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Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on the Visit of the Prime Minister of UK to India (April 22, 2022)

April 22, 2022

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us today for this special media briefing on the occasion of the visit of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson who has actually just finished his conversations and talks with our Prime Minister at Hyderabad House. To give us the sense of the discussions as well as take some of your questions, we have the privilege of having Foreign Secretary Sir with us, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Also joining us, our High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Madame Gayatri Issar Kumar, as well as Joint Secretary looking after Europe West division in the Ministry of External Affairs, Shri Sandeep Chakravorty. I will now hand over the floor to Foreign Secretary Sir to give his opening remarks.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Thank you, Arindam and let me also thank our High Commissioner, Smt. Gayatri Kumar, for joining us today. Namaskar and good afternoon! As you know, the Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is on an official visit to India from the 21-22 April. And this visit is taking place at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi ji. This is the first visit of the UK Prime Minister to India in his current capacity. In terms of my readout for the program, as you know, the UK Prime Minister arrived in Ahmedabad yesterday. He commenced his visit from Sabarmati Ashram where he paid respects to the father of the nation. Prime Minister Johnson visited the JCB Plant at the Mhaswad Industrial area in Vadodara. This is one of the most recent investments by the UK in India. And this investment is seen as a considerable one in the area of earthmoving equipment, it also has tremendous export potentialities. The Prime Minister Johnson spoke about the fact that it would produce a number of units that could be also exported to as many as 110 countries. So I think that is an important fact. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also visited the Gujarat Biotechnology University, which is situated in GIFT city in Gandhinagar. University offers Masters and PhD programs in partnership with Edinborough University. He visited the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar and he arrived in New Delhi last night, where he was received by our Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

Today, the Prime Minister of UK was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he inspected a Guard of honour at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He later laid a wreath and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar paid a courtesy call on the UK Prime Minister this morning. Later, both Prime Ministers held bilateral consultations at Hyderabad House. This also enabled them to review the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between our two countries. Prime Minister Modi hosted a banquet lunch in honour of the visiting Prime Minister. Before that, as you're aware, the two Prime Ministers addressed the media at the Hyderabad House.

Aapko thoda sa iss yatra ka context batana chahunga. Jaise maine pehle bataya ki pradhanmantri ke taur par Shri Boris Johnson ji ki pehali bharat yatra hai. Ye yatra aise samay mein ho rahi hai jab bharat aur UK apne sambandho ke 75 varsh poore kar rahe hai aur bharat apani ajadi ki 75 vee varshganth mana raha hai. Ye yatra May 2021 mein ayojit India-UK virtual summit ke ek varsh baad ho rahi hai. Aapko shayad yaad hoga is virtual summit mein bharat aur UK ne apne dvipakshiy sambandho ko ek comprehensive strategic partnership ke starr par le jane ka nirnay kiya tha. Iss summit mein bharat aur UK ke beech agale 10 varsh sahyog badhaane ke liye ambitious roadmap 2030 apanaya gaya hai. Roadmap 2030 mein paanch mahatvapurna kshetron mein joint priorities identify ki gai hai. (Statement made in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I would like to give you some context of this visit. As I have mentioned earlier, that, as Prime Minister, this is the first visit of Mr. Boris Johnson to India. The visit is taking place at the time when India and the UK are completing 75 years of their relationship and India is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its independence. The visit comes a year after the India-UK Virtual Summit which was held in May 2021. You may recall that in the virtual summit, India and the UK had decided to take their bilateral relations to the level of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The summit adopted an ambitious roadmap 2030 to enhance cooperation between India and the UK for the next 10 years. In the roadmap 2030, joint priorities have been identified in five important areas.

