Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson in Washington on Prime Minister’s Ongoing Visit
Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good evening friends and thank you very much for being here this afternoon despite having a very busy schedule otherwise.
What we wanted to do was to take you through the outcomes of the discussions because you have had access to the Press Statement. The Joint Statement will take some time in coming. So, we thought we will run through the outcomes so that you are well prepared in terms of filing deadlines in case any of you have. With me here is Mr. Vikram Doraiswami who is Joint Secretary (Americas) and our pointsperson regarding the entire visit. So, he is the best person to take you through some of the outcomes.
You are aware that President Obama and Prime Minister had a discussion approximately for two hours. This was in a format which was first with the two delegations for an hour and a half, and after that they had a restricted-format meeting for about 20 minutes.
The issues that were covered are already highlighted by both of them, so I will not get into it. What we will try and focus in the next 20 minutes or so are what were the outcomes of the decisions and what we take home as takeaways from this very very important first meeting.
India and the US are mature partners, and therefore our relationship is one where we see each other as wanting to build on what we have. That is the base on which the two leaders interacted. What I will request now is that Vikram will take you through those outcomes and he will take you through the clusters. We have about 20 minutes. He will speak for about 10 minutes and we will respond to any questions that you may have for another 10 or 15 minutes before we leave. If that is alright, I will request Vikram to make his opening remarks following which the floor will be open for any questions that you may have.
Joint Secretary (Americas) (Shri Vikram K. Doraiswami):Thank you very much.
The Spokesperson has already set out the larger context to the conversation. I think the overall approach to this was to look at the visit, as Prime Minister has described and as you have seen in the vision statement also that was issued, as a partnership that is not merely in transactional terms, in other words not stuff that India can do for the US and the US can do for India but building on that to be something in which both India and the US can do something together. The conversations were held in that spirit.
I think there was a great deal of, to use the word correctly, understanding of the interest and challenges that India is facing in its developmental path and a great deal of interest in the United States in ways in which it can helpfully partner India in meeting its developmental objectives. This included the economic piece, the infrastructure and urban infrastructure piece, it included the defence and security piece, and it included a larger shall I say social and sort of people’s piece too.
What I will try and do is quickly run through some of these outcomes that you will find in the Joint Statement as soon as it is issued, which will give you a sense of the ...
Official Spokesperson: We will let you know when it is ready. It will take perhaps an hour, maybe two hours.
Joint Secretary (Americas): We are just fine-tuning some of the elements of it but it is all in place. The elements are all in place.
If I can just quickly run through these in various buckets, if I might, there is an infrastructure, economics and trade bucket which – I am just selecting some of the highlights that certainly would appeal to an Indian audience – US firms will be lead partners in developing three smart cities or upgrading them as three smart cities – Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam.
A partnership platform is being established with USAID, business and civil society such as the Gates Foundation for Indian Municipal, State and Union entities to leverage private capacity for upgradation of water, sanitation and sewage in 500 cities to facilitate access to clean water and sanitation.
An India-US Investment Initiative is being put together with the intention of serving as a clearing platform for all infrastructure investments from the United States and India.
Joint Secretary (Americas): We will e-mail it.
Official Spokesperson: We will e-mail much of it. Otherwise, we would not have time for other things. Let him go through it, we will e-mail to you the outcomes.
Joint Secretary (Americas): It is about three pages of bullet points. That means there is a lot.
Smart city partnership for Allahabad, Ajmer and Visakhapatnam, US firms will be lead partners in that. A platform for USAID, business and civil society to work with our cities and State Governments in bringing water, sanitation, sewage improvements, it is called WASH alliance, for all 500 cities that have been teed up for this purpose.
An Investment Initiative which will essentially be run by the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury on this side to facilitate FDI, portfolio investment, capital market development, and financing of infrastructure. A separate infrastructure platform which will serve as a clearing house to facilitate American and Indian companies in expediting infrastructure projects in India.
A manufacturing extension partnership which will enable the US National Institute of Standards and Technology to help small and medium enterprises in India build business plans, raise themselves to global standards, and to improve manufacturing capacity. It ties in with PM’s ‘Make in India’ Initiative basically.
A partnership between the Reserve Bank, the US Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency in sharing information on regulation of financial institutions which is basically (1) to upgrade capacity in regulation of financial institutions and also (2) to work together in cross-border banking arrangements. American banks in India and Indian banks in the US, to improve that piece.
