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Briefing by MEA Official Spokesperson on PMs bilateral meetings

Briefing by MEA Official Spokesperson on PMs bilateral meetings
Washington, DC
 April 12, 2010

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vishnu Prakash): A very good evening to you all. I believe some of you went to the Convention Centre and I hope that you found the arrangements up to the mark.

Yesterday, Foreign Secretary had briefed you about Prime Minister’s meeting with President Obama. The Prime Minister has since had a number of engagements. I would like to brief you about three of his bilaterals - with the President of Kazakhstan yesterday and the Prime Ministers of Morocco and Canada today.

Let me start with Kazakhstan. The meeting between our Prime Minister and President Nursultan Nazarbayev took place yesterday evening. It lasted about 45 minutes. Prime Minister was assisted by the National Security Advisor and other officials. The President of Kazakhstan was assisted by the Oil Minister and the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is one of our key partners in Central Asia and also one of the most important countries in the region. You would recall that President Nazarbayev had visited India in January 2009 when he was also the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Celebrations. During his visit, a Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership was adopted which foresees comprehensive cooperation in a variety of sectors. The two leaders met again on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Yekaterinburg on 16th June 2009 and have also maintained telephonic contact.

Yesterday the two leaders reviewed the relationship, the agreements, the initiatives that had been agreed upon since President’s visit to India. President Nazarbayev spoke very appreciatively of India’s economic development and evinced interest in seeing Indian companies play a greater role, having an expanded presence in Kazakhstan. Both sides evinced an interest to enhance cooperation in a number of areas especially agriculture, civil construction, mining, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals as well as other sectors. They particularly spoke of concretizing collaborations and having projects and initiatives which could be implemented on ground at the earliest.

President Nazarbayev mentioned to Prime Minister that they were planning 170 major projects in a variety of sectors, to speed up the industrialization of Kazakhstan, and invited Indian companies to participate in these projects. He also noted that there was a Customs Union between Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia; and that Indian companies present in Kazakhstan could supply their goods, their services within the entire Customs Union.

As you are aware, there are interalia two pillars of our cooperation namely the hydrocarbons sector and the energy sector including the civil nuclear energy sector. During the visit of President Nazarbayev to India an agreement of cooperation was concluded between ONGC Videsh and KazMunaiGas in the Satpayev oil block which is a large oil block and said to be rich in hydrocarbon assets. Also, an MoU of cooperation had been concluded between NPCIL and Kazatomprom envisaging cooperation between the two sides, including for supply of uranium to India and other aspects.

During his meeting with Prime Minister, President Nazarbayev invited Indian companies to establish thermal power plants in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is hydrocarbon rich and they are keen on having more thermal power plants. He also told the Prime Minister that a framework for greater cooperation in the hydrocarbons sector would be approved soon by the Kazakh Government. As I mentioned, Indian companies have already evinced interest in E&P contracts in Kazakhstan. It was also agreed between the two leaders that an inter-governmental agreement on civil nuclear cooperation would be concluded soon.

Our External Affairs Minister is likely to pay a visit to Kazakhstan in May this year when a roadmap to implement the agreements and initiatives during the visit of President Nazarbayev is likely to be finalized.

I may add that the two leaders also discussed regional issues of interest including the situation in Kyrghizstan and Afghanistan. The two leaders agreed on the need for stability, security and economic development of Afghanistan, and also evinced concern at production of narcotics and trafficking of narcotics. President Nazarbayev was very appreciative of India’s role in reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan, and he remarked that once the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes, that would pave the way for a direct surface link between India and Kazakhstan.

The President invited Prime Minister to pay a visit to Kazakhstan which was accepted with pleasure. He also invited Prime Minister to participate in the third CICA Summit. CICA is the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. You would recall that Prime Minister Vajpayee had represented India in the first CICA Summit in Kazakhstan, which was held in June 2002. That is what I have on Kazakhstan.

Let me then move forward to Prime Minister’s meeting with his Moroccan counterpart, Prime Minister Abbas el Fassi, which took place today at 10:30 a.m. The Prime Minister of Morocco was assisted by his Foreign Minister and Energy Minister. They had a very useful exchange of views on enhancing our historic links which date back to the 14th century and increasing all-round cooperation. The discussions lasted about forty minutes.

We have maintained a tradition of high level exchanges with Morocco. King Mohammed VI had last visited India in 2003. The Moroccan Prime Minister has visited India in recent years. The two sides agreed that the next Joint Commission meeting at the level of the Commerce Ministers would be held in New Delhi soon when the foreign office consultations will also take place.

I would like to note that Morocco is one of our most important suppliers of phosphate, which is an important component of our bilateral cooperation. A number of leading Indian companies are present in Morocco doing mining and also converting rock phosphate into phosphoric acid which is then exported to India. Our bilateral trade has grown steadily and already exceeded one billion dollars last year.

