Press Conference by Foreign Secretary on PM’s visits to Washington and Port of Spain
Foreign Secretary Mrs Nirupama Rao: The Prime Minister will be visiting Washington from the 22nd to the 26th November, 2009. The visit is at the invitation of President Obama and the invitation was personally conveyed by the US Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton to Prime Minister when she visited India in July, 2009. This is the first state visit being hosted by the US President and our Prime Minister has conveyed that he is honoured by this gesture.
On November 24th the Prime Minister will be accorded a ceremonial reception by the US President at the White House in Washington. Thereafter Prime Minister and President Obama will meet to review all aspects of the bilateral relationship. They will be joined in this by their respective delegations. They will discuss the India-US Strategic Dialogue which is envisaged to enhance our cooperation in areas that we have identified for our bilateral interaction and for the mutual benefit of our two peoples.
The two leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest and common concern ranging from the security situation arising out of recent developments in our immediate neighbourhood where the United States has also been involved - I refer to Afghanistan - and global issues such as climate change, stabilization of the global economy, disarmament and non-proliferation, terrorism, and a coordinated regional and global approach to issues relating to the environment, pandemics, etc.
The Prime Minister and the US President will address a Joint Press Conference at the White House. They will also have a short meeting with the members of the India-US CEOs’ Forum. The US Vice-President Mr. Joseph Biden and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also meet the Prime Minister. The same evening the US President and Mrs. Obama will host Prime Minister and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur at a reception and a state dinner at the White House.
On the previous day, November 23, 2009, the Prime Minister will meet the US Defence Secretary, Mr. Robert Gates. He will address the Indian and US business community at the US-India Business Council, delegations of the CII, FICCI and other representatives of the business and corporate sector who are traveling to Washington to be present at that event. The same evening the Prime Minister will address the US Council on Foreign Relations. This meeting will be attended by representatives from various US think tanks.
During his visit Prime Minister will also meet the United States’ Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Nancy Pelosi; the US Treasury Secretary, Mr. Geithner; and the US Energy Secretary, Mr. Steven Chu. He will attend a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador where he will meet the Indian community on November 25, 2009.
India and the United States are strategic partners. There is a new Administration in the United States, and the Government of India is in its second term. This would be an occasion to renew the partnership built on economic and political initiatives that have been taken, and we are expecting that this will raise our cooperation in areas of mutual benefit to a higher level. Our Government looks forward to working with the US President and his Administration to build an enduring partnership based on equality and mutual understanding for promoting greater security and sustainable development in the world.
It may be recalled that the relationship between India and the United States has been transformed in recent years, especially symbolized by the signing of the historic agreement on civil nuclear cooperation in October, 2008. This is an important area of cooperation and we are in the process of moving into commercial implementation of the Agreement.
Another priority is our partnership in creating energy security, clean energy, more efficient use of energy, in a manner that achieves sustainable development, which is one of India’s foremost priorities. We are looking forward to US collaboration in our national plans for a second green revolution not only in agriculture but also in green technology. Pandemics and the control of such diseases is another area where we can work together and our scientists are ready to intensify their collaboration with their US partners to address some of the biggest challenges in the area of health that our societies face in today’s globalised world where no single society can be safe from the outbreak of an epidemic thousands of miles away.
One of the significant issues which will be discussed during the visit will be the problem of global terrorism. India lives in a neighbourhood where there is this problem, and our neighbours along with India have prioritized this as a number one concern. The United States is in Afghanistan and has been trying to address the terrorist infrastructure in the region. We have a stake in the success of the Af-Pak Strategy.
Since the July 20th visit of Secretary Clinton when the new India-US Strategic Dialogue was announced, a period of intensive engagement has followed on all the identified areas for our bilateral cooperation; and we have already, in these three to four months, reached a number of understandings in the areas of discussion; almost close to formalisation in the areas of energy, agriculture, education, health, cooperation in counter-terrorism, and in the area of commerce and trade.
India and the United States have a broad-based and deep relationship covering almost every sphere of human endeavour. Our bilateral cooperation in the areas of defence, security and counter terrorism; science, technology and health; trade, investment and the knowledge economy; energy and environment; culture, people-to-people contacts and education; and agriculture are among other areas which will come up for discussion.