Let me take the strategic bucket next. The President has affirmed that India meets the requirements for the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and is ready for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We are creating an interagency contact group to address all implementation issues to speed up the deployment of US-origin nuclear reactors in India. So, to speed up our civil nuclear partnership, we have created an interagency working group which will deal through all issues including on liability, on administrative issues, on technological and techno-commercial issues.
We are renewing our framework agreement for India-US defence cooperation for a further ten years. The final text will be signed shortly as soon as it can be negotiated out to the last full stop.
Official Spokesperson: No, not today. This is separate.
Joint Secretary (Americas): Agreements are not normally signed in front of the two leaders. It will be done separately, but we have agreed that we are going to go ahead on this.
On Defence Trade and Technology Initiative, we have decided to try and identify unique and transformative technologies, products which will then be teed up in the next few months. A special task force is being set up between the two Defence Departments for this.
The US has agreed to cooperate as the knowledge partner for India’s planned National Defence University so that will bring higher management of the defence forces on both sides to greater partnership. The US has agreed to be a technology partner for the Indian Navy for future naval construction programmes.
The US has reaffirmed its support for our permanent seat in the Security Council and to enhance India’s voice and vote in international financial institutions.
We have also agreed jointly to expand our trilateral partnerships in Afghanistan and among African partners which is where India and the US work together in areas such as food security, agricultural training, women’s empowerment. We are now going to expand the number of activities. The statement will be signed very shortly in the next day or two. That we will make available to you. We will now take it up to clean energy, to health and disaster preparedness as well quite apart from women’s empowerment and security.
On security we have agreed to have joint and concerted efforts including to seek the dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, and to disrupt financial and tactical support for the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqani Network.
We have agreed on an enhanced cooperation arrangement against counterfeit currency and on the misuse of cyberspace and incorporation and facilitating investigation of criminal and terrorist activities in cyberspace. We will lead on a programme to exchange terrorist suspect watch lists and a partnership to exchange details of fighters returning from conflict zones, travellers for terror.
We have agreed on starting up a counter-IED actions, both tactics and technology. We have agreed on ways in which, there is a process that has to be done in the US, we can procure mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles for our paramilitary forces. We have agreed on expanding our maritime security cooperation. You will see the language about that.
On the education and health side, we have agreed on a partnership to bring global standards to skill development in India through a nationwide certification system and the establishment of new institutions. This goes to PM’s effort to ensure that skilling is done at high speed and at global standards so that Indian youth are able to meet the opportunities and job challenges that…(Inaudible)…
We have agreed on a knowledge partnership for a new IIT to be set up in India. We have agreed on a new platform called Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN) to establish mechanisms to bring up to 1000 teachers a year from the top 100 US universities to teach in the Indian central universities. This will be a short-term opportunity, but this will create openings for greater flow of academics on both sides.
We have agreed to expand our cooperation in the fight against Ebola. The President and the Prime Minister talked at some length about this. The Prime Minister has already announced a number of measures that we are taking including monetary support as well as deployment of technology towards this. We are looking at ways in which we can do even more.
We have agreed at a new programme to develop affordable vaccines including for dengue, malaria and TB. We have agreed on a new partnership in cancer research which will also lead to the expansion of a partnership for our upcoming new AIIMS National Cancer Institute in Haryana. In this context PM had also met, as you will recall, the Director of the US National Cancer Institute, Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus.
We have agreed to provide tourist visa on arrival and e-travel authorisation to US visitors to India. You have already heard that from the Prime Minister himself. We have agreed that India will complete the formalities and join the global action programme to facilitate easy entry of Indians into the US.
On the energy side, we have agreed on a billion dollars in concessional financing from EXIM for India’s Renewable Energy Development Agency. This will enable, this is a nice win-win piece, greater provision of US-origin new and renewable products particular in solar to come to India and to be deployed on the rapid expansion of solar energy projects in India.
We have agreed on an energy smart cities initiative. A specific city will be teed up for this to bring clean energy technologies that will include things like intelligent street lighting, rooftop renewables, LED systems, to one of our major cities.
We have agreed on upgrading national institutes in India of wind, solar and bio energy to world standards.
We have agreed to partner to create new energy innovation laboratories in India. The intention is to have five but the specifics are being worked out.
We are putting together a clean energy financing forum, to bring together best practices in clean energy financing both countries do benefit from.
