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Briefing by Foreign Secretary on forthcoming visit of Prime Minister to USA and France and by Secretary (West) on the forthcoming India-EU Summit

New Delhi 
September 19, 2008

MEA Official Spokesperson (Shri Vishnu Prakash): Good evening and welcome. We have Foreign Secretary here to brief you about the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister to USA and France. To his right is Secretary (West) Mr. Nalin Surie who would be briefing you about the India-EU Summit. To Foreign Secretary’s left is Special Secretary (Political) Mr. Vivek Katju. After the opening remarks, Foreign Secretary and Secretary (West) would be taking a few questions. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary (Shri Shivshankar Menon): Good afternoon. We thought we would brief you on the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to the United Nations General Assembly to Washington DC and thereafter to the EU Summit in France which Secretary (West) Mr. Nalin Surie will tell you about; and the Indo-French Summit in Paris on 30th.

Prime Minister will be leaving Delhi on Monday. He will be in the US from the 23rd to the 27th. He will be attending a high-level segment of the United Nations General Assembly which takes place that week; and will be in Washington DC on the 25th on a day’s visit. In New York, the Prime Minister will address the General Assembly on the 26th afternoon. He will also be meeting with other world leaders on the sidelines of the UNGA. He will participate also in the high-level summit on the Millennium Development Goals which is taking place on the 25th. So, he will attend that on 25th morning and then go to Washington DC.

There are a series of high-level events being held at the UN during this week actually. There is a high-level event on Africa’s Development Needs on the 22nd; there is the event on MDGs, which I mentioned to you, on the 25th which Prime Minister will be participating; there is a Commonwealth Ministerial meeting; India will be represented at very high levels at these meetings.

For India, this Session of the General Assembly is a significant one. The theme for the general debate is impact on the global food crisis on poverty and hunger in the world as well as, the need to democratize the United Nations. Both these are themes which are very important to us and which will be addressed by the Prime Minister when speaks to the General Assembly on the 26th. 

For us our priorities are combating key global challenges, combating terrorism, promoting verifiable and comprehensive nuclear disarmament, poverty eradication, which I told you is one of the major things, sustainable development, and reform of the United Nations, which we think is necessary to democratize it, make it genuinely representative, and enable UN to play its constructive and positive role. 

In the working visit to Washington on the 25th of September, Prime Minister will be meeting President Bush and carrying on the conversation from their last meeting at Hokkaido during the G-8 Summit. There have been a series of bilateral contacts since then, as you know, on a variety of bilateral and global issues. We expect the two leaders to review the progress and the implementation of the wide range of initiatives that we have been taking in the last few years which had transformed the relationship between India and the US. Thereafter when he returns to New York he will also be meeting with the Indian community and, as I said, meeting with other world leaders.

He will then go to France where on 29th there is the India-EU Summit, which I will ask Secretary (West) to tell you about, which will be followed by the Indo-French Summit with President Sarkozy in Paris on the 30th. This is an annual feature. As you remember, President Sarkozy was here in January 2008. We are holding this Summit in order to review progress on all the subjects that that we had covered and that we have been working on. France is a strategic partner for us. It is important to us in several areas. We will naturally exchange views on the bilateral relationship and what more we could be doing together, but also on recent developments in the world affairs. But maybe I should wait for your questions before telling you more about that.

I will hand you over to Secretary (West) to tell you about the India-EU Summit and then we will be happy to take your questions.

SECRETARY (WEST) (SHRI NALIN SURIE): I think I will rather hear more but I will sort of say my piece.

The 9th India-EU Summit will be held in Marseilles on the 29th of this month. Prime Minister will lead the delegation. He will be accompanied by CIM, National Security Advisor, and the Principal Secretary. The European Union will be represented by President Sarkozy in his capacity as the President of the European Council. He in turn will be accompanied by the President of the European Commission Mr. Barroso, the former Portuguese Head of State. The EU delegation will also include Mr. Javier Solana, the High Representative of Foreign and Security Policy; Mr. Mendelson, the Trade Commissioner; and the French Foreign Minister Mr. Kouchner.

As you all know, the last Summit was held in Delhi in November, 2007, at which time both sides had reaffirmed their determination to further strengthen the strategic partnership and to cooperate at the global level for the cause of peace, security and development. Both India and the EU member states are vibrant democracies and our fundamental belief in and commitment to democracy, pluralism, rule of law and multilateralism makes us natural partners.

India was amongst the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the then European Economic Community in the early 1960s. In recent years, in particular after the adoption of the India-US strategic partnership of 2004, the relationship has intensified and evolved to cover a variety of issues of bilateral, regional and multilateral importance. The level of interaction since 2000 is at Summit level. This has qualitatively transformed the manner in which India and the EU engaged with each other. We also have regular exchanges at ministerial, official, parliamentary and civil society levels. This has helped widen and deepen the partnership.

