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Transcript of Foreign Secretary's Special briefing on Prime Minister's Visit to Glasgow, UK (November 01, 2021)

November 02, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you present here and also to those who are joining from India at this very late hour there. Namaskar and welcome to this special media briefing on the occasion of the visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to the UK particularly to Glasgow for the COP26 meeting. We have today with us Honorable Foreign Secretary Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla who has been closely involved in the visit for the entire day. We also have with us Madam Gaitri Issar Kumar, High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom who is also been involved in this visit. As you know today was the first day of Prime Minister’s engagement and we would request Foreign Secretary sir to give an outline of what happened and what major developments took place and perhaps then we can take some questions. Sir, the floor is yours.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Thankyou Arindam. Namaskar and Good evening to all our friends from the media. As we all are aware that the Prime Minister reached Glasgow late last evening after the conclusion of G20 summit in Rome. Today was his first day of engagement in Glasgow. Yesterday as he arrived in Glasgow, he was received by very warmly by the members of the Indian community in Glasgow. As he entered the premises here he was received by Scottish bagpipers, but what is important is that very enthusiastic number of people were here late in the evening to greet the prime Minister as he entered the premises. This morning, you have seen that Prime Minister had a very very significant day at the COP26 summit. He participated in a number of events and I will go through some of that with you. First thing in the morning, he of course had meetings with the representative and select members of the Indian community in presence of the High Commissioner in Glasgow. There were also some Indologists, obviously numbers were limited due to covid19 restrictions but I think there were significant number of people none the less who interacted with the Prime Minister this morning. The people who were there also included the two winners of the Earthshot Prize, this is the prize that has been instituted at COP26 for people who have made significant innovations in contributing to climate change adaptation, mitigation. Actually the winner of the Earthshot Prize is an Indian National. We all are very proud of him. Its Vidyut Mohan. He is the inventor of Takachar, which is essentially to do with utilizing leftovers of paddy field stubbles that is left in fields and he called on Prime Minister this morning to spend some time. Prime Minister also met Vinisha Umashankar. She was one of the finalists who invented a solar powered pressing iron, which is very common in India. A lot of professional people in laundry business use coal fired irons and here is someone who has come up with solar powered iron and she was the finalist also in the Earthshot competition. Prime Minister was presented a bust of his by a very prominent surgeon, Dr. Naday Hakeem. He is from London and he had specially made a bust of the Prime Minister and requested the opportunity to present it which he did. Again High Commissioner was present on this occasion. The first event at COP-26 was the official opening. I think we've all seen visuals of that. Very significant event. And when the Prime Minister entered, the COP-26 venue, he was received by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is the co-host of the event along with UN Secretary General, who also represents the UNFCCC.

Prime Minister had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Johnson in the margins of the COP-26 Summit. It was a short meeting given the preoccupation with both the leaders. But nonetheless, was comprehensive enough to cover a number of areas of Interest. Prime Minister congratulated Prime Minister Boris Johnson for hosting a successful start of the COP-26 Summit, despite finding pandemic restrictions. He also complimented Prime Minister Johnson for his personal leadership in championing global action for climate change mitigation and adaptation. He, in fact, mentioned to him that it has been three years that the Prime Minister himself has noticed Prime Minister Johnson invest himself personally on the issue of climate change, in preparing for COP-26. The Prime Minister reiterated India's commitment to closely work with the UK on climate Finance, technology, Innovations and adaptation including green hydrogen, renewables, clean technology, and Joint initiatives under the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient infrastructure. Both these International organizations have very prominent UK involvement. The two Prime Ministers reviewed the roadmap for planning the 2030 priorities between India and UK in areas like trade, economy, People to People ties, health, defense and security.

It would also be recalled that at the last Summit, the two countries elevated our relationship to a comprehensive, strategic partnership and both sides expressed satisfaction on the progress in delivering enhanced trade Partnerships, including steps taken to commence towards the launch of FTA negotiations. I think both sides also felt that there should be some attention given to the earliest conclusion possible of this important trade-related partnership between our two countries.

There was a discussion in Regional and Global issues, including Afghanistan, Counter-terrorism, Indo-Pacific, Supply chain resilience in post-Covid global economic recovery. The Prime Minister reiterated his invitation to Prime Minister Johnson to visit India at an early opportunity.

