Transcript of Media Briefing on Prime Minister's forthcoming visits to China, Mongolia and Republic of Korea (May 12, 2015)

May 13, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Good evening and welcome to this briefing on Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to China, Mongolia and South Korea. I have with me today Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar. We have Mr. Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East). And of course I have Mr. Pradeep Rawat, Joint Secretary (EA) who coincidentally happens to handle all three countries.

The format will be, we will have Foreign Secretary making an opening statement on the Prime Minister’s visit to China, then we will have Secretary (East) explaining details on Prime Minister’s visit to Mongolia and South Korea, and thereafter we will open up to questions only on these three visits.

With that, the floor is yours, Sir.

Foreign Secretary (Dr. S. Jaishankar): Prime Minister would be visiting China, Mongolia and South Korea from the 14th to the 19thof this month. This is his first visit to China as Prime Minister. I think most of you know that he has been there earlier when he was Chief Minister. I believe it is his first to Mongolia but it is a first ever by a Prime Minister of India to Mongolia. What we will do today is, I will speak on the China part of the visit, and my colleague Mr. Wadhwa will speak on the Mongolia and South Korea legs of the visit.

Where China is concerned, Prime Minister’s visit will begin with his arrival in Xian. Xian is the hometown of President Xi Jinping. The Prime Minister would be having his summit meeting with President Xi in Xian that afternoon. He will be visiting some places of cultural interest in Xian. Some of them are very famous sites which are associated with Chinese history and civilisation.

He would travel from Xian to Beijing on the 14th late in the evening. On the 15th he would be formally welcomed in Beijing by Premier Li Keqiang. He will be holding talks with the Premier and his delegation. We will also be signing a number of agreements at the conclusion of the talks.

One noteworthy feature of the Prime Minister’s stay in Beijing would be the first meeting of the India-China State and Provincial Leaders’ Forum. So, we will be having Chief Ministers and Mayors present on that occasion, both Indian and Chinese. There will be some cultural events, some of them quite interesting, in Beijing. Among them a Yoga-Tai Chi joint event at the Temple of Heaven.

Then the Prime Minister moves on to Shanghai. That is primarily a business stop. He would be having interaction with Chinese CEOs. He is addressing a business gathering. We expect business agreements to be signed. He will also be visiting Fudan University and inaugurating a Centre for Gandhian Studies there. So, that is broadly the programme outline.

In terms of the relationship, I think most of you are familiar with the bilateral relationship with China. You may expect that a full range of political issues would be discussed – bilateral ties, regional issues, multilateral issues. Not just political matters but economic issues will also come up, issues relating to trade, to investment, to our collaboration on infrastructure projects, and I think a broader set of sort of people-to-people contact related issues, tourism, travel, local level contacts.

In the course of the visit, other than the formal occasions the Prime Minister would be delivering one public address at the Tsinghua University in Beijing. He will also be addressing a community function in Shanghai. So, that is broadly the China leg. I would request my colleague Mr. Wadhwa to speak about the other two countries.

Secretary (East) (Shri Anil Wadhwa): Let me begin with Mongolia and the programme for Mongolia. The programme for Mongolia starts on the 17thof May and the first stop for the Prime Minister would be the Gandan Monastery where there would be a gift of the Bodhi Tree sampling to the Chief Abbott of the Monastery. Following that we have the normal talks with the Prime Minister of Mongolia after which there would be the usual signing ceremony of the agreements several of which are going to be signed.

There is a rare honour being bestowed on our Prime Minister because this is for the first time on a holiday the Parliament of Mongolia is going to allow a foreign leader to speak and address the membership there. And of course this will be preceded by a meeting with the Speaker of the Mongolian Parliament.

Following the address to the Mongolian Parliament, we have a meeting with the President of Mongolia, and a luncheon banquet which will be hosted by the President of Mongolia. There is a ceremony for laying a foundation stone for a proposed Information Technology Centre which follows thereafter.

The Prime Minister will also attend a mini Naadam festival which includes a display of horse racing, traditional wrestling and archery. This performance will be in an open area. After that he would also address a community reception in Ulan Bator. This is followed by a dinner banquet. After that the Prime Minister would depart Mongolia. It is a day long programme.

As far as the agreements with Mongolia are concerned, there would be a cooperation in the field of application of nuclear technology for curing of cancer in the National Cancer Centre of Mongolia for which we are gifting a Bhabhatron. There would be a cooperation in solar and wind energy. And also we are setting up a joint Indo-Mongolian School in Ulan Bator which is a proposal which has been talked about for quite some years now but it has fructified now.