In this regard, the main agenda of the visit was on bilateral relations to review the roadmap and focus on its implementation on delivering results. During the bilateral talks, the two leaders appreciated the progress achieved so far in various sectors. In the context of the ongoing FTA negotiations, the main emphasis was on further strengthening trade and economic relations. They noted the progress made on the joint commitments after the Enhanced Trade Partnership, which was launched last year. They appreciated the headway made in the FTA negotiation so far, and mandated the trade teams to work towards completing the FTA by the last quarter of this year 2022. An FTA between the fifth and sixth largest economies of the world is expected to boost economic growth, create new jobs in both countries and double bilateral trade by 2030. Defence and security cooperation was another key focus area for the visit. Both leaders held detailed discussions on opportunities for defence collaborations, particularly co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including in areas such as electric propulsion, modern fighter aircraft, jet engines, complex weapons, subsea radars, etc. In this context, they welcomed the establishment of a mechanism on maritime electric propulsion.

Prime Minister Modi invited British industries to take advantage of India's modern defence ecosystem and ‘Make in India’ to meet the needs of the armed forces of India as well as those of other countries. Prime Minister Modi welcomed the recent UK announcement of an Open General Export License that will significantly facilitate UK’s defence licensing process for India. He also welcomed the open opportunity for Indian defence companies to participate in UK’s new helicopter and naval shipbuilding program. Both sides also agreed on intensifying cooperation in encountering threats in new domains like cyber, cybersecurity, space, artificial intelligence, as well as on strengthening cooperation on counterterrorism and in addressing violent extremism and radicalism.

On cybersecurity, they agreed to enhance the India-UK cybersecurity partnership with the focus on cyber governance, safeguarding critical national infrastructure and building cyber deterrence. In the context of the current global energy price volatility, both Prime Ministers also emphasized cooperation on rapid deployment to renewables, including offshore wind energy, in which UK is a world leader, and in areas like green hydrogen. They also discussed ongoing health collaboration, building on the successful partnership of the Covishield vaccine, Science and Technology Partnership, higher education, migration mobility with other areas that figured in the discussions. The talks provided an opportunity to exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, including cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. India welcomed the UK joining the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative under the maritime security pillar, and agreed to cooperate closely in this region towards their shared commitment for maintaining an open, free and secure Indo-Pacific region.

Prime Minister Modi congratulated Prime Minister Johnson for the successful organization of the United Nations Climate Change Summit, COP 26 in Glasgow in 2021. They reiterated their commitment to climate action to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement and the Glasgow climate pact. The two leaders also discussed the ongoing Ukraine - Russia conflict. Prime Minister expressed deep concern over the ongoing situation and mounting humanitarian crisis. Prime Minister reiterated his call for immediate cessation of violence and conveyed strong advocacy for peaceful resolution of the situation and direct dialogue between the two parties. The two Prime Ministers emphasized the importance of people to people contacts, in particular academic exchanges and the movement of students between the two countries. The Prime Minister invited UK universities to set up campuses in India and British students to study in India. In terms of outcomes, the two sides exchanged an MOU on implementation of the Global Innovation Partnership and an MOU on cooperation on India's Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership. Global Innovation Partnership is a novel development cooperation initiative, which India and the UK agreed to co finance up to US dollars 100 billion to support the transfer and scale Indian innovations to third countries that will help deliver SDGs and climate related goals and in the process make Indian innovations go global. The MOU signed today establishes the new Global Innovation Partnership Fund to implement the program.

Other institution to institution MOUs were also concluded in the margins of the visit, including the MOU on the establishment of a short term chair at Birmingham University signed between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Birmingham City University and between the National Institute of Wind Energy and Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. Besides the joint statement, a separate statement on cyber cooperation is also issued and these would be available on our website shortly.

Yehh yatra ek mahatvapurna samay par ho rahi hai. Bharat UK dvipakshiy sambandhon ne ek nayi gati aur disha prapt ki hai. Yah yatra ne avasar diya hai, pichhli virtual summit ke baad hui pahlon ko aur aage badhaane ka aur saath hi saajha suraksha, samriddhi, shared security and prosperity ke liye kaam karne ka . Aapko sabhi ko mein dhanyavad deta hoon. (statement made in Hindi; Approximate translation) This visit is taking place at a crucial time. India-UK bilateral relations have gained a new direction and momentum. This visit has given an opportunity to take forward the initiatives that were taken after the last virtual summit and at the same time to work for the shared security and prosperity. Thank you all.

We can take some questions.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much Sir for your perspective. The same ground rules, please introduce yourself and your organization.