We are working with the US on the environmental side, on an air quality partnership between India’s Central Pollution Monitoring Board and US’s Environment Protection Agency. We are going to work on a partnership to upgrade several of our national parks to world standard using the US as the standard setter of the world’s best national parks with the US National Parks Services and other agencies.
As part of PM’s Digital India Initiative we are rolling out a partnership on digital India which will include bringing US companies to help roll out digital infrastructure for e-governance and for e-services. We are taking forward our partnership in mega science projects which India will come to the table as co-partner in financial terms also which will involve particle research,…(Inaudible)… it will involve the 30-metre telescope consortium. Much of this will be fabricated in India also. So, there will be an exchange of technology but also a sharing of costs between the US and India on these partnerships.
We have agreed on a new joint working group on Mars exploration with the intention of partnering on a Mars mission together within the next decade. We have agreed on a synthetic aperture radar on a joint satellite which will be launched before the end of this decade. And as you know, the US is already the technology partner for the first time of the India-US Technology Summit in November this year. So, we have a huge partnership being built around that.
Of course, the Prime Minister invited the President, as you know, to visit India. If he can come in his remaining years of his tenure, he would be the first American President to visit twice in his tenure. That of course is for the White House.
Official Spokesperson: The floor is now open for questions. Let me clarify the ground rule that everybody just gets to ask one question. Certainly we will not be able to respond to all the questions because we have to leave in about 15 minutes, but we will try and take as many questions as possible. If you ask more than one question, we get to choose which of those we will respond.
Question:Vikram, you talked about action against these terror groups. Does that mean a joint operation between India and the US in any way against these four terror groups? What exactly is the …(Inaudible)…
Joint Secretary (Americas): Thank you for the question. If you read that formulation carefully, the formulation only says: ‘cooperation which requires international cooperation as part of existing international agreements and under the UN sanctions and UN Resolutions to have these dismantled’. It does not mean that necessarily there will be joint operations or anything of the sort.
Question:When you talked about terror travellers, the tactics and stuff, was this specifically about the ISIS? Is India joining the coalition? Was there a request?
Joint Secretary (Americas): There is no language, as you will see, in the Joint Statement about India joining any coalition. But the overall idea of travellers for terrorism does affect us. This is part of the conversation. As you have heard in Prime Minister’s speech at the UN, this is a major issue for us. He also raised the idea of radicalised young people travelling abroad, committing acts of terror and coming back. That larger issue was talked about, but there is no sort of statement on our joining any coalition.
Question:Vikram, could you share some more details about the discussions on Afghanistan and how India and the United States will work together more closely on this? Is it of a military nature or is it still going to be energy and education? How are we going to expand cooperation?
Joint Secretary (Americas): Just to clarify, this trilateral partnership is part of developmental cooperation. It is not military or anything like that. When I said trilateral partnerships on Afghanistan and countries of Africa, it is for developmental issues like energy, health, women’s empowerment, disaster preparedness, agriculture and things like that. On Afghanistan of course they had a detailed discussion today during the meeting and briefly yesterday over the dinner. The main issue is our shared concern over the ongoing political, security and economic transitions that are taking place in Afghanistan.
PM was very complimentary about the efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, the team led by Secretary Kerry in bringing together a political resolution in Afghanistan. We continue to be very supportive of the transition process in Afghanistan. And they had a candid conversation on how best both sides could continue to support such a process.
Question:When you say interagency contact group on nuclear investment and liability laws and all that, which are the agencies involved in that?
Joint Secretary (Americas): The agencies will be defined by both sides but this would essentially include on our side the Department of Atomic Energy, the Ministry of External Affairs, as necessary the agencies involved in looking at different bits of the outstanding issues that still have to be discussed. So, if there is a financial issue, then we bring in finance. So, it is all the agencies that need to be there, and they will also have conversations with the commercial entities who are involved in this process. So, there will be an interagency contact group on both sides - I cannot speak as to who the agencies are on the American side of course – and there will be conversations with American and Indian companies involved in the process.
Question:In the Joint Statement that will come out will there be references to Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba by name?
Joint Secretary (Americas): Yes, by name. I read out the exact formulation.
Official Spokesperson: Also, all the things which we have said are reflected in the Joint Statement.
Joint Secretary (Americas): There is more in the Joint Statement. We have just picked out things from it.