There will be cooperation in the field of traditional systems of medicine and homeopathy, also a linkage which will be established for direct contacts, regular contacts between the Foreign Offices of the two countries, National Security Councils of the two countries, cooperation in cyber security, border management, and of course the cooperation in culture. We will also be signing an agreement possibly, an air services agreement, between the two countries, as well as on animal health and dairy, besides the training of diplomats. These are the broad areas of cooperation.

What is most important is that this is the first ever visit of Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia, and it takes place in the backdrop of celebrations of the 25th year of democracy in Mongolia and 60 years of our diplomatic relations.

With Mongolia of course we have a strong linkage of Buddhism and democracy. We were the first country outside the Soviet bloc to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia. So, this will be a good occasion for stock taking, identifying new priority areas in our bilateral cooperation.

I would also like to mention here that we issued a Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership in 2009 with Mongolia. And a very important agreement was signed in 1994, it is called the Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation, which we will relook at and possibly renew.

Our economic engagement with Mongolia is minimal but there is excellent potential for cooperation in the minerals sector. Mongolia is a mineral rich country in coking coal, copper, rare earths and uranium. We already have a civil nuclear agreement which provides for uranium exports to India once the domestic laws in Mongolia permit prospecting and mining. And also there is desire on both sides to take this forward. We will also explore possibilities of imports of Cashmere wool and also in the healthcare sector.

There is good cooperation as far as training with Mongolia is concerned. There are 150 slots every year which are earmarked to Mongolia under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme. Besides that, of course we also provide 40 scholarships per year to Mongolian nationals for higher studies in India. Two to four students also come to study Hindi at our Kendriya Hindi Sansthan in Agra every year.

Hindi films are very popular in Mongolia. The serials like Mahabharat, dubbed in Mongolian, have been telecast regularly on Ulan Bator television. Also we have regular exchanges of cultural troupes between the two countries.

Let me now quickly move on to the Republic of Korea. As far as Republic of Korea is concerned, Prime Minister will arrive there on the 18th of May. He will depart on the morning of the 18th of May and arrive in the Republic of Korea. As soon as he arrives, there would be a wreath-laying ceremony at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Thereafter there would be an Indian community reception where about at least 1500 members of the Indian community are expected to attend. Thereafter there will be an official welcoming ceremony followed by official bilateral talks between the two countries, followed by the signing of agreements, a press statement, and thereafter a banquet dinner which will be hosted by the President Park Geun-hye in the evening.

On the next day which is the 19thof May, the Prime Minister would participate in the 6th Asian Leadership Conference which is being organised by the Chosun Ilbo group, and it would also have the presence of President Park Geun-hye as well as our Prime Minister.

Thereafter there would be a visit to Cheonggyecheon Stream which is a stream which was cleaned up and it is a model for similar projects around the world. The Mayor of Seoul, the Minister of Construction, etc., will accompany the Prime Minister for a quick tour and also a look at the photo exhibition.

There would be a business event thereafter and there would be an India-Republic of Korea CEOs Forum, which actually would be attended also again by President Park Guen-hye besides the Prime Minister. This will be followed by some meetings with the top CEOs of Korean companies which are willing to invest in India or have already invested in India.

There would be an interaction with Friends of India in South Korea as well. As you know, there are a number of institutions there which have been associated with us for a very long time and have worked very hard to bring up this relationship to the level that it is at the moment.

There would be finally a visit to the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard given the fact that shipbuilding is an important area of cooperation between the two countries, for which the Prime Minister will have to travel to Ulsan from where he would depart back to New Delhi. That is in short the programme in the Republic of Korea.

As far as the areas of cooperation there are concerned, I think I have already mentioned to you that there is an emphasis on our bilateral economic and trade cooperation. This is a very important visit from that perspective. Therefore, besides the signature of a Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, there would be cooperation which would be looked at in the areas of shipping and logistics, audiovisual coproduction, in the area of transport, highways, etc., cooperation in electric power development in new energy industries, also arrangements between the National Security Councils of the two countries, enhancement of ties between the youth of the two countries, as well as looking at how best we can utilise credit on both sides for new projects that could be undertaken.

In this regard let me just mention very quickly that this is the first state visit to be exchanged between India and the Republic of Korea since the change of government in India. The Prime Minister and President Park have already spoken to each other, they have met on the sidelines of international meetings. Recently we also had a visit by the Speaker of the Republic of Korea from 7th to 10th of May. Raksha Mantri was in Republic of Korea from 15th to 18thof April.