Recently, Morocco signed an agreement with TERI on enhancing cooperation in renewable energy sector, particularly in solar and wind energy where India has considerable strengths and Moroccan Prime Minister spoke about enhancing, deepening cooperation in this sector. The Moroccan Prime Minister also expressed support for India’s candidature of UN Security Council. Both sides reflected similar views on the menace of terrorism and evinced an interest in enhancing cooperation in counter terrorism and intelligence sharing.

Today at about 6 p.m., Prime Minister had a very pleasant and fruitful exchange of views with his Canadian counterpart. You would recall that Prime Minister Harper had paid an official visit to India in November 2009 and the two Prime Ministers met within a couple of weeks thereafter again, at Port of Spain on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Summit. They discussed a number of bilateral, regional and global matters of mutual interest. They reviewed our cooperation in the trade and economic area. During the visit of Prime Minister Harper last year a target of 15 billion dollars in bilateral trade had been established. This is a target that we would like to achieve within a period of five years.

You would also recall that an MoU was signed on setting up a Joint Study Group to explore the possibilities of concluding a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Canada. The two Prime Ministers today expressed a hope that the report of the Joint Working Group would be available by May this year. During the visit of Prime Minister Harper to India in November 2009, an MoU of cooperation in the area of energy had also been concluded. Today the two Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction that the discussions on an intergovernmental agreement on civil nuclear cooperation had been concluded and hoped that the agreement could be finalized and signed soon.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh also noted that the 25th anniversary of the Kanishka bombing and crash fell in June this year. He remarked that there were continued concerns about the activities of extremist groups and hoped that their activities would be monitored by the Canadian side. Prime Minister Harper assured that they will do their best. The sides agreed that the officials would remain in touch.

Prime Minister Singh and Prime Minister Harper also exchanged views on the important issue of climate change and the prognosis of the next conference which would be held in Mexico towards the end of this year.

They had a substantive exchange of views on the forthcoming G20 summit which would take place in Toronto in June this year. Our Prime Minister is expected to attend the summit.

Prime Minister Harper sought our Prime Minister’s views on the agenda of the forthcoming summit and what could be its focus. Prime Minister Singh observed that the G20 framework or mechanism had helped overcome the immediate financial crisis, but had now to move ahead to deal with the larger issue of global imbalances and reforms of the international financial institutions.

Prime Minister also outlined a need for a stable and predictable regime of capital flows especially for the developing countries. He spoke about the nature of the Indian economy, its strong fundamentals, the growth path that we have charted out for ourselves, the expectation that within a couple of years we will re-attain a growth rate of nine per cent or even get into a double-digit growth rate for which we needed a conducive and enabling international environment. Prime Minister particularly underlined that India was not contributing to global imbalances as we were not a mercantile economy.

Prime Minister Harper spoke about Canadian interest in using G20 to develop a framework to encourage balanced and sustainable growth internationally. Their meeting lasted more than half an hour. This was as far as the exchange of views between Prime Minister of India and Prime Minister of Canada is concerned.

That is the reading I have on three of the bilateral meetings of Prime Minister. I will be happy to answer your questions.

Question: We are given to understand that there was a brief exchange between Prime Minister Gilani and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Can you fill us in on this?

Official Spokesperson: I understand that at the reception Prime Minister Gilani and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh shook hands with each other and exchanged pleasantries. That is what I know at the moment.

Question: How long did it last and where was it? Was it in the main area or in the corridor?

Official Spokesperson: It was at the reception that President Obama had hosted. And pleasantries last the usual time that the pleasantries last. So, it was an exchange of pleasantries.

Question: Was it just the two of them or were the delegations on their side?

Official Spokesperson: What I understand is that when the Prime Minister went to the Convention Centre he greeted and was greeted by a number of world leaders. He exchanged pleasantries with a number of world leaders. Also he shook hands with Prime Minister Gilani. Prime Minister Gilani and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

Question: I was wondering who took the initiative. Did they just bump into each other or somebody walked up to the other? Did Gilani walk up to Manmohan Singh and say hello?

Official Spokesperson: What I understand is that the two leaders shook hands with each others, they exchanged pleasantries.

Question: Were the pleasantries in Urdu and was there any poetry in that, some couplets?

Official Spokesperson: We will try to get you further details. At the moment what I know I have happily shared with you.

Question: Two questions. One is, did Gilani mention Balochistan? Second, this line that you said that India is not contributing to global imbalances he told Stephen Harper. What is the context in which he said it?

Official Spokesperson: On the first question, I have already shared the information I have on the subject. On the second question, as I said, Prime Minister Singh and Prime Minister Stephen Harper were talking about the G20 process. Prime Minister Singh mentioned that the G20 process had helped in overcoming the immediate financial crisis, that we required a stable regime, a transparent financial regime. He spoke of the need for reforms of international financial institutions and so on so forth. He also gave his Canadian counterpart a perspective on the Indian economy. He spoke about our growth aspirations, our developmental aspirations, spoke about the strong economic fundamentals of the Indian economy, the growth path that we are on, and the nature of the Indian economy. It is in this context that he mentioned that Indian economy is not contributing to global imbalances and that since we are inter alia not a mercantile economy.