Question:Pichhle kuchh saalon mein aisa lag raha tha ki thodi si thakavat aa gayi hai, ruk rahe hain jaise Bharat aur America ke sambandh. In sab announcements se kaun si aisi teen bade bindu hain jinse aapko lagta hai ki yeh visit agle zone mein le jaa rahi hai India-US partnership ko?
Official Spokesperson: Teen kyon hum tees keh sakte hain. Yeh aapka kaam hai ki kaunse teen hain. Humne toh aapko tees bataye hain. Aur in tees ka matlab yeh hai ki ab hum daud rahe hain.
Question:So sorry, but we have deadlines and I was obsessed. Could you please repeat the bit about Jaish-e-Mohammad if you do not mind?
Official Spokesperson: Yes, let us repeat it quickly. "Joint and concerted efforts including dismantling of safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks, and disrupting financial and tactical support for LET, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D-Company, the Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda”.
Joint Secretary (Americas): Let me read for you that entire segment from the Joint Statement. I cannot quote to you the Joint Statement formally because I am waiting for it to be formally made. Basically the agreed language goes like this. "The leaders stressed the need for joint and concerted efforts including the dismantling of safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks to disrupt all financial and tactical support to networks such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-Company, and the Haqqani Network”.
Question:While the Modi conference was going on, the meeting was going on inside, there was also a protest going on outside. So, what is he doing for Sikhs in America who are on the blacklist; and also any justice for 1984 riots?
Official Spokesperson: I think I mentioned this when I briefed about the discussion with certain Sikh groups in New York. They have given a written petition and Prime Minister has indicated that he will consider them sympathetically.
Question:Prime Minister expressed an interest in taking forward the civilian nuclear deal in terms of getting more help from the United States on the nuclear reactors. So, specifically on the liability issue, did Prime Minister actually specifically address that while in his conversations with President Obama, and what are the steps India is taking to resolve the liability issues internally?
Joint Secretary (Americas): As I just mentioned, we are setting up an interagency contact group to be able to resolve all issues that are outstanding in hindering the rapid deployment of US-origin nuclear reactors in India. It includes by specific mention liability; it includes administrative issues; and it includes technical and other issues.
Official Spokesperson: Let me also mention that the things that we are telling you are not all part of the discussion. This is part of the Joint Statement. Now you would next ask us the question whether each of these issues was discussed. These issues were submitted to the principals, they have approved of it, and there are some issues that they discussed in their bilateral conversations.
Joint Secretary (Americas): Otherwise, they would have to spend six, not three hours.
Question:It strikes me that most of the themes that you mentioned are rather urban centric. Is there a rural piece to anything that is happening bilaterally? I ask this because I represent the only rural newspaper here.
Joint Secretary (Americas):…(Inaudible)… Not that I can recall, but partly I think the major challenge that the Prime Minister was talking about is the challenge of skilling our young people, the challenge of addressing the need to be able to rapidly create manufacturing and infrastructure capacity, and the challenge of our urban centres that are beginning to come apart, particularly in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, and the pressure of young people who are moving to the cities and creating greater strain on the cities. So, this is to address that piece of it. On agriculture, there are other challenges in our own agricultural sector that inhibit certain degrees of cooperation on both sides. So, I do not think the Prime Minister was going into great detail on that.
Official Spokesperson: Let me try and add something. When we talk of renewable energy at the back of the Prime Minister’s mind is the understanding that 400 million people in India do not have access to energy or reliable and continuous supply of energy. These are largely in rural areas, or in isolated villages. Therefore, the focus on energy, renewable energy is largely a concern which is not only limited to urban areas but to entire India and it includes those 400 million who do not have access to energy.
Joint Secretary (Americas): In a very specific point PM specifically mentioned this that every single Indian village is in his ‘power for all’ programmes. He talked about it in the larger context of the totality of the country but referring to rural areas.
Official Spokesperson: We have just answered that question. It is available. We will send it to you by e-mail.
Question:I just have a really quick question on culture. We all know that the Prime Minister is fasting. I just wanted to know why he prefers to accept these invitations to the luncheons and dinners even though he is fasting, and if the White House was able to accommodate him with some alternatives.