At the 6th Summit in 2005, you will recall that a Comprehensive Joint Action Plan setting out a roadmap for India and EU interaction had been entered into. This represented a change from what used to be a purely trade-driven relationship to one covering diverse areas of interaction. As you all know, it is a very large plan and runs into many pages. It is on the Internet, if you would like to see it again. The Action Plan has been in operation for the last three years and has been reviewed in preparation for the Marseilles Summit. A revised Joint Action Plan updating and exchanging the areas of partnership will be issued at the Summit.

At the 7th Summit in Helsinki in 2006, we had agreed to launch negotiations on India-EU broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement. Negotiations began last year; several rounds have taken place; and progress has been made in several areas covered in that agreement. Our trade and economic relations with the European Union are complementary rather than competitive. The EU is not only India’s largest trading partner, it is also a major source of foreign direct investment and of high technology. Bilateral trade has grown at about 15 per cent per year in the last six years and crossed 55.6 billion Euro in 2007. We are important investment partners and these flows are two-way, direct investment from the EU averaged 2.2 billion Euro in the period 2004-2006; but it jumped to 10.9 billion Euro in 2007. In recent years, our investment in Europe has also gone up. In fact, last year it soared to 9.5 billion Euro.

The Marseilles Summit is part of India’s continuing dialogue with the EU and will enable discussion at the highest level to strengthen our strategic partnership in areas of mutual interest. At the Summit we expect to issue a document elaborating the review of the JAP; adopt a joint work programme on energy, clean development, and climate change; sign the India-EU horizontal Civil Aviation Agreement; and issue a Joint Press Communique to reflect on the outcome of the discussions.

Finally, this Summit will be followed by an India-EU Business Summit in Paris on the 30th of September, which will be after the bilateral Summit. Thank you.

Question: Mr. Burns while answering a question said on fuel supply said that we stand by what President Bush said that this is his political commitment. What is your response to that? Just a clarification but if there were to be a dispute between the two countries on 123 agreement, is there some kind of international mechanism that would address that?

Foreign Secretary: We are not going to comment on their internal political process. Let them go through that process and then we will tell you. We told you our views right in the beginning of this process that as far as we are concerned, it is the 123 when it enters into force which will govern the relationship. Because, as I said, we are not going to participate in their internal political process nor are we going to comment on everything that happens in that process.

Question: What if there is a dispute? 

Foreign Secretary: Read the Agreement.

Question: I have a question on the United Nations. The Open-Ended Working Group which has recommended that expansion of the UN Security Council ….(inaudible)…. should be thrown open to the General Assembly. What are we going to be doing at this particular session of the UNGA? Is anything … (inaudible)…. for brightening India’s prospects?

Foreign Secretary: I will ask Mr. Katju to answer that because he knows it in great detail.

Special Secretary (Political) (Shri Vivek Katju): As we know, for the last fifteen years discussions on the Security Council reform have been taking place in the Open-Ended Working Group. On this occasion, the GA adopted a resolution which says that inter-governmental negotiations should begin no later than the 28th of February. For the last fifteen years there have been discussions and now we are moving to the stage of inter-governmental negotiations. That certainly means progress.

Question: What would it essentially mean in terms of the progress in the dialogue?

Secretary (Political): It is difficult to speculate on how inter-governmental negotiations progress. They have to begin first. Once they begin then we will see how they move.

Foreign Secretary: I think the simplest answer is that we are happy at the progress that we have moved forward. But we cannot predict how long the negotiations will take. That is a matter for all the countries involved. That is almost two hundred countries.

Question: How long do you think …

Foreign Secretary: We would like it as quickly as possible. 

Question: Is the Prime Minister going to be meeting Asif Zardari? Also, is he going to be meeting Chinese President in the US? There were some reports that has Pakistan come out with any new idea on …(inaudible)… ?

Foreign Secretary: We are working on the bilateral meetings. Yes, we are working on the meeting with the President of Pakistan; we are also working on a meeting with the Premier of China. The precise dates and times, we have to tell you a little later because still they are being worked out. It is a very tight programme. But we are working on both those meetings.

Question: Mr. Menon, I just heard what you said about working on the dates. It would be nice if you could give us a sense of what India’s message would be when they meet President Zardari. Secondly, there were some reports that perhaps there are delays in starting cross-border trade. Are these reports correct? Are we concerned about some delays from the Pakistani end?

Foreign Secretary: On the first question, our agenda with Pakistan is fairly well-known. It is out in the open. We feel that for our dialogue process to move forward, ideally we should be in an atmosphere free of violence and terror but we need to move that dialogue forward in our mutual interest but we need to demonstrate a commitment to the various promises that we made before and our ability therefore, for instance, to prevent ceasefire violations or cross-border terrorism for that matter. So, our agenda is well-known and I think that is what we hope will be advanced as a result of the meeting.