An exchange of views on international terrorism and how to combat it, the reform of international institutions, environment issues and climate change, disarmament, global security and stability, and the changing dynamics of international relations are likely to figure in the talks between Prime Minister and President Obama.
Memoranda of Understanding on renewable energy, counter terrorism, access to Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, IPR issues and agriculture are expected to be signed during the visit. Representatives of business and Industry on both sides would be signing several agreements on the occasion emphasizing the value and depth that bilateral economic relations bring to India-US relations.
This relationship between the largest and the oldest democracies based on common values, shared principles and an inclusive vision; deepened and nurtured through strong people-to-people ties and the highest commitment of the two Governments to see it prosper, would provide a strong platform for the two leaders to emphasize the future of this relationship and the optimism that is felt on both sides regarding its growth and development.
I will now speak of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is being held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from 27th to 29th November, 2009. It will be preceded by the Pre-CHOGM Foreign Ministers Meeting from 25th to 26th November 2009.
Hon'ble Prime Minister will be leading the Indian Delegation to the CHOGM. He will attend the Summit on 27th and 28th November. External Affairs Minister will be heading the Indian Delegation to the Pre-CHOGM Foreign Ministers meeting. He will represent Prime Minister at the Summit on the last day, that is 29th November, 2009.
The CHOGM Summit takes place in Executive Sessions and in Retreats where Heads of States and Governments interact informally with their counterparts. The theme of this year’s summit is “Partnering for a more Equitable and Sustainable Future”. Other than discussions on this theme, the Heads of Governments will review global developments including the political and economic situation. Two major issues of discussion will be youth issues and climate change.
The host country Trinidad and Tobago has circulated a Concept Paper entitled “Partnering for a more Equitable and Sustainable Future”. The Paper urges Commonwealth members to forge partnerships for a more sustainable future. India fully supports sustainable development and understands the concerns of Small Island States regarding global warming. However, we believe that the historical responsibility of the current situation has to be addressed under the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities.
A number of Commonwealth-affiliated organizations such as the Commonwealth Business Forum, Commonwealth Youth Forum will also hold their meetings in Port of Spain during this period. Their reports on their activities will be presented at the CHOGM.
At the end of the CHOGM Summit, Heads of Governments will issue a Joint Communiqué laying down the position of the Commonwealth on major international issues. It is anticipated that a separate statement on climate change will also be issued. This would highlight the common concerns of the Commonwealth member states.
The Commonwealth Business Forum will meet in Port of Spain from 23rd to 26th November, 2009. A high-level Indian Business Delegation organized by CII is expected to participate in the Business Forum.
In the 60 years since its foundation, the Commonwealth has come a long way from an initial association of six former colonies of Great Britain and Canada to an organization where non-British colonial countries are today expressing interest in its membership. Today the Commonwealth has grown to a membership of 53 nations and still has the potential to grow.
The Commonwealth has emerged in past years as an active organization with strengthened capacity to deal with economic, social, environmental and governance issues. It is doing important work in the areas of human rights advocacy, gender equality and education. It has progressively gained a greater say in the multilateral world because of its innate strength in social, economic and governance issues, particularly in executing programmes. As an organization, we believe, it has the potential to play an even greater role in relation to contemporary challenges facing the world.
Within the Commonwealth India has played a leadership role. We are the fourth largest contributor to Commonwealth budgets. India provides the largest number of technical experts funded by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC) extending assistance to developing Commonwealth countries, after the UK. We have consistently and significantly contributed to various Commonwealth activities and have stepped up our engagement in recent times.
We have increased our contribution to the CFTC to reach £ 1 million in 2009-10. We are contributing Euro 1 million to the Commonwealth Connects Programme, the Commonwealth Action Programme for Digital Divide. India is a member of key Commonwealth bodies on IT, education, and counter- terrorism. Among other areas, India has offered 50 to 75 ITEC slots in various training courses for participants from Commonwealth countries in addition to the sizeable number of slots given to them bilaterally.
We would like to encourage the Commonwealth to tackle or pronounce itself on a larger number of contemporary challenges, for example the reform of inter-governmental bodies like the United Nations, strengthening cooperation in combating terrorism in a more cogent manner and development related matters. On the global economic situation, we stress that reform of the international governance architecture needs full support of all member states of the Commonwealth so that sustainable development is achieved.