With Korea again we have historical ties through Buddhism. And Koreans fondly remember Tagore’s poem characterising Korea as the Lamp of the East. We have a number of historical linkages, the most important one being the marriage of a Princess from Ayodhya who is supposed to have married a King from Korea in 48 AD, and therefore a number of South Koreans call themselves relatives of Indian nationals as well. Along with this, we have shared values of democracy and liberalism besides the common legacy of Buddhism and also our cultural contacts.

Bilateral trade is doing well at about USD 16 billion. There are 300 Korean companies who invested about USD 3 billion in India. They employ about 40,000 workers here. Similarly our own investment in Republic of Korea is close to USD 2 billion, and our industry looks forward to greater access in the Republic of Korea to pharmaceutical and IT products. So, we look forward very much to strengthening our cooperation in the areas of shipbuilding, in infrastructure, IT, science and technology, also improving on people-to-people contacts and space cooperation, etc.

Most importantly, I think it is important that ‘Make, Market and Research in India’ is given emphasis during the visit. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson:With that, the floor is now open. I will just set some ground rules. Given the fact that we have a full house and there are limitations on the time that Foreign Secretary and Secretary (East) can spare, please restrict yourself to just one question each.

Question (Seema Guha, Freelance Journalist): Foreign Secretary, I just want to ask you what is India’s view on the Chinese silk route and maritime route initiative? Do we want to join it? What are our views on that? Are we welcoming it?

Foreign Secretary:It is their initiative, so I think it is not for us to welcome it or not welcome it. It is something which is there on the table. To the best of our knowledge we have not really had a detailed discussion on this subject.

Question (Ashwini Phadnis, The Hindu Business Line): I just wanted to check, you mentioned that in Shanghai the Prime Minister will be at a meeting of CEOs and we are expecting some business agreements to be signed. Is there any clarity on whether there will be agreements between the governments or there will be industrialists from India signing agreements with industrialists in China?

Foreign Secretary:My understanding is that there will be inter-governmental agreements, those would be signed in Beijing; and the business agreements would be signed in Shanghai at the business event.

Question (Naz Asghar, United News of India): Do you expect any progress on the border issue during the Prime Minister’s visit to China?

Foreign Secretary:I think our expectations are that all important issues pertaining to bilateral, regional and multilateral issues would be discussed. So you can reasonably imagine that this would be covered. But exactly what would be the progress or outcomes, I would not be in a position to predict.

Question (Asif, In Dino): Mongolia ke andar jo hamaare agreements ho rahe hain, yeh kitne agreements ho rahe hain total? Aur aapne abhi kaha ki uranium bhi unke paas hai. Toy uspar bhi kuchh hona hai?

Secretary (East): Jahan tak uranium agreement ka savaal hai, 2009 mein voh agreement already sign ho chuki hai. Uske exports tabhi start ho sakte hain jab mining rights khul jayein aur Mongolian government usko export karne ke kaabil ban jaye. Toh hamaara cooperation agreement already in place hai. Aur hum log science and technology mein Mongolia ke saath kayi dusre fields mein bhi kaam kar rahe hain.

Jaisa ki main ne aapko bataaya, us mein cancer research hai, nuclear applications hai, information technology hai. Toh in areas mein unke saath kaam kar rahe hain. Aur abhi tak main aapko exact number toh nahin de sakta kyon ki abhi tak jab hum yahan par baat kar rahe hain toh kuchh agreements abhi bhi finalise ho rahe hain. Lekin substantial number of agreements sign honge.

Question (Ranjit Kumar, Navbharat Times): China has not yet extended support to India for India’s entry into various nuclear control regimes. Would the Prime Minister be raising these issues when he talks to the Prime Minister of China?

Foreign Secretary:The issue of, and this is not just China it is something which is with many countries, their supporting our entry into the four export control regimes is something which often comes up in discussions because it is a goal which has a certain value for us in the near term especially. So it is conceivable it could come up.

Question (Manish Jha, India TV): Jis samay Chinese President yahan aaye thei toh hamaare Videsh Mantri ne kaha tha ki hum jaise One China Policy ka samman karte hain vaise hi unhein One India Policy ko samman karna chahiye. Kya is baar jab Prime Minister jayenge toh usi firm stand ke saath jayenge ki One India policy ke tahat hi baat hogi ya sirf business aur culture ki baat hogi?

Foreign Secretary:Joint Statement niklega toh mere khyal seyou will be to see it for yourself.