On cross-LoC trade, we have agreed with Pakistan that we will hold a meeting of the cross-LoC trade Expert Group in Delhi on the 22nd. So, they will be coming here to discuss that. We have been keen since April 2005 actually when we first suggested that we open up the LoC to trade both Srinagar-Muzaffarabad, also Poonch-Rawalakot, and ideally also Skardu-Kargil in the North. We had exchanged with the Pakistani side a list of commodities that we will be ready to receive and they have given us a list of what they could. But those details would now need to be worked out when this Group meets again on the 22nd. Actually about two years ago we had invited a delegation of businessmen from the other side to come to Jammu, to Srinagar, and then thereafter for us to send delegations from our Chambers on our side to their side. Unfortunately, so far Pakistan has not yet agreed to that. We are hoping to do that as quickly as possible because that will really make the trade meaningful. We would like it to start as soon as possible. We have said before that we will be ready from the beginning of October to carry on the trade.

Question: Why has not Pakistan agreed?

Foreign Secretary: You have to ask them. 

Question: Mr. Menon, how do you react to the allegation by International Science and International Security that India divulged sensitive nuclear technology for unscrupulous elements?

Foreign Secretary: I think it is rubbish. It is an allegation that we have seen before. We saw it I think two years ago, in 2006 I remember when they trotted the same thing out and we made it quite clear that it was rubbish then. It is still rubbish today.

Question: When the Prime Minister meets President Sarkozy, are we seeing signing of the India-French nuclear agreement irrespective of the outcome in Washington? Foreign Secretary: We are working on the being able to sign the agreement during the visit. We are still working out the details. I think both sides are doing their own procedures and are working on that.

Question: Yesterday Mr. Qureshi said that there are some hiccups in the Indo-Pak relationship. Do you agree with that statement? If you do, can you tell us what the hiccups are?

Foreign Secretary: I do not want to start characterizing what is under stress, what is hiccups etc. I think we all know that this relationship has gone through a difficult time in the recent past and we all know the reasons why. I do not think it is now here a question of describing whether it is 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 90 per cent. I do not think that is the issue. The issue really is, are we able to deal with the basic questions that stand in the way of these relations realizing their potential, that stand in the way of our normalizing relations with Pakistan, especially in the last few months, the kinds of incidents we have had, whether we are able to deal with them. If we are, then one can see this process working to the advantage of both sides of the border.

Question: Mr. Foreign Secretary, you have been asked before about signing agreements with Russia and France. But it seems to me that one of the pieces of the puzzle that has to be completed before even that can take place is the signing of the India Specific Safeguards Agreement. When do we propose to sign that? Have they been in any way linked to the United States completing the 123 process? Secondly, the document that the White House moved to Congress as part of the Hyde package included a reference to letters that India sent to the MTCR, fighter contract, and the IAEA meeting, on India adhering to the MTCR and NSG guidelines. Does the Government of India propose to make these efforts public? If so, when? Are we requesting at some point membership of MTCR? If so, why? If not, why not?

Foreign Secretary: I think you are absolutely right. Even if we sign these agreements with our partners – with the US, with France, with Russia – in order for them to first come into effect and then be operationalised in terms of concrete contracts and so on, we will have to sign the India Specific Safeguards Agreement because that will then be the safeguards which will apply to the cooperation under those agreements. So, as you said rightly, signing is only the first step of the process which then will continue until the reactors and so on are contracted for, supplied and brought under safeguards under the India Specific Safeguards Agreement. So, these are actions which will proceed in that direction because we will discuss the commercial issues with the commercial entities concerned who would actually do the supply; we will sign the agreements and then we will also sign these safeguards agreements. But the exact dates and times frankly depend on the comfort of our partners. It depends on how we will proceed along those discussions. So, it is very hard right now to say. I can tell you that there is a whole series of steps that we will have to take before this cooperation is operationalised in terms of a working reactor imported and running on Indian soil. So, it is a whole series of steps on which you are absolutely right. Safeguards Agreement is something that we will have to do before these agreements start having commercial and practical effect. Certainly, we would have to sign them before those agreements are brought into force.

Question: What do you feel the ….(inaudible)…?

Foreign Secretary: As far as I can see these are all parallel. The Safeguards Agreement has been approved by the Board. So, we will now have to proceed to, but we will to have something to bring under that agreement. So, we will sign cooperation agreements with our partners and start discussing the details of how to implement.

