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Briefing by Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister's Visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit

New Delhi
April 4, 2010

MEA Official Spokesperson (Shri Vishnu Prakash): Good evening and very good to see you in numbers. Foreign Secretary is here to brief you on Prime Minister's visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit. She is joined by my colleague Joint Secretary (Disarmament) Mr. Gaddam Dharmendra. Maam, may I invite you to make your opening statement?

Foreign Secretary (Smt Nirupama Rao): Thank You Vishnu. Thank you for coming here on a Sunday. The Prime Minister will visit Washington on April 12 and 13 for a Summit on Nuclear Security. The Summit is an initiative of President Obama who has invited Prime Minister and 42 other leaders to attend. We have welcomed this initiative and have contributed substantively to the Summit preparations.

You are aware of our concerns on terrorism and the possible acquisition of nuclear devices and material by terrorist groups. Since 2002, we have been piloting a resolution at the UN on preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. We are also active in the works of IAEA on setting and enforcing standards on physical protection of nuclear material and facilities as well as on combating illicit trafficking in nuclear material. India is a party to the key instruments of the global architecture of nuclear security such as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 amendment. We are also participating in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism of 2006.

As regards the Summit programme, PM will arrive in Washington in the afternoon of April 12. President Obama will host a dinner that evening for the visiting leaders. The discussion at the dinner will focus on the threat of nuclear terrorism, the primary reason why the Summit has been convened. There will be two plenary sessions on April 13, focused respectively on national measures and on international cooperation to enhance nuclear security. There will be a working lunch that would be addressed by the Director General of IAEA, which plays the primary role internationally in the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Summit will conclude with the issue of an outcome document on April 13. The outcome has been negotiated over the past six months by Sherpas from 44 countries and representatives of the EU and the IAEA. I have led a team of DAE and MEA officials in discussions on the Summit outcome at meetings of the Sherpas in Tokyo and The Hague. The Sherpas will also meet in Washington on the eve of the Summit.

To sum up, nuclear terrorism is a global challenge and we see the Summit and its associated preparatory process as important elements in strengthening international resolve to cooperate on nuclear security and supporting the expanded use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This will be to India's benefit given our concerns on terrorism as well as our interest in the expansion of civil nuclear energy. I am happy to take your questions.

Question: Two quick developments have happened. One is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between Russia and the United States. And President Obama has recently said that he will reintroduce the CTBT in the Senate for ratification. Has the Obama Administration been in touch with you regarding CTBT and is India considering signing it?

Foreign Secretary: As partners, as close friends, India and the United States discuss a number of issues. As far as the CTBT is concerned, our position is very well-known. It has been reiterated on a number of occasions. We are committed to a voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. That remains our position. That has been very clearly articulated to all our friends and partners.

Question: Madam, this Summit is going to be on nuclear security and you just talked about nuclear terrorism. What are our apprehensions so far as Pakistan is concerned? It has been in the news for a long time that by this time the transfer of …(Inaudible)… there for over a lot of years. What are our apprehensions about Pakistan on this particular topic of nuclear terrorism?

Foreign Secretary: I am here to discuss the subject of the Nuclear Security Summit and I mentioned our concerns about nuclear terrorism. The Summit will focus on the issue of nuclear terrorism and nuclear security as a whole. We are not going to get into country-specific situations.

Question: What exactly is nuclear terrorism? Is it the yellowcake? Is it the material that comes out from processing? What exactly is it?

Foreign Secretary: The Summit, as we have prepared for it, focuses on the threat of nuclear terrorism rising from clandestine proliferation, from the illicit trafficking of nuclear weapons and diversion of nuclear materials. That is really the focus when you talk of nuclear terrorism.

Question: What are we taking to the Nuclear Security Summit in terms of ideas? There is also talk of India planning to set up an International Nuclear Security Centre. Basically what are the ideas we are taking to the Summit?

Foreign Secretary: The last issue that you have referred to is a good idea. We need to develop it further. You have to wait for the outcome of the Summit.

Question: I was going to ask the same question. What is our contribution to the outcome?

Foreign Secretary: You have to wait for the outcome of the Summit. I am not going to discuss it at the moment.

Question: Madam, how much focus do you expect the American Administration to give to Iran during the Summit?

Foreign Secretary: I told you this is not about country-specific situations. We are discussing the issue of nuclear security in the global context.

Question: Madam, you spoke about illicit trafficking. Are we ready for joining some kind of a PSI initiative?

Foreign Secretary: The Summit is not about the PSI, let me say that. And let me go back a little just to give you a little sense of the context in which we are meeting. President Obama made his speech at Prague in April 2009 when he described nuclear terrorism as the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. Now what the Summit focuses on, and what our discussions and the outcome document will in all likelihood focus on, is the national responsibility to secure nuclear materials while strengthening the international framework of such cooperation by adhering to multilateral instruments and norms. The multilateral instruments and norms, you are aware of. You have the Global Initiative to combat Nuclear Terrorism. You have UN Security Council Resolution 1540 of 2004, which we can share with you if you need copies of. These are some of the instruments, inter alia, already in place.