Official Spokesperson: I think we have answered that question yesterday. I have answered that question before we came here. But I will answer it again since you have asked this. The Prime Minister does not see his fasting as impeding his normal work. Therefore, he himself had requested all others including at the dining table that they should not restrict themselves and please enjoy the meal that had been laid out by our gracious host. Consequently, there is no issue of any concern either on our part as guests or on the hosts’ part because prior to having such engagements we always convey the dietary preference in advance and in this case the Prime Minister’s dietary preference was warm water.
Question:You talked about joint action against Lashkar, Jaish-e-Mohammad, or the Dawood Ibrahim. As you are aware, they basically operate from the Pakistani soil. Does it mean that India and the US will have joint operations on the Pakistani land?
Official Spokesperson: I think he has answered that question previously, maybe just before you came. We cannot answer it again because we have several others to ask questions. We will answer this a little later if we have time.
Question:You mentioned the visa on arrival for US citizens in India. What is the facilitation of Indian citizens coming to the US?
Joint Secretary (Americas): That is what I mentioned. We are working to join the global entry programme which will expedite access and travel to the US also.
Question:I just wanted to know if there is any discussion on the Trade Facilitation Agreement between the leaders, whether there was any meeting of the minds that could point to some solution in Geneva. And was there any discussion of some sort of broader initiative to increase trade between the United States and India such as negotiating the bilateral investment treaty?
Official Spokesperson: On the bilateral investment treaty, I understand that we are already discussing to work for a timeframe during which we will have discussions on this in a formal manner. As regards the WTO, this came up yesterday as part of the discussions and Prime Minister explained the following: (a) that India is not against trade facilitation, all India requires is that its requirements of the Bali package should also be moved forward. And that is our only concern because food security is as important a priority for us as trade facilitation is for others. Therefore, while we have nothing against trade facilitation, we would hope that our interlocutors would take the Bali package in its entirety formally.
Joint Secretary (Americas): The Joint Statement basically has the directive of the two leaders to have their teams continue the negotiations and to negotiate with the others to find a solution quickly on this.
Question:The meeting seemed to go over time. The briefing happened an hour after we expected it to. Was there a particular reason for that? Were there issues being ironed out?
Official Spokesperson: No, there were no issues to be ironed out. It was just the flow of the conversation. Because India and the US have an agenda which is extremely broad, the President and the Prime Minister took the opportunity to go through several elements of that agenda. That is it.
Question:Jab action against D-company ki baat karte hain, mera saval sirf yeh hai ki agar aap elaborate karein kis tarah ka action, jaise Hafiz Saeed ke liye Pakistan par dabaav banaya jaata hai ki vahan par unke khilaf karravayi kiya jaaye, kya America hamaara saath denewala hai ki hum Pakistan par pressure banaayein ki Dawood ko vaapas India ko handover kiya jaaye, kya iska yeh matlab hai?
Official Spokesperson:Dekhiye, kuchh aise mudde hote hain jinpar akalmand ko ishara kaafi hota hai. Yeh ek aisa mudda hai jismein ishaare kaafi hain. Main is se zyada aur kuchh nahin kehna chahta hun.
Question:Kal aapne zikr kiya tha ki Narendra Modi ji ne gift diya hai President Obama ko, Geeta aur Martin Luther King ki recording. Aaj official gift kya tha aur kaisi rahi baat-cheet donon ke beech mein?
Official Spokesperson: We will put out those details. He has given gifts for the President officially, for the First Lady, and for the children, and we will give you those details shortly. I think for the President, form Gujarat a rare tribal art form which is increasingly not being focused on and the Prime Minister wanted to highlight that. For the First Lady, I understand it is a Pashmina shawl. And for the two children, it is I think necklaces with tribal art pendants.
Question:Could you tell us a little about the defence framework agreement; how forward-looking it is; and what are the new things that are likely to be there; and if there was any discussion on China?
Official Spokesperson: You choose the first question and answer it.
Joint Secretary (Americas): Since the defence framework agreement is under negotiation I cannot give you the details. But there is a commitment to extend it for another ten years and at least building upon that existing framework, going beyond.
Question:Can you explain a bit about the US-India Investment Initiative where you said you will facilitate FDI, FII as well as infrastructure financing flows? How would that work? Would it be both ways?
Joint Secretary (Americas): There are two pieces to this. The idea is to facilitate ways in which you can, it is not just a monetary thing but to use all the leverages of the international financial systems that are available, everything from capital markets to portfolio investment, to bring these together, to try and find the best ways of bringing together, crowding in capital towards infrastructure investments.
Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this interaction.
30 September 2014