Question: One question is about this meeting of the two Prime Ministers. From reliable sources we were told today there that it was a very well arranged in a flash of a second and both were informed that this was going to happen and they both agreed before hand and then they proceeded. Can you tell us who was the third party who arranged it? The second question is, with Kazakhstan the main theme that comes out is human rights and media freedom in Kazakhstan. Was it mentioned at all?

Official Spokesperson: On the first question, I have shared with you all the details that I have. On the second question, I have at length elaborated on the nature of discussions between President Nazarbayev and Prime Minister. I have taken you through all the salient aspects of their discussions. I have even shared with you the duration of the discussions, the participants at the discussion and so on. So, I have already shared with you all the salient details of the discussion.

Question: Is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh likely to announce the setting up of a Global Nuclear Security Centre to be funded by India?

Official Spokesperson: Very valid question. Let us both wait for the outcome of the Summit tomorrow and we will have the results.

Question: Is India watching carefully to see during the Summit or otherwise what China says to the US or in general about Pakistan civil nuclear deal? In the past there were Pakistani sources who said that China is supporting Pakistan’s effort to have a civil nuclear deal with the US. Is this something that you are tracking? Is it something that you are hearing about? If they do do this, what is India’s response to it?

Official Spokesperson: Let me remind you that the Nuclear Security Summit is not about specific countries. In the Nuclear Security Summit what the leaders are proposing to discuss is the issue of tackling, combating nuclear terrorism, the question of securing nuclear technologies, nuclear materials and so on. It is that is what being addressed. It is not a country-specific initiative.

Question: Mr. Shivshankar Menon was supposed to meet his counterpart today. Do you have any update on that?

Official Spokesperson: I wanted to give you a perspective on the meetings that Prime Minister of India had with three of the leaders. On the other questions, we will be happy to take them in due course.

Question: The US Vice-President today hosted a lunch for around ten leaders from Non-Aligned Movement countries saying that it is the US-NAM meeting. India is the founder member and the leading country in the NAM. Why was India not invited to this? Was India invited for this meeting?

Official Spokesperson: I need to check. I am not aware of that.

Question: Most of the think-tanks are saying, including the US, that this summit is about nuclear terrorism and Pakistan is the hub and it might fall in the hands of terrorists. Of course India is also worried. But what Pakistan is saying in these meeting is that Pakistan is not worried about nuclear terrorism or terrorists but it fears India. What is the fear from both sides and how this fear will go away and what India should do now?

Official Spokesperson: In response to Natasha’s question I have already answered that. I have already shared with you our perspective.

Question: You mentioned Canada, you mentioned Kanishka, and you mentioned that the Prime Minister wanted an assurance from his counterpart on monitoring. This has been going on for quite some time. There is no tangible result which has been achieved. Are they willing to share intelligence on this with India?

Official Spokesperson: As I mentioned, Prime Minister observed that in June 2010 would be the 25th anniversary. He mentioned about continuing concerns on the activities of terrorist organizations, groups. He requested the Canadian authorities to monitor their activities and Prime Minister Harper said that they will do their best. Also it was agreed that the officials on both sides would remain in regular touch.

Question: Prime Minister is meeting President of France tomorrow. Can you give a sense of what issues are likely to be discussed? Also, when you talk about Canada, that business of monitoring terrorist activity, did the Prime Minister mention the specific terrorist groups?

Official Spokesperson: Tomorrow, Prime Minister is likely to meet with the President of France. The meeting is at 11:30. Tomorrow, at 6:30 Prime Minister of India is going to have a media interaction. Either during that or before that we will share with you the outcome, or give you a sense of the discussions between Prime Minister of India and President Sarkozy. But I may add here that during their meeting all matters of bilateral interest and regional and international interest will be discussed. That was on the first question. On the second question about the Kanishka incident and Kanishka crash and the activities of the groups, I have already shared with you what had to be shared.

Question: Two questions. Are India and Canada planning a joint commemorative event as well for the 20th anniversary of Kanishka? Secondly, on the meeting with the Moroccan Prime Minister, I was just curious when was the last time that India met Morocco at the Prime Ministerial level or perhaps King Hassan? How many years after has such a meeting taken place?

Official Spokesperson: About a possible commemorative event I will check and come back to you. According to the details that I have Mohammed VI had visited India as the Crown Prince in the late 1990s. Again he visited India twice, in 2001 and 2003. The former Moroccan Prime Minister visited India in December 2004. Our Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee, visited Rabat in 1999. This is at the summit level. But we have had Foreign Ministers visiting and so on. So, I did remark that we have had a regular high-level exchange in recent years in particular with Morocco. One of the important pillars of the relationship has been the trade and economic relations. Morocco is the largest rock phosphate and phosphoric acid supplier to India. We have leading Indian industrial houses including the Birlas, the Tatas, the Chambal Fertilisers group, and the others, were present in Morocco. So, that is broadly how the relationship has been evolving.

Question: Can you tell us whether Secretary Rao and Hillary Clinton will be meeting or have they already met?

Official Spokesperson: As far as I know, no such meeting has taken place today.