Question (Vineeta, The Pioneer): You talked about the first leadership forum of Chief Ministers of India and China. Who are the Chief Ministers going and what is the concept?

Foreign Secretary:The concept is that it is possible to cooperate between countries at different levels. You can cooperate at a national, central level but there will be many issues where you would have cooperation. You can have cooperation at the Provincial level, you can have cooperation at the city level. So with China we actually have some history where there has been an exchange of visits at the State level. A number of Chief Ministers have been to China, a number of their Chief Minister equivalents have been to India, and Prime Minister himself had actually gone to China as part of that programme.

Now what we are trying to do is to create a forum where Chief Ministers and Mayors, because those are the two operative levels in a sense of people who travel, are able to meet regularly with counterparts and see how they can develop those linkages. Many countries have used this very successfully. If you see China and Japan, China-US, Europe, this is a mechanism which has worked very well. So we think if it has worked well with other people and we made progress, it is perhaps a good idea to make it into a sort of standing forum.

In terms of the Chief Ministers, I think the Chief Minister of Gujarat and Maharashtra are the two Chief Ministers who are likely to be there.

Question (Stacy, Hong Kong Phoenix TV): We see the trade deficit is a huge problem for India. Now we see the trade deficit is over USD 48 billion, and this time according to the Chinese Ambassador Le Yucheng, Modi would sign around USD 10 billion investments during this visit. USD 10 billion is not a small amount, but compared with the huge trade deficit actually there is a big difference. How do you read the gap?

Foreign Secretary:You want me to give you a trade solution or you want me to comment on the Ambassador’s comment?

Question (Stacy, Hong Kong Phoenix TV): I want to know how India sees the huge difference between the trade deficit and the investment you have so far received from China.

Foreign Secretary:With China the trade deficit has two answers – one is on the trade side, one is on the investment side. On the trade side, we think it is completely conceivable that China imports more from India. There are many areas where India is globally competitive but somehow we have not been able to be successful in the Chinese market. Two very often cited examples are Indian pharmaceuticals and Indian IT enabled services. Both these are areas where India has a very successful global footprint, but that footprint has not extended to China. Even on something much less technology-embedded like say agricultural products, we have really struggled for a number of years to gain access to the Chinese market. So I think part of the solution to trade has to be found by more enlightened regulatory practices which would create a better trade balance.

The other part of it relates to investment where it is a general assumption that when you have investment, investments have an impact on trade, that they generate trade flows backwards. But what I would say is that even in investment it is good to have more two-way investment. Clearly more investment would help trade, but more trade would be better for trade.

Question (Niharika Mandhana, The Wall Street Journal):I wonder if you expect the issue of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to come up in talks particularly as it might relate to Kashmir?

Foreign Secretary:We will let you know if that happens.

Question (Elizabeth Roche, Mint): My question is with reference to POSCO. I am just wondering if this trip is likely to see any breakthrough on that because it is a project which has been pending for a long time for various reasons including land acquisition. Any progress?

Secretary (East):As far as POSCO is concerned there has been considerable progress which has been made recently. The POSCO company authorities, relevant Ministries and State Government of Odisha are in regular touch with each other, they are having a regular dialogue. POSCO is one of the projects which is there but then the company of course as other projects in India as you know which are also making progress. Of course these are all ongoing issues, so they will figure in talks or discussions. If there is something which happens by way of a breakthrough, of course it will be evident.

Question (Mukesh Kaushik, United News of India): When President Xi visited India in September, Prime Minister Modi suggested that clarification of LAC is a must to move on boundary issue. Has there been any forward movement on that front? And a related question, would the Northern Army Commander be a part of the Prime Minister’s delegation or would he be travelling to China separately?

Foreign Secretary:The last round of border discussions took place when the Special Representatives met in March. That was the 18th round, it was the first round after this Government came into office. What is happening on the border is discussions take place but until and unless they reach a stage when there is a degree of finality about it, generally you do not give interim readouts publicly.

In terms of the Prime Minister’s delegation, normally Prime Minister’s delegations do not include military officers and that is not the case on this occasion.

Question (Gautam Lahiri, Sangbad Pratidin): Whenever the Chinese and India leadership meets, after they issue the Joint Statement we find a paragraph on BCIM Corridor. What is the status of that corridor? Would there be forward movement on that in this visit?

Foreign Secretary:The BCIM Corridor, my recollection was agreed to about two years ago. That is my broad recollection. I think it is still at a stage when conceptual discussions are going on. So I am not sure whether we really have anything new to report on this. I think the progress so far, it was agreed that we would create a Study Group. So I think the Study Group is still working on it.