India has a natural partnership with the Commonwealth. It is a community of English-speaking countries. It is an association which puts a premium on democracy and good governance where India has so much to share with others. It provides a platform to interact and build consensus with a very diverse group of countries including G8 countries like the UK and Canada, developing countries, as well as Small Sates who form bulk of its membership. There are 32 Small States in the Commonwealth. There is appreciation among these States for India as the largest and a vibrant democracy, for the high-tech advancement and economic progress India has achieved in the past decade and a half. India has a growing profile of development cooperation with these states. Many of the Commonwealth countries also have sizeable Indian populations.
Though the United Nations remains the principal forum for multilateral action, the Commonwealth is eminently placed to address many issues through its unique style of functioning which is based on consensus-building, informality and goodwill. The informal ways in which dialogue is conducted and decisions arrived at in the Commonwealth bodies provide a very good basis for addressing common concerns.
Question: Madam, there are many issues still remaining in the final implementation of the Indo-US nuclear cooperation. Are those issues likely to be finalised during this visit?
Nirupama Rao: Let me first tell you that both the Governments, the Governments of India and the United States, are firmly committed to fully implementing the historic 123 agreement, the civil nuclear agreement. It goes without saying that the agreement offers immense developmental benefits for India and at the same time it opens up business opportunities for US companies. The implementation of this agreement is an ongoing process. As you know, we have announced two sites in October this year for US companies to set up nuclear power plants. The Liability Law is getting our highest attention. Our delegations are working together closely to come to an understanding on the reprocessing and licensing issues. I am optimistic we are well within our timelines, but we are dealing with complex issues but are committed to the full implementation of the agreement. This will take some more time. We do not expect to conclude the process during this visit obviously.
Question: On counter-terrorism, are we looking at a new framework agreement which has been there for some time? What possibly could be the form of that counter-terror framework we are looking at? Also, on the nuclear deal I believe there is another round of negotiations that is taking place between nuclear officials of both sides just a day before PM reaches Washington. Are we expecting, if not finalisation some sort of announcement about the reprocessing deal during the visit?
Nirupama Rao: I have already answered that aspect you raised with regard to the nuclear deal and I am not going into further details on that. On the issue of counter-terrorism, I have said that the two sides are working towards an MoU on counter-terrorism. We hope to see it concluded during this visit.
Question: Mrs. Rao, once again on the nuclear deal, stories emanating from Washington have clearly stated that the Government of India needs to do a couple of things more yet to ensure the full commercial implementation of the deal. What are those things which India still has to reckon with? Secondly, during this visit is the Prime Minister going to seek the extradition of Headley?
Nirupama Rao: On the nuclear deal, Rajiv, I have already referred in my earlier answer to the steps that are being undertaken to ensure implementation of the nuclear deal. I have said discussions are going on, that we are confident of the timelines being observed. That is as far as the nuclear deal is concerned. On the issue of extradition, you are aware of this case relating to the whole Headley-Rana affair. This is under legal process in the United States. Our authorities are in touch with the American authorities on this matter. There is a legal process under way.
Question: I want to ask a broader question. You have mentioned all the issues that may come up when the two are talking. But there is always that comparison to the 2005 Summit between the US and Indian leadership where there was one big ticket item. Does this trip still lack that one big ticket item?
Nirupama Rao: I think you are approaching it from an angle which I do not entirely subscribe to because what you are looking at and what you need to envision in this context is a very strong India-US partnership which has bilateral aspects to it, which has regional and global aspects to it. You are talking of a mature relationship based on trust and mutual understanding. You are talking of two large democracies interacting and dialoguing with each other in their common desire to strengthen global equilibrium. We are talking of a global architecture that is open and inclusive, and building global consensus on a number of issues of mutual interest.
Question: Madam, you have just talked about the global architecture. My question is whether we are going to raise the issue of UN reforms and secondly of the claim of India to UNSC.