At the COP-26 event, Prime Minister attended the side event, which is called 'Action and solidarity-The critical decade'. This is hosted by the UK presidency of COP-26. In his remarks, the Prime Minister spoke about the criticality of climate adaptation in development policy, the importance of traditional practices and the need for Global support for adaptation.

The highlight of the day was the Prime Minister's National statement on COP-26. You have all seen the actual coverage and the footage of the Prime Minister's statement. You would have also seen copies of his actual statement and you would all agree that this is a similar statement, a very significant contribution by India towards Global actions on the climate change agenda. And it highlights not only the range and depth of climate actions taken by India, but also future goals that India has set for herself. If you allow, I will just briefly recapitulate, the main points that were made by the Prime Minister. He refers to it as the PANCHAMRIT. And so here we are talking about by 2030, India's non-fossil energy capacity would be increased to 500 gigawatts. As you are aware in Paris, there was talk of 175 gigawatts. Subsequently. We had unilaterally committed ourselves to creating 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030. The Prime Minister spoke at the summit of 500 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030. By all means is a very very significant contribution as I said to the overall area of climate change and in meeting the goals of the summit, very significantly considering that India comprises 1/6th of humanity.

You would be aware also that in Paris, our nationally determined contributions were said that 40% of our installed electricity capacity would come from non-fossil fuel based energy sources. The Prime Minister announced that today. He announced that by 2030, in fact, 50% would be made from renewable energy sources. So that's significant announcement again.

The Prime Minister also stated that India will reduce its projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tons from now until 2030.

Again, one of the NDC's announced in Paris was that the emissions intensity of our economy would be reduced by between 33 and 35 percent by 2030. This is over 2005 levels. The Prime Minister today said that this would be reduced by 45%. So we've gone from 33 to 35 to 45 percent again, very, very significant. And for the first time, India has spoken about reaching ‘Net Zero’ by the year 2070.

So, all of these are very significant, these five announcements, the Prime Minister has made. And this, I think would really represent perhaps the most significant of announcements that have been made in the climate change domain in recent years.

The Prime Minister, of course highlighted the need for greater ambition on climate finance and technology. He felt that given the sort of commitments that were there, climate financing to the extent of a trillion dollars would be required. He did say that while developing countries and he spoke on behalf of the developing world when he said that there was pressure on the developing world to increase and enhance their commitments. There should be similar pressure on developed countries to enhance their financial contributions, that would ensure that our goal of meeting, our Target of 1.5 degrees Celsius is met and of course, he felt that it should also be both commitments in terms of the NDC's and commitments towards financing should be measurable and should be definable.

The Prime Minister spoke about the fact that it was important to be able to reach sustainable consumption. He spoke about what he called- one word that is LIFE or lifestyle for environment, to make an environmentally conscious lifestyle Choice, covering diverse sectors. He felt, there should be a global movement that should contribute towards a lifestyle change. That should greatly contribute towards meeting our climate change ambitions and actions.

So it is not just in terms of reducing carbon intensity through steps that we are talking about. He's talking about a global movement, sort of a people movement that would contribute to making them difference in harmony with nature. Having a sustainable lifestyle, sustainable consumption, which the G20 also endorsed a short while ago at their Summit. As I mentioned, the statement of the Prime Minister today was very significant, He reiterates once again, the commitment India has set towards combating climate change. It is imperative now the developed World steps up and does its part. The Prime Minister has always stated that climate change for him is an article of faith. That India had always been more than fulfilling its own commitments in terms of climate change. Today the Prime Minister not only spoke about the different steps that India has taken but also made further contributions to our I would say, overall approach was the issue of climate change.