On the letters to the MTCR, I think there has been some misunderstanding perhaps in the public mind. On the MTCR, we had made a commitment actually in January 2004 to adhere to the export control standards that the MTCR lays down and that was done I think in the NSSP by the previous Government. Those are the standards, what we have really adhered to is the export controls. We will not violate those standards and over the last three years, since the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, 2005 we have brought those into our various regulations, into our lists and our export control orders. And so, that is what has happened so far. That is all. Membership or the application of the MTCR to India, none of that has been gone into yet. Nothing has changed in that respect. It is the same on the NSG. What we have done is we have harmonized our export controls on nuclear related to trigger this items basically, we have harmonized our export control regulations with the NSG guidelines and adhered to those. That is what we have done. We have not taken a decision yet on making this public. But if you want we could.

Question: Though you have said that the dates cannot be confirmed, are you expecting the signing on the 123 will happen when President Bush meets the Prime Minister on the 25th?

Foreign Secretary: I have spent two years with you saying I cannot give you a timeframe, I cannot give you any dates. You know this. I am amazed that you are still so obsessed with this and still try. I cannot predict this.

Question: What is the status of negotiations on the Additional Protocol that we are supposed to sign in the Agreement?

Foreign Secretary: We have begun discussions with them. We have had an exchange of ideas at the level of concepts of what would be in that document. We have told them what we think; they have told us what they think. I think the DG has described it as substantial progress in the discussions. That is what we have achieved so far.

Question: When do you expect to sign them?

Foreign Secretary: No timeframes.

Question: Mr. Menon, the French Ambassador says that the bilateral agreement, which is likely to be signed in Paris on the 30th, does not include importation of enrichment technologies and a whole lot of other things we are interested in. So, do we have to sign a separate agreement for that? How does it work?

Foreign Secretary: These are agreements which are enabling agreements. In the French case, we would need to enter into concrete arrangements - whether it is for fuel, or whether it is for reactors - with the companies concerned. I think that is what we would have to do. I think that is what he is pointing to. We will need to actually enter into concrete and detailed negotiations.

Question: As far as nuclear deal is concerned, are you working on signing the same nuclear agreement with other countries? If yes, with which countries is it going to be signed and when? The second question is about the upcoming Summit of IBSA. What are the main topics that are going to be dealt with in this Summit?

Foreign Secretary: Yes, we are also working on signing the Agreement that we have finalized with Russia at the next suitable occasion. Agreements with the other countries have not been finalized yet. We are still in the process of discussing agreements and discussing possible cooperation. So, we are some steps away from having a finalized agreement ready to sign. But we will talk to all the friendly countries that we are in touch with.

On the IBSA I will ask my colleague Secretary (West), Mr. Nalin Surie to speak to you.

Secretary (West): The IBSA Summit will take place on the 15th of October in Delhi. It will be preceded by the various fora that we have, the Academic Forum, the Business Forum, Womens Forum, etc. We have ongoing this month all the 16 Working Groups which will meet; and at the end of the day we will take stock as focal points and discuss concrete modalities of what will emerge from the Summit. We expect a very substantive outcome which will help diversify the process of cooperation between the three countries.

Question: In the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Chinese Premier, what would be the agenda? Given the fact that things have not gone so well lately and the Chinese did not find time to take a phone call from the Prime Minister, how would you see that and what are you going to …(inaudible)… Will the NSG situation be raised with them or not?

Foreign Secretary: I think the agenda will be developments in bilateral relations and these issues that we have which will naturally include all the issues whether it is boundary, whether it is water. It will also include how we can develop the relationship further in areas where we are doing very well, trade, people-to-people exchanges; and a discussion I think on the larger global issues where we have very similar interests. Certainly, recent developments in the world economy will be discussed. They will also discuss other issues of common concern. You remember when Prime Minister visited in January, he and Premier Wen had laid out a common vision, a shared vision really, of the international situation and it has developed quite rapidly since then. So, I would expect them to continue from there. 

You mentioned the NSG. Frankly, the NSG turned out well which means that everybody went along with the consensus. I think that is behind us now.

Question: Do you expect the issue of the attacks on Christians to come up during the India-EU meeting? What can we say in our defence in the sense that we have not really been able to protect them?

Secretary (West): We have a dialogue with the European Union and with the EU member States on this. It has been raised with us before and we have explained to them what happened and what steps we have taken. I think they understand that the Government is doing all that it can. I do not think it is a problem between us at all. We discuss all issues quite frankly with each other and this has already been discussed.

Question: On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, is the Prime Minister going to meet his Russian counterpart, Mr. Putin?

Foreign Secretary: I am not sure whether he is going to be there. As of now, we have not planned such a meeting.

Question: An out-of-the-context question now. Is it true that China worked against India’s interests in Vienna?

Foreign Secretary: As I said, it turned out well in Vienna. There was a consensus; China was part of that consensus. We were happy with what came out at the end.