Nirupama Rao: Yes, we will definitely discuss this. There is the opportunity provided by this visit to raise issues of interest which are of importance to India. It is natural that we will raise this issue. I am sure you know that the United States supports the view that the UN Security Council must reflect contemporary world realities if it is to be credible and viable. And we have welcomed the recent US statement at the United Nations that the composition of the UN Security Council is the crux of the issue. The US is of the opinion that the new permanent members will have to be identified by name rather than by regions or groups. We have no difficulty with this position and we will continue to seek support from the United States for our candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Question: Madam, will our Prime Minister be raising the issue of the situation in Pakistan? If yes, will we be asking the US to put more pressure on Pakistan for acting against anti-India elements and misuse of financial aid?
Nirupama Rao: The visit affords us the opportunity to articulate our concerns about the situation in Pakistan, particularly with reference to the activities of terrorist groups operating from Pakistani soil. We have always emphasized the need for our friends and our partners and the international community to understand the nature of the situation in Pakistan and the need for Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that operates on its soil.
Question: Is there any pressure on India from the US to sign on NPT?
Nirupama Rao: No, there is no pressure.
Question: Mrs. Rao, I would just like to paraphrase what Anil just asked. Basically it is going to be a year since 26/11. Most of the key operatives are still at large. We have not had much headway in the same. How can we leverage our friendship with the US in a better way where we can have some desirable results?
Foreign Secretary: I think the United States fully understands the depth of our concerns on the issue of terrorism directed against us from across our borders. Secondly, they have worked very closely with us in the wake of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai last year and this is ongoing cooperation. We just referred to the interaction we have had with the United States in the field of counter-terrorism and we have reason to be satisfied with that dialogue and that cooperation. I think the world, and the United States is included among our friends and partners who understand our position, is fully cognizant of the depth of our concerns on this issue and why there is merit and there is logic and there is reason in our approach in maintaining consistently that Pakistan must take credible, meaningful action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that continues to operate to our disadvantage, and doing great harm to our people from its territory.
Question: Madam, the Prime Minister will be meeting Robert Gates. Could you tell us something about what will happen there and whether any of the three agreements would be signed?
Nirupama Rao: The meeting, as I said, will take place between the Prime Minister and the US Defence Secretary Mr. Robert Gates. Our bilateral defence cooperation is progressing well. We are happy with the institutionalized interaction that takes place between our defence forces, regular military exercises and dialogue between the senior levels of the defence leadership. You are aware that the India-United States Defence Policy Group has just held its meeting earlier this month here in Delhi. Indian and US Armies held an exercise Yudh Abhyas, and our respective Air Forces held Cope India 2009, both last month. Due to this regular dialogue and interaction we have a much greater understanding of each other’s strategic interest and of regional security issues. With the finalization of the end-use monitoring formulation, it is our hope, our expectation that our access to US defence technology and equipment will increase in future. As far as the other three agreements are concerned, we are continuing to discuss some pending issues relating to these agreements. They are not expected to be finalized during this visit.
Question: Madam Secretary, President Obama on his recent visit to China mentioned what he saw was a global vision for China in geopolitics of South Asia. Do you see this actually as a sellout for India? And would you bring this up during the upcoming visit of the Prime Minister as well?
Nirupama Rao: I think the use of the word that you just mentioned is not appropriate at all in this context. That is one. As far as the reference in the Joint Statement to the role that was envisaged for China together with the United States in South Asia, we had of course expressed certain views on this subject in our statement in response to a question asked of us two days ago. So, I do not want to repeat that statement. But our views on this are very well known.
Question: Mrs. Rao, do you think that the Joint Statement and the wording of that joint statement casts a shadow on the visit of the Prime Minister? And would the Government like to share its views on the proposed visit of Mirwaiz to China so that you can give us a broader view on that?
Nirupama Rao: No, I do not believe that statement casts a shadow on the visit of Prime Minister to Washington. The visit stands on its own. I have just enumerated the vision, the approach, and the expectations that we have of this visit of Prime Minister to Washington, and the nature of our partnership, the very durable and mature partnership between India and the United States which we hope to take forward during this visit. As far as the reported visit of Mirwaiz to China is concerned, we have stated on many previous occasions that we have not prevented Kashmiri leaders to travel abroad. Now if you are talking about his going to China in the context of the approach taken by the Chinese Government on issue of visas to Indian citizens resident in Jammu and Kashmir, on that issue our view is very well known. We do not subscribe to this approach which discriminates against our citizens on the basis of their domicile and their ethnicity.