I just want to mention that in the margins of the COP-26, number of meetings other than the one with the Prime Minister of the UK could take place and very useful interactions Prime Minister had. We have all seen photographs of his meetings with the President of Sri Lanka, Prime Minister of Nepal and a host of other world leaders, great opportunity to exchange notes, to talk about issues that are important for all of us. After a long Hiatus in which world leaders haven't been traveling, have not been meeting each other and we have one more day of COP-26, but I think today's events in many senses have been very, very significant. Obviously we will take some time to really think about what these contributions are. Keep in mind that Prime Minister pointed out a simple fact. He said the Indian Railways has committed to a Net Zero by 2030. More people travel in the Indian railways in one year than the entire population of the world. So their contribution in terms of what has been committed by 2030 is very, very significant and would in many senses lead to a 60 million tons reduction in emissions. Not any small figure. And of course he has talked about the fact that India today has the fourth largest renewable energy capacity in the world. Our non-fossil fuel energy use has gone up to 50% in the last seven years and Energy Mix has reached 40%. So these are all very significant figures which the Prime Minister has spoken about. He has spoken about our Energy Efficiency movement, the use of LED bulbs as a movement, which has led to a 40 million ton emissions reduction. So I'm just giving you some examples of what the Prime Minister spoke about. His speech is, of course, available. And I'm sure you will all look at it carefully. So I'll stop here. Arindam!

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, sir for taking us through the day's developments. We will open the floor for a quick few questions. Please introduce yourself and the organization you represent. The many of the documents that Foreign Secretary alluded to during the day, we've been trying to put it out in our social media website as well as on our website, so that will continue to happen. But with that, I saw a few hands, please. Okay, let me let me start with you.

Speaker-1: I wanted to ask, you said that Prime Minister has extended invitation to PM Johnson to visit India. Do you think there's a possibility, he will be the chief guest during Republic Day because it's important here and it is 75th Anniversary been just as well.

Lavina Tandon: I am Lavina Tandon from India Today. PM is here tomorrow as well. Can you please tell us what are his programs for tomorrow? And when does he leave? And does your team stay back for further negotiations in COP?

Speaker-2: Hello, I am attached with Times News paper in London, and all of the various commitments of the railways by 2030 and renewable share are very encouraging but I think a lot of people were struck by the fact that 2070 hills a very long way away, 20 years later than 2050, that has been asked for by many countries. Why do you think it is?

Speaker-3: Just following up that earlier question, India had refused to commit itself to any date at all thus far, and certainly did not by that October 12 deadline that this conference had set or suggested. So between not setting a date and that in 2070s, is that number a compromise and is it a compromise under pressure?

Aditi: I am Aditi from Press Trust of India. If Sir could elaborate a little bit about the discussion on counter-terrorism because separatist activity from Khalistani groups which they have caused is quite concerning. Was that something the Prime minister raised during his discussion and just a second one on the UK-India green initiatives that was announced today. The Downing Street read out specifically talks about that, so if you could touch on that.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Lets start with Rupanjan’s question about the visit of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to India. The Prime Minister invited him to visit India at an early opportunity. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, happily accepted the invitation, said that he would plan his visit as soon as circumstances would allow. Lavina's question, I think about the program. Tomorrow again, a very busy day, which begins fairly early. You have a photo op of the leaders at 8:30 in the morning. You have a special session, that would be the launch of the ' One world-One Sun'. So that's the initiative for resilient Island states, which is essentially part of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient infrastructure, that would focus on building capacity, having pilot projects, in specially in small island developing states. That would also involve in some senses, setting up norms and standards for resilient infrastructure. The Prime Minister has pointed out that in many cases lives are lost but livelihoods and entire infrastructure, housing, everything that is to do with infrastructure loss with Cyclone etc, especially small island States and coastal areas are vulnerable to these ravages of climate change, and this is an effort to try and equip countries that are particularly vulnerable to these effects of climate change. And you will have the launch of the infrastructure for Resident Island States that is called IRIS. It's a joint effort between India and the United Kingdom. So Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will jointly launch this. You will have to have the participation of Australia, which is also a partner in this effort. You will also have a number of leaders of small island States speaking on this occasion. The Prime Minister of Fiji, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, and the Prime Minister of Mauritius and the UN Secretary. So it's a very significant occasion. There are a number of bilaterals, you will have details of these bilaterals as we go along with them. Prime minister would be meeting a number of leaders of other countries, so maybe meeting some individuals quite prominently associated with work relating to climate change and socio-economic development. So in the afternoon we have an event which is called accelerating clean technology, innovation and deployment. This is hosted by Prime Minister Mr. Johnson and essentially Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Modi will launch another initiative, which is called 'One world- One Sun- One Grid'. So green grid, which is the UK initiative and 'One world- One Sun and one grid', which is the initiative from the International solar Alliance, which has been proposed by India. Both these would be jointly launched as a new initiative and essentially seeks to promote connectivity through solar grids across the world. This launch will be with the participation of the President of the United States of America, President Joe Biden. You will have the participation of the Prince of the United Arab Emirates. You will have the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, who'd be part of that initiative. You also have the Prime minister of Kenya who be actually the President of Kenya would be also part of this effort. So this again as you can see is a significant initiative that comes from India and our other partners. So both the initiative, the infrastructure for resilient Island States as well as the launch of the 'One Sun- One World-One Grid' are very very important Global initiatives. That is part of our effort to try and get more capacity building, more involvement and more support to other countries, especially developing countries across the world. And of course yes, there is a another initiative which is hosted by the US President on infrastructure development, 'Build back better', which is also you can say linked to the development of resilient infrastructure and in some senses dovetails to what we are doing. The Prime Minister will participate in that initiative as well. So that is in brief the program for tomorrow. While the Prime Minister will be departing from Glasgow at the conclusion of the high-level segment of COP-26 tomorrow evening, you will have our negotiating team which is here. We have our Minister of Environment who is here. We have the Secretary Environment who is here. We have a negotiating team that is in place and they will continue to be participants in the conference until its conclusion on the 12th of November.