Question (Vishal Thapar, NewsX): During his recent visit to Pakistan, President Xi Jinping had announced huge infrastructure projects through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. What is India’s position on China constructing infrastructure projects in the occupied territory? Is India okay by it?

Foreign Secretary:The matter has been taken up with the Chinese Government through diplomatic channels.

Question (Pradeep Kumar, Business Economist): Will the issues of Dalai Lama and Arunachal be discussed or will those issues be left in a very insignificant way?

Foreign Secretary:Do not ask me to predict what would be discussed and what would not be discussed. I think bilateral relations and their progress, their prospects, their challenges, these will naturally come up. But I think at this stage if you were to ask me would issue X would be discussed, it is very hard for me to give you a yes or no answer.

Question (Pranay Upadhyay, IBN): Much has been discussed about the e-visa facility. Will there be any breakthrough on this because Chinese have been asking about the e-visa facility being extended to Chinese citizens?

Foreign Secretary:The e-visa facility is something which we are rolling out as a calibrated programme. We had a few countries at the start, we did a few more, we are adding to them as we go along. Whenever we look at whether we should be extending it further, there are issues. Part of it are our own issues of our ability to expand it very rapidly. This of course is very much our decision. Every country reserves the right to run its own visa regime. I think we will have to see whether that is something that can be considered or not. I am really not in a position to say anything to you on this matter right now.

Question (Akhilesh Suman, Rajya Sabha TV): Koreans have been very much interested in free trade agreement with India for a long time. Do you think that in this visit something is going to come out?

Secretary (East):The issue of the review of the CEPA with Korea has been under discussion for some time. If you recall, when we had the last Presidential visit from South Korea we agreed that we would look at that in real earnestness, and those discussions have been ongoing. There is a joint working group which looks at those issues. There is a Ministerial delegation which is also supposed to visit. If they are satisfied with the performance and the review of the joint working group, then of course a larger review of the agreement would be undertaken. All I would say is the process is ongoing and it will continue for some time.

Question (Anchal Vohra, CNN-IBN): We have trade deficit with South Korea as well. Will any talks happen on that front? I have spoken to the South Korean Ambassador and he says unless India makes in India more, there is no way out of it.

Secretary (East):That is a fact. If India makes more and it has products to export to South Korea, definitely we will be able to bridge the gap. We have identified the problems to a certain extent. There are certain commodities that we are able to export; the others we are seeking market access. As I said in my answer to the previous question, this is an ongoing process and the review is on at the moment. A review of the CEPA itself would be undertaken once the results of the working group and the Ministerial visit come to us, and it will be clear at that point of time.

Question (Suhasini Haidar,CNN-IBN):Foreign Secretary, I did have a question about nuclear cooperation with China but I would like to drop that given your answer to Vishal Thapar’s question.

At what level, where did we take up the issue of China’s projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, and has China given us any indication that they may reconsider what is clearly a sensitive issue with India?

Foreign Secretary:It was taken up with the Chinese Ambassador in Delhi, and that is really as much as I can say.

Question (Srinjoy Chowdhury, Times Now): RM was scheduled to be in Tawang on the second of this month and top military officials are in Tawang today. Was this planned deliberately to have RM before the Prime Minister’s visit in Tawang? Since you know that there have been always complaints from the Chinese side about Arunachal, and assuming that this issue will come up or it may have come up, what is our answer going to be?

Foreign Secretary:Before I reply to this, I just wanted to confirm to Suhasini it was also taken up by our Ambassador in Beijing.

On your question about RM, I did not know that he was in Tawang but to me it is a completely natural happening. Tawang is part of Arunachal Pradesh which is part of India. So Defence Ministers go. There is no particular reason why the Foreign Secretary should be looking at it.

Question (Devadeep Chowdhury, Sankei Shimbun): High-speed railway is a priority right now for the Indian Government. Are we talking to the Chinese to collaborate in this particular regard? Is this issue going to be coming up?

Foreign Secretary:Railway cooperation is something which is under discussion with the Chinese. In fact that is one area there has been a lot of progress. It involves a very broad spectrum of railway related issues from station development to speed raising, to heavy haulage. My understanding is that there have been discussions with the Chinese on high-speed railway, but beyond that I am not sure whether matters have progressed.

Official Spokesperson:I would like to thank the Foreign Secretary, Secretary (East), and JS (EA) for being here today. This concludes the press briefing on Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to China, Mongolia and South Korea. Thank you all.



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