Question: Madam, this conference you are going to is not country-specific you say. And yet you say that nuclear terrorism is posing a very real danger. Can you share with us what is the genesis of this fear? Can you explain to us how this nuclear terrorism is going to strike the world?

Foreign Secretary: I think that would be the subject of another press conference really. I am here to discuss the Nuclear Security Summit, our participation in the Nuclear Security Summit. I referred to the preparations that we have made. They have gone very smoothly and India has participated very positively and very substantively in these preparations. The discussions leading up to the drafting of the outcome document have been open, have been transparent. I referred to the fact that 43 countries are participating. So, I think you have to look at this as a very significant and substantive development. The outcomes you will be able to see within a week from now. I think you will be able to judge what the Summit has achieved when that happens.

Question: Madam Foreign Secretary, two countries that are not part of the 43 are Iran and DPRK.

Foreign Secretary: And Cuba and Venezuela.

Question: …(Inaudible)… in terms of those which are in actual possession of fissile material or stuff that is meant to be addressed by the Conference. In the run up to the preparation for Washington, did India or any of the other 42 countries raise with the United States that this initiative would be more effective if every country which has material that requires physical protection takes part in the Summit? If not, why not?

Foreign Secretary: The issue did not really come up I must confess, during the preparations. But when we talk about nuclear security and the threat of nuclear terrorism, we are referring to it in a global context. All responsible members of the world community, international community, have a stake in ensuring that we have comprehensive nuclear security.

Question: One clarification. Since you speak of responsible members of the international community having a stake in nuclear security, does that by implication mean that Iran is not a responsible member?

Foreign Secretary: No, I never said that. Iran is a country with which we have bilateral relations which go back many many years. It is a substantive relationship. We regard Iran as a very important country in the region and a country with which we have had, as I said, extensive bilateral relations and dialogue and cooperation. It is a responsible country.

Question: Pakistan has written to Interpol regarding Kasab and declared him an absconder. Your comments on that please.

Foreign Secretary: Let me just say that we are trying those accused, Kasab and others, here in India following the Mumbai terrorist attacks. And the case against Kasab has proceeded, as you know, over the last few months. A verdict in the case is expected by the 3rd of May in all likelihood and justice is taking its course in India on this subject. I will not say anything more on this.

Question: Madam, CNN/IBN had broadcast a story about land-grabbers usurping temple property in Karachi. I am not sure if you have seen that. Do you have a comment to make on that?

Foreign Secretary: I have seen the story. We have asked for more details from our High Commission in Islamabad.

Question: Madam, Reprocessing Pact has been concluded between India the United States. When are we going to sign it? Are there any bilateral meetings planned on the sidelines of the Security Summit?

Foreign Secretary: As far as bilateral meetings are concerned, it would be too early to give you any details on that. You will have to wait for a little more time. As far as the agreement on Arrangements and Procedures is concerned, the discussions have been completed. You have seen the text of the agreement on the DAE website. The United States has to go through a process of internal consultations. Once that is over, and once we have also completed the formalities on our side, we will be ready to sign it.

Question: Madam, has the Government been allowed to question Mr. Headley?

Foreign Secretary: Not yet.

Question: Are you hoping to question him?

Foreign Secretary: We have a counter-terrorism initiative with the United States, you know, that was initialled during Prime Minister’s visit. We have extensive cooperation between the agencies on both sides on all issues relating to terrorism and including this particular case that you referred to. We have had good cooperation on this issue. The Ministry of Home Affairs and the related agencies are all in touch with their US counterparts on this subject. We are satisfied with the progress that these negotiations have made.

Question: You have just said that we have substantially contributed to the preparations of the Summit. What do you expect from this Summit, not the outcome?

Foreign Secretary: I thought that was what I spoke about, what we expect from the Summit. Let me go over this again. This is going to be an interactive Summit. You have seen the way the G20 discussions have progressed. It will be in that format. A lot of countries who are participating will obviously have views to express. Their leaders will be there. There will be, I am sure, very constructive exchanges of views on the subject. We already have a certain template. I referred to certain international conventions. Many countries have very strong national programmes also in nuclear security. I believe as a result of this Summit what you will see is this global initiative to strengthen, to safeguard nuclear security will be substantially enhanced. That in my view will be the most positive outcome of this Summit.

Question: The Prime Minister also goes to Brazil.

Foreign Secretary: You will be briefed on that separately.

MEA Official Spokesperson: While on the subject, most probably on the 9th there will be a briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Brazil. We will be issuing a separate advisory.

Question: I know you mentioned that it is not a country-specific situation. But when you talk of nuclear proliferation what comes to mind immediately is Pakistan and surrounding areas. Did we raise the specific issues? What does India expect when you say that there will be more global cooperation to curb nuclear proliferation? What would India expect from these countries?

Foreign Secretary: Please await the outcome of the Summit. I said very clearly this is not a Summit about country-specific situations.

Question: In the run up did we raise the issue any way?

Foreign Secretary: This is a discussion held in a global context. We are talking of the international framework to strengthen nuclear security to combat nuclear terrorism and about strengthening national measures also.

MEA Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much.