There was a question on why 2070? is it not too late and also was this something that came in under pressure? What is the requirement for this? I think, in a certain sense, the Prime Minister has outlined very clearly India's own progression that has led up to the Net Zero situation and he has said that what is our own situation? We are essentially a developing country. Our focus is on bringing millions of our citizens out of poverty. We are working night and day to ease living, the standard of living in India for our citizens. We constitute 17 percent of the World's population. Yet, we contribute only 5% to global emissions and yet we are contributing very readily through the entire overall issue of climate change because we believe in it. And as I said, Prime Minister said it's an article of faith for him. And if you see right at the end of his speech, the Prime Minister says that we are doing it for our future Generations, that our future Generations would be saved from worse situation that could arise due to the current climate change problems and that they would lead secure and happy lives. So it is in the interest of posterity that we are contributing. That we are making this effort and that I think in many senses it is an important commitment to our own citizens, our own countrymen, our own future generations and in doing so we are contributing to the rest of the world as a large country, as a developing country but as a country that constitutes 17 percent of the world's population. Some in many senses have termed speeches realistic, responsible, ambitious, Net Zero, Target year of 2070 means India will be among the shortest, If not the shortest gap between peak emissions year and Net Zero year for any major economy. In other words, while many of the economies that have announced a Net Zero have peaked much earlier, we are yet to peak, I mean our peak is yet to come, we are yet to reach that level of industrial activity in development, that would that would provide us with future that we would be expected to, for our citizens. The Prime Minister makes that case and essentially, if you see the time lag between peaking and the timeline between Net Zero for many countries, clearly ours is possibly among the shortest. So this is also very significant. So our contribution should not be minimized. I think it should be seen in the right context that despite our preoccupation, we have actually talked of a net zero commitment. I can tell you that, the leader of a country that talks about, that sets a target of 175 gigawatts. He sets his own target of 455 gigawatts, and now sets his target of 500 gigawatts, it is direct progressively and is not done under any pressure. The only pressure on him is the pressure of humanity, the pressure of our own future and I think that is, that is very, very important. India is not going to be pressurized, will not be pressurized and has never been pressurized in any way. It is important that we are doing it of our own volition. It is important that these are very carefully thought through decisions, and I think it is also based on science, which is the projection. If you see the projections about our own NDC's that were set in 2015. If you see the rate of our, they say achieving those commitments made in 2015, there is every reason to feel that at that rate of achievement and the levels at which our Prime Minister has picked our commitments today, 2070 is something that would be doable and it is a commitment that is made based, as I said on science, but also based very specifically on the desire to contribute very significantly to the overall effort on climate change. And as I said, as you introspect you will see that the announcements that he has made today are very very significant for India and the rest of the world, and I want to leave you with that thought.

