Sunday, Sep 25, 2022

'ASAT Not Directed Against Any Country'

China reassures India on its recent ASAT tests, as the two countries establish a hotline between foreign ministers and agree to consulates at Guangzhou and Kolkata before the year-end.

Edited excerpts from the briefing by Indian Ambassador to China on the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister 

Navtej Sarna, Official Spokesperson: Today, the Chinese Foreign Minister and External Affairs Minister had a restricted meeting which I understand went on for forty-five minutes. This was followed by delegation level talks and a working lunch was hosted by the External Affairs Minister in honour of the Chinese Foreign Minister and his delegation. The total interaction lasted about two and a half hours. 

Nirupama Rao, Ambassador to China: Let me just give you an overview of today’s discussions. I will briefly dwell on the topics discussed and then we could take a few questions.

The discussions between our External Affairs Minister and the Chinese Foreign Minister earlier today were extensive and wide ranging covering bilateral, regional and global issues. Let me share with you some highlights of their discussions:

The two Ministers made a positive assessment of the present status of bilateral relations and noted with satisfaction that the strategic and cooperative partnership, established during the visit of the Chinese Premier to India in 2005, was developing smoothly. In this context, they shared the view that the landmark visit of President Hu Jintao to India last November and the ten-pronged strategy agreed upon during the visit to further substantiate the India-China Strategic Partnership, had raised relations to a new level. Both sides expressed their determination to go ahead and strengthen friendship in all areas, increase mutual political trust and further develop their strategic partnership.

On the subject of high level visits, Foreign Minister Li renewed the invitation extended by the Chinese leadership to our Prime Minister to visit China during this year. Our External Affairs Minister responded to state that our Prime Minister looks forward to visiting China. Both sides will make earnest preparations for the visit.

On the subject of the boundary question, the two Ministers noted with satisfaction the progress made in the dialogue between the two Special Representatives on the boundary question. They reiterated the decision taken by the leaders of the two countries that the Special Representatives should further intensify their efforts in order to reach a political settlement of the boundary question on the basis of the political parameters and the guiding principles agreed upon in April 2005.

The two Ministers also expressed satisfaction over the growth in bilateral trade volume which as you may be aware touched US $ 25 billion in 2006 and they hoped it would surpass the target of US $ 40 billion by 2010. As you know this target was set during the visit of the Chinese President to India last November. They called upon the Joint Task Force of the officials of the two countries to work actively and complete the feasibility study on Regional Trading Arrangements before the end of October this year.

The two countries have a system of dialogue mechanisms and on this subject it was agreed that the Protocol on Cooperation between the Ministry of External Affairs of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, signed during the Chinese President’s visit last November will be able to institutionalize the dialogue mechanisms between the two Foreign Offices. The two Ministers agreed that meetings of these dialogue mechanisms, including Strategic Dialogue, Joint Working Group, Policy Planning Dialogue, Security Dialogue, Dialogue on Counter Terrorism and Foreign Office Consultations, will take place during this year. The calendar of meetings is presently being firmed up.

The subject of the hotline will, of course, interest all of you. You may recall that during the Chinese President’s visit, it was agreed to set up a hotline between the two Foreign Ministers. The modalities in this regard have been worked out and the hotline is now in place.

You will also recall that during the Chinese President’s visit, it was agreed to establish new Consulates General at Guangzhou and Kolkata in order to further strengthen institutional links. The two Ministers have agreed and directed that the new Consulates be set up within the year 2007.

India and China are celebrating and commemorating a Friendship Year through Tourism, this particular calendar year - 2007. And the two Ministers expressed the hope that cooperation in tourism and people-to-people exchanges would be intensified during the India-China Friendship Through Tourism Year 2007. Both sides will work to ensure the setting up of their respective tourism offices in each other’s countries during 2007. As you also may be aware, that the Friendship Year will officially be launched tomorrow in the presence of the Chinese Foreign Minister, our External Affairs Minister and our Minister for Tourism and Culture.

The liberalisation of Visa Procedures was another subject that was touched upon and there will be talks at an early date between the concerned officials of the two sides to further liberalise visa procedures to facilitate travel for tourism, business and other purposes.

People-to-people relationships is the other issue of focus and in order to further reinforce these contacts, a 100 member strong Indian youth delegation, which will be headed by Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, will visit China in June this year, and while we receive a 100-strong Chinese youth delegation, also headed at the Ministerial-level in October.

There was also discussion on the operationalisation of the expert-level mechanism to discuss cooperation in issues pertaining to trans-border rivers. The Indian side has already conveyed to the Chinese side the constitution of its expert team. Foreign Minister Li said that the Chinese side was also ready to establish its expert group so that cooperation in this field can be expanded.

Foreign Minister Li also conveyed to us that in order to provide greater facilitation for Indian pilgrims traveling to Kailash and Mansarovar, the Chinese side was stepping up its efforts to improve transport and medical facilities for Indian visitors. External Affairs Minister expressed his appreciation of these initiatives and also reiterated our request that an additional pilgrim route be opened up through Demchok.

As part of the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) initiative, a car rally is planned from Kunming to Kolkata and the two Ministers noted with satisfaction that this car rally will be held in the last quarter of 2007. It will take place from Kunming to Kolkata as I mentioned, via Myanmar and Bangladesh.

