afghanistan and did the issue of Pakistan emboldening Taliban come into play there, because today in New York, Antony Blinken has met Shah Mehmood Qureshi and he has appreciated the fact that Pakistan was helpful according to him in getting Americans out of Afghanistan.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: (Inaudible)

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: With to respond to Sidhant's question, the Prime Minister Morrison did briefly mention, you know, the rationale from the Australian side, in seeking to initiate the AUKUS alliance. He felt that the technology that they received was appropriate and and you know, there was a brief discussion in that regard. With regard to the bullet train you saw that in my opening remarks, I did mention that Prime Minister and Japanese Prime Minister discussed the importance of this project. They expressed satisfaction that the project has been going well. They also noted that Prime Minister Suga had taken a special interest in moving that project forward.

With regard to Prime Minister's discussions with Kamala Harris, Palki. Essentially, I would say that the discussions as I mentioned was substantive. They lasted over an hour, the meeting reflected warmth and cordiality. The discussions covered a number of areas which included Covid-19, climate change, the issue of terrorism and of course cooperation in the technology sector, including cooperation in cyber security, space etc. In that context, when the issue of terrorism came up, the Vice President suo moto referred to Pakistan's role in that regard. She said that they were terror groups that were working there. She asked Pakistan to take action, s that this these groups do not impact on US security and that of India.

She agreed with the Prime Minister's briefing on the fact of cross-border terrorism and the fact that India had been a victim of terrorism for several decades now and all the need to rein in and closely monitor Pakistan's support for such terrorist groups. With the discussion as I said was on a number of very wide range of issues and and I was also but I was specifically responding to what you mentioned regarding Pakistan.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. Thank you, Sir. Please one.

Speaker 3: Sir, I'm Abhishek from Republic TV, Sir, basically my question is both in the engagement that Prime Minister had with the Prime Minister of Japan and the one with Prime Minister of Australia, did the reference of China's conduct over the last couple of years come in?

Speaker 4: Sir, I am Laxman from the Hindu. Mr. Foreign Secretary, can you characterize for us, how you expect tomorrow's meeting with President Biden to differ from today's meeting with Vice President Harris, is going to be more the same or are there going to be specific differences between the two meetings? Second question, Vice President Harris has referred to the importance of preserving democratic norms within our two countries that India and the United States. Was there further discussion on this during the course of bilateral? Thank you.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well, in Prime Minister's bilaterals with the Prime Ministers of Australia and Japan. Discussion as I said were wide-ranging encompassing, you know, number of issues that involved bilateral and regional issues of Interest. Obviously, you know, the issue of China as a very major global player did come up and and and of course, this is one of the many issues that were discussed.

With regard to, you know, the meeting tomorrow, I think, you know, it would be, it would, I would say that, I would be pre-empting things, I would be prejudging things, if I will tell you how that meeting and what exactly, where it was to be the you know discussions there. I can only say that the meeting with the Vice President as I mentioned to you was substantive, was very warm and encompassed a number of areas of interest. As I said, the only difference is that the Prime Minister had not met Vice President Kamala Harris before. He has met President Biden on a number of occasions, when he had visited United States, when President Biden was, the then Vice President. I did mention earlier that they had met in 2014 and nobody knows that better than our Ambassador who was here, even at that time in a different capacity, that they had, that President Biden had hosted our Prime Minister to lunch, when he made his first visit to the United States in 2014. It also been, he had also presided over the joint session of the US Congress that the Prime Minister had addressed in 2016. So there is already a certain amount of familiarity, understanding and friendship between the two leaders.

The Prime Minister has spoken to President Biden on at least three occasions in November last year to congratulate him on winning the elections, in February and April this year. He has also been with President Biden in three summits, all of which were virtual. Two of them were hosted by President Biden, the Quad Virtual Summit in March, the Climate Change Summit in April, and then they were together at the G7 Summit at Cornwall in the UK, but the Prime Minister had participated virtually on that occasion. So, there's a, what I'm trying to say is that there is a fairly reasonable amount of interaction already and that's the only difference I can discern at this point of time. I don't want to prejudge, what would be the discussions tomorrow.

Now with regard to the Vice President's comments on democracy which you heard you were there when the remarks were made to the media, the Vice President, I think appreciated the fact that both of our countries represented large and successful democracies and that we needed to continue to work not only within our own countries, but with other countries, to promote the brand of democracy. In the discussions, I think she did mention that the US Congress was highly appreciative and kept noting the fact that India and the United States represented the two largest democracies. There was a great deal of appreciation of how both our democracies function. And that was the the I would say discussion that took place in the actual meeting, which, in which the media were not present.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sir, thank you very much for the presence. I think that brings us to a close of the media briefing today evening. We will try to organize one tomorrow evening or later. I thank the presence of Foreign Secretary, our Ambassador Sandhu and Mrs. Rao. Good evening. Thank you for all for being here.


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