There was a question on counter-terrorism. I think there was as I said, the meeting was short, but it, it did allow short exchanges on concerns that both our countries have on increasing radicalism. That is to say in many senses sort of extremism that we're seeing in certain fringe groups that seem to be speaking out on issues that they have no legitimate right to do so and without clearly, without traction of any kind, but nonetheless is causing certain level of disequilibrium and concern in both our countries. Prime Minister Johnson, I think (inaudible) fully that some of these groups need to be reined in and that clearly steps have to be taken to see how such activity which under no means is democratic, or constitutional should be or could be used to address these recent incidents. Dream initiative, of course, I think any initiative that that can help us reach, our goals is important. But as I said tomorrow, we have two very important initiatives with the UK. We have the launch of the, as I said IRIS, which is the infrastructure, for Resilient Island States, and we also have the launch of the green grid, 'One world-One Sun-One Grid'. So both of these are actually complementary to the overall green initiative that you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Sir. Any other questions? Okay, please.

Gail: My question is about, as you mentioned (inaudible) developing country. What are you going to be arguing for in terms of the solidarity offered that it's required by technically developed countries on climate Finance, loss and damage, adaptations? What sort of Demands is India going to be making in terms of those requirements? Thanks.

Speaker-4: Well, it's related to the previous question. Actually, Prime Minister spoke about adaptation that a lot of other nations also touched upon the same concept. Barbados, for example, spoke very eloquently as well on the issue of adaptation. I will just request you speak, rather elaborate a bit on this approach to the problem of climate change. Its also seen that India has positioned itself as a country that could be a bridge between the developing countries and the developed worlds, a very fact that the Prime Minister gave. What specific demands or in which way India will also try to ensure that the wealthy Nations pay, what they have promised to help us address the climate change.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I saw another hand. Yes, Ma'am.

Ruhi Khan: My name is Ruhi khan. I'm an independent journalist. Also recently written a book on .. (inaudible).. So my question is regarding the bilateral that the Prime Minister had with the PM Boris Johnson. Was the issue of extradition based in particular that of Mr. Mallya and Nirav Modi and whether there have been any effort on the Indian side to talk to UK about turning into a safe haven for these and anything that could be done to get them back to India faster and with the more positive outcome.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: I am actually repeating myself but the questions are in that directions. Prime Minister Modi did speak very strongly on behalf of the developing countries when he talked about the need for measurable climate financing and technology transfers. If you saw that the G20 also had similar outcomes in which there was a sense that they should be more than just commitments for climate financing. It should be measurable. I think these aspects have been brought up today as well in the Prime Minister's statement. And clearly the G20 document, the outcome document provides a timeline by which developed countries would fulfill their commitments in terms of climate financing. But what is most important is, the Prime Minister pegged to a certain figure, he talked about a trillion dollars that we needed. So we not talking about billions anymore. The requirements and the that's a situation that compels us to move towards stronger measures in terms of climate change to, in order to meet climate change actions, and climate change adaptation, mitigation actually needs more resources. We need to expend more to reach these goals and Prime Minister spoke about a trillion dollars that are needed. He also said that while the developing countries, with India in the lead, because we have made commitments, which are being probably more profound in many ways, have constantly agreed to raise the bar in terms of climate actions. The Developed world also needs to raise the bar in terms of climate financing and that these contributions should be measurable. In other words, there should be a way to be able to both monitor and to be able to assess those contributions. I saw that a number of other statements including from the UN Secretary-General also were in were in that direction that not only should climate Finance be complementary to climate action, but that they should be defined and they should be actually monitored on a periodic basis.

The issue of adaptation is again very much in the Prime minister's statement. I also give you certain examples of adaptation measures that India is taking, in fact, many of our National Programs have actually been in the, in the area of adaptation, whether it is the in the area of Jal Shakti, which is drinking water supply, whether it's in the area of Namami Gange, which is cleaning the main river, which is the river Ganga or it is in terms of the Swach Bharat Abhiyaan, which is a clean India. All of these actually are adaptation measures. Afforestation, revival of degraded land, these are all steps that we are taking which are very, very important in that regard.

The issue of extradition cases is important. I think it has been raised on a number of occasions and the two Prime Ministers agreed that a number of these specific issues would be discussed between our National Security Advisors who are going to meet in London on the third of November. So they would go into detail on all of these issues that are important to the Consular and Security and other aspects of our relationship. And I think that is the level in which you can have the ability and capacity to go into some details.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. That brings us to the end of this special media briefing. I appreciate all you present on a late evening, and also, to those who are joining us from India. Please continue to see our social media handles, as well as our website for updates as we go to the last day of Prime Minister's engagements in Glasgow tomorrow.

Good evening! Namaskar!

Thank you.
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