It is important to note that Foreign Minister Li announced his Government’s support for India’s bid to host the 2014 Asian Games and he also expressed China’s willingness to exchange experiences with India on the holding of large sporting events. He thanked External Affairs Minister for India’s support for China’s hosting of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

On regional and international Issues, Foreign Minister Li expressed China’s readiness to enhance communication and coordination with India on UN related issues - the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), the East Asia Summit, the Asia-Europe Meeting, Asian Cooperation Dialogue, SAARC and other regional and international organizations related issues. He said that China will send a high-level delegation to participate in the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi in April this year as an observer.

Both Ministers also had a detailed exchange of views on the Six Party Talks on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, Iran, the Middle East Peace Process and Afghanistan. There was a convergence of views on issues discussed and it was agreed that the two sides will maintain close consultations on the developing situation.



Do you have a reaction to the breakthrough in the Six Party talks with North Korea apparently agreeing to end its nuclear programme?

Mr. Ashok Kantha: Earlier today, the Chinese Foreign Minister informed us in advance about the likely breakthrough. As you know we also support the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but at this stage we are not in a position to give a detailed response.

Did we raise the issue of Anti-Satellite test by China or do we plan to raise it tomorrow?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: Yes, I have something for you on that. Well, the Chinese side provided us with a suo-moto briefing on the recent ASAT test conducted by them. And in fact they stressed that China was against weaponisation and militarization of outer space. The test conducted, according to them, was of a purely technological and scientific nature. They added that it was not directed against any country. Our Minister emphasised India’s principled opposition to the weaponisation of space and noted that it was essential to develop a broad international understanding on preserving outer space as a sanctuary from weaponisation and to guard it as the common peaceful heritage of mankind.

My question relates to the opening up of trade through Nathu La. Was that discussed and are there plans to add to the number of items? And during President Hu’s visit, there was some suggestion to open up trade through Arunachal Pradesh also. Can you give us some kind of update on that?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: This is an ongoing discussion between the two governments. And the idea is, of course, to foster cross border trade and trans-border connectivity is a very important constituent of this process. This is a subject of ongoing discussions between the two sides.

Has the Chinese Foreign Minister asked to open more border points apart from Nathu La?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: There was no specific discussion related to that.

Has the hotline been operationalised?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: It is already in place. It will be used at any point of time from now.

As you said that the two Ministers discussed the issue of UN reforms. Has there been a movement in China’s position or any subtle modification in China’s position on India’s claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: The two sides have agreed to maintain very close consultation and contact on this issue through our Permanent Representatives at the United Nations and through our Foreign Office. The Chinese side have told us that they are well aware of our legitimate aspirations for permanent seat of the UN Security Council. They have reaffirmed yet again that they understand and support our aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations – that is all I can tell you at the moment.

Are we reassured about Chinese assurances about outer space?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: As I said this is an ongoing consultation. We have to keep in close touch with each other. This is a process that is going to take obviously more consultation, more coordination, more contact. That is all I can say at this moment.

Do you have any updates on the boundary talks after… (inaudible)?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: As I conveyed to you in the earlier part of this briefing, this was touched upon. That is all I have to say at the moment.

Are there any indications of change in the Chinese position in the Nuclear Suppliers Group discussions … (inaudible)?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: As it happened during President Hu Jintao’s visit, I would say, for both countries, that an expansion of the civilian nuclear energy programme is regarded as an essential and important component of their national energy plan, in order to secure energy security. And both sides have agreed as they did before, to promote cooperation in the field of nuclear energy consistent with their respective international commitments. If you recall during the visit of President Hu Jintao last year, in the Joint Declaration, it was clearly stated that both countries feel that international civilian nuclear cooperation should be advanced through innovative and forward looking approaches, while safeguarding the effectiveness of international non-proliferation principles. That is where we stand on this issue.

The reason why I ask this question because recently when Mr. Nicholas Burns was in Beijing, he said that he raised this issue with the Chinese leadership. So I was wondering since so many cross currents are going on, if there is something that we can report on…(inaudible)?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: For the moment this is what I have to convey to you on this issue. But the contact is ongoing, and this is work in progress.

Is there any update on whether India and China will be joint bidders for energy resources in third countries?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: Not as far as this visit is concerned. I cannot give you an update because we did not talk about joint bidding for energy projects, not in the context of this particular visit. But as you know that Mr. Murli Deora, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas was in China recently. We have signed an MOU which talks of joint cooperation in bidding, exploration etc. Internationally, India and China are coming together in that field. So there is an institutional framework that is available today.

Mr. Ashok Kantha: As Ambassador mentioned, there is an institutional framework for that. Indian and Chinese companies are already cooperating including in third countries. They have already entered successful joint bids in third countries and this process will carry on.

India had security concerns on Chinese investments here. Did Chinese Foreign Minister raise this issue during the discussions?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: No. It did not come up in the discussions.

Navtej Sarna, Official Spokesperson: We have told you before that we do not have country specific policy on this.

Was there any categorical assurance from the Chinese side that they would not conduct any such tests in the future?

Ambassador Nirupama Rao: I told you that they provided that suo-moto briefing where they elaborated on their position. And we conveyed our views on the same issue quite clearly to them. That is where the issue stands at the moment. You are obviously looking at it in the context of giving and getting assurances. I really do not think that diplomatic relations are conducted that way. This is a relation between two governments, a sustained dialogue that we conduct on many of these issues, it is a multi-faceted relationship. So what you see unfolding before you is a very mature dialogue taking place between two equal partners.