Madhurendra: Mein Madhurendra News Nation se. Sir aapne jaisa key brief kiya aur UK sambodhan mein hamne suna ki Ukraine crisis par baat hui, khastor par PM ne jo baate kahin ki war jo hai wo khatm hona chahiye. Mera sawal yeh hai ki kya batchit hui khastaur par donon pradhanmantriyon ke beech mein aur kya batchit ke dauran Boris Johnson ke taraf se kya ye dabav bhi dala gaya ki bharat jo sanctions hai unako mane roos ke khilaaf, iske alava aur bhi batchit ke pehlu hai aap bata sakte hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I am from Madhurendra from News Nation. Sir as you briefed on relations with UK, we heard that there was talk on the Ukraine crisis especially that the PM said that the war should end. My question is, what was the conversation, especially between the two Prime Ministers? And whether during the course of the talks, was there any pressure from Boris Johnson that India should accept the sanctions against Russia? Apart from that, can you tell about the other aspects of the talks?

Sudhi Ranjan: Sir, Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg. If you could give us a little bit more clarity on the defence cooperation and in particular joint development of the fighters that you spoke about and also what does India expect UK to be able to do in the Indo-Pacific region, given that it's maybe not as big and that it's a country that's far, far away from the Indo-Pacific.

Sanjay: I'm Sanjay. Prime Minister Johnson had indicated that he had accepted demand for more migration for professionals in UK which has been the stumbling block for FTA. Can you talk about what kind of discussion took place and what India has been demanding and what UK accepted?

Benjamin Parkin: Benjamin Parkin from Financial Times. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would raise "difficult issues” with Prime Minister Modi, what were those issues? Did they involve Ukraine and how long did they discuss them?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Pehle to main Madhurendra ji ko batana chahta hoon ki Ukraine ke mudde par baat hui thi donon pradhanmantriyon ke beech, par ismein koi bhi dabav nahi tha. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ne khud hi bataya ki unke kya khyal the Ukraine ke mudde par aur unke perspective se bataya gaya. Pradhan Mantri Modi ne, jaisa maine bataya, hamari perspective se is mudde par hamare khyal ko bataya. Pradhanmantri Modi ne, jaisa maine bataya, ispe unhone ye saajha kiya hamare taraf se ki hum shanti ki or par hai. Aur hum chahte hai ki dialogue or diplomacy honi chahiye. Dono Russia or Ukraine mein jo ladai ho rahi hai, immediately band hona chahiye, khatm hona chahiye, aur hum chahte hai ki ye conflict jald se jald resolve ho jaye. Toh hamari position bhi kafi clear thi aur isamen kisi tarah ka dabav nahi hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) First of all, I want to tell Madhurendra ji that there was a discussion held on the issue of Ukraine between the two Prime Ministers, but there was no pressure in it. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, from his own perspective, explained his thoughts on the issue of Ukraine. Prime Minister Modi, as I said, explained our thoughts on this issue from our perspective. Prime Minister Modi said that we are on the side of peace. And we want that there should be dialogue and diplomacy. The war between Russia and Ukraine should stop immediately, and we want this conflict to be resolved as soon as possible. So our position was quite clear and there was no pressure in it.

Defence cooperation, I think you wanted me to elaborate on this. I think both sides felt that the defence and security was an important area of potential cooperation. As I told you, UK’s recent announcement about providing an Open General License for the export of equipment and technologies to India, I think has been a welcome development. There was a discussion on what we could do, I mentioned some of the areas that we discussed, electric propulsion systems that can be used by naval ships, also, some work on jet propulsion systems, the aviation sector, underwater sea domain, etc. But I think what is important was that both sides agreed that we would facilitate the meetings between our concerned Scientists, in other words, the focus is on co-development and co-production, in keeping with our initiative of ‘Make in India’ and our policy of ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat’. The idea was that there would be greater emphasis on two salient features, which is basically production in India and transfer of technology, using this not only to meet our needs, but to meet global requirements in terms of defence items. So what we're looking at is a combination of UK’s technology and our production base to make it a win- win situation. And in that context, both sides decided that we'd facilitate the exchange of the relevant scientists who work on these programs between our two countries; the relevant industrialists who work in these countries; and also that there would be exchanges at the levels of the NSAs, who would also oversee and direct this sector.

I think Sanjay Ji had a question on the student’s mobility. Of course, this is a very important part because when we talk about People to People contacts that bridge between our two countries, I think that both Prime Ministers gave a lot of importance to that connect between our two countries. And in that context, you know, reference is made to the easier mobility between our two countries specifically for students, for professionals. Prime Minister referred to the fact that universities could be set up for example, in GIFT city, where it would be treated as a foreign university in India, but that UK universities could also consider setting up their branches in India. At the same time, we encouraged UK students to also study in India, and of course, we are aware that a lot of Indian students are looking at UK as an attractive destination for higher studies. But it was also felt that there should be greater mobility for them, the ability for professionals and students also to look at opportunities in the UK, again, that could meet the needs of both countries on a mutually beneficial basis.

I think from the Financial Times, you had a question on Ukraine. I just responded to this in Hindi a short while earlier. What I said was the issue was discussed. Prime Minister Johnson provided his perspective, how he saw the conflict, he also visited Ukraine recently. Prime Minister Modi as I mentioned earlier in my opening remarks, spoke about the fact that India has always strongly advocated a cessation of violence, stop of the current conflict and resolution of the conflict in a manner that is satisfactory and in that context, he said India stands for peace, India’s stand has always been for diplomacy and dialogue. And of course, we do everything possible to facilitate that, in that context. So, I think the conversation was a very, very I would say, useful exchange between both sides, it was on very convivial terms and I think both sides had agreed that they had points of view and these were, I think, greatly respected on either side.

Neeraj: Sir Neeraj hoon News 18 India se, ek pehla sawal yeh hai ki economic offender jo hai unpar kya charcha hui donon pradhanmantriyon ke beech mein, bharat ne apni maang ko kis tarah se doharaya aur ye khalistani andolan, jo beech beech mein britain main bharat virodhi kuch cheezen hoti rehti hai unpar bharat ne apna paksh kaise rakha ? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir I am Neeraj from News 18 India, my first questions is, what was the discussion on the issue of economic offenders between the two Prime Ministers, how did India reiterate its demand? And on Khalistani movement, how did India put forth its stand on the issue of anti-India activities that keep happening in Britain?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: So, on the issue of economic offenders, I think you're aware that we have been pursuing this matter for some time at different levels with the UK. Our objective is to bring back those economic fugitives who are wanted in India to face justice in the country. And the matter did come up in today's talks. It was conveyed that this is high priority.

Hamari taraf se puri tarah UK side ko bataya gaya ki yah hamare liye ek mahatvapoorn mudda hai aur jo economic offenders hai jo abhi UK mein hai unka jaldi se jaldi vapas bharat aana jaruri hai hamare justice system ke perspective se. Pradhanmantri Johnson ne bataya ki yah mudde unke liye bhi mahatvapurna hai ki woh dekhenge ye mamalon par jarur review karenge . (Answered in Hindi; Approximate translation) From our side, the UK side was told that this is an important issue for us and the economic offenders who are currently in the UK must come back to India as soon as possible from the perspective of our justice system. Prime Minister Johnson said that this issue is also important for him and that he will definitely review these matters.

Prime Minister Johnson, he took note of the point raised by us and he indicated that he was very sensitive to Indian concerns in this regard and that he would see what he could do. I mean, I'm responding to also the issue of, you mentioned, Khalistani anti India activists, who take advantage of freedoms that are offered by democracy such as ours. And in that context, I think this point was raised quite clearly and I think Prime Minister Johnson, as I said, took careful note of that. He said that he was very sensitive to our concerns in this regard. And that he would have a close look at that. As far as he was concerned there was zero tolerance for such people who create issues and that could impact on the relationship between both our countries.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much Sir for your responses and presentations. I also like to thank High Commissioner Gayatri Kumar, as well as Joint Secretary Sandeep Chakravorty. Thank you all for joining us. Good afternoon.

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