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Transcript of the Joint Media Conference by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

New Delhi
May 08, 2012

MEA Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the media. I welcome you to this media interaction. As is usual, we will begin with brief opening remarks.

I now invite the External Affairs Minister of India Shri S.M. Krishna to make his opening remarks.

External Affairs Minister (Shri S.M. Krishna): Madam Secretary, it is a great pleasure to welcome you back to Delhi. I am glad that you decided to visit India on your way back to Washington DC. This is a sign of our close friendship.

It also underscores the importance of regular consultations between our two Governments at a time of enormous challenges and far-reaching changes taking place in the world.

Secretary Clinton and I reviewed the entire gamut of our bilateral relations. We expressed satisfaction with the progress in our relationship and are optimistic about the future. The emerging global trends only reinforce our shared conviction in the importance of this relationship for the future of our two countries and the shape of the world in this century.

We have an extraordinary frequency and depth in our dialogue and engagement. We continue to make tangible progress across virtually every area of bilateral cooperation. We expressed hope that our economic relationship, which is very important to both countries, would grow much faster and realise its enormous potential.

There are issues on both sides. I did convey our concerns about the continuing difficulties on mobility of professionals, especially for our IT companies, and protectionist sentiments in the U.S. with regard to global supply chain in services industry. I want to thank Secretary Clinton for her personal attention to the welfare of Indians and Indian students in the U.S.

Secretary Clinton and I also had a good discussion on the path to fostering commercial cooperation in civil nuclear energy. I assured her of India’s commitment to provide a level-playing field to all U.S. companies, within the framework of national law and our international legal obligations. We were pleased that US companies are engaged in substantive discussions with the Indian operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited. We hope that they will make early progress towards contractual steps.

Our strategic consultations have a global character, with convergence of views on a range of global and regional issues.

We discussed our vision for Afghanistan. We stressed the need for sustained international commitment to build Afghan capacity for governance, security and economic development, and to support Afghanistan with assistance, investment and regional linkages. Recent attacks in Kabul highlight once again the need for elimination of terrorist sanctuaries in the neighbourhood and the need for stronger action from Pakistan on terrorism, including on bringing to justice the perpetrators of Mumbai terrorist attack. We also discussed our respective relations with Pakistan.

I conveyed our vital stakes in peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and wider West Asian region, given the six million Indians who live there and the region’s importance to our economy.

We also discussed the importance of peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations, based on the position that Iran has rights as a member of NPT, but it must also abide by its obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT.

Secretary Clinton and I had a fruitful discussion on the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region, including relations with China, and developments in countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood. We exchanged views on our recent interaction with our Bangladeshi counterpart also.

Finally, we look forward to a productive Strategic Dialogue in June in Washington DC, not only to show case the extraordinary progress in our engagement, but also outline how we intend to take our strategic partnership to a new level.

Thank you.

US Secretary of State (Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton): Thank you very much, Minister Krishna, and thank you for your warm welcome. And let me congratulate you on the completion of fifty years in active public service.

I am delighted that we are continuing to work together on such a broad range of important issues affecting our two countries. I was also delighted to see the Prime Minister yesterday. It is always a pleasure to be back in Delhi and to reaffirm what President Obama has called one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

The United States and India are two great democracies with common values and increasingly convergent interests. In our meetings today we have worked to focus our agenda and prepare for the strategic dialogues in June. Let me touch on four key lines of action we discussed.

First, we have to continue expanding trade and investment between our countries. We have come a long way. When I first visited India in 1995, trade stood at nine billion dollars, and this year we expect to surpass 100 billion dollars. And I actually believe there is much more potential to unleash. We should be working toward having one of the world’s largest trading relationships, and we need to continue to reduce barriers and open our markets to greater trade and investment.

As part of this, we discussed our landmark civil nuclear agreement. I and Minister Krishna reiterated India’s commitment to ensure a level-playing field for US companies. We welcomed the fact that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and leading US companies are engaged in direct conversations on how to move forward together.

Second, we need to deepen our security cooperation. Our militaries are conducting training exercises unprecedented in scale and scope. We have expanded our work on behalf of our joint fight against terrorism and violent extremism. And our Navies are cooperating to combat piracy, patrol the sea lanes and protect the freedom of navigation.

Third, we have to work to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities in South and Central Asia. I updated the Minister on the new Strategic Partnership Agreement that President Obama signed with President Karzai, and I expressed our strong appreciation for India’s support for the Afghan people’s efforts to build a more peaceful and prosperous future and its intention to host a conference in late June to encourage greater private sector investment in Afghanistan.

We also look to India as a partner in the broad international effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the best way to achieve this diplomatic solution that we all seek, is for the international community to stay united and to keep the pressure that has brought Iran back to the negotiating table on Iran until we reach a peaceful diplomatic resolution.

I welcomed the progress India is making to reduce its purchases of oil from Iran, and hope to see continuing progress because we believe that if the international community eases the pressure or wavers in our resolve, Iran will have less incentive to negotiate in good faith, or to take the necessary actions to address the international community’s concerns about its nuclear programme.

Finally, we need to work together to promote a shared vision for the Asia-Pacific, especially as we head toward the East Asia Summit in Cambodia this November.

I have reaffirmed to the Minister, and continue to speak out in favour of India’s Look East Policy and its growing role across the region, particularly in support of democracy and economic reform in Burma. As an experienced democracy, India can provide key support. And greater trade and transit between India, Bangladesh, Burma – the countries of South East Asia – will fuel even more political and economic progress and growth.

So, our strategic interests are indeed converging and so must our efforts. I am looking forward to welcoming the Minister when he comes to Washington in June for the next round of our strategic dialogue.

So, again, let me thank you, Minister, for your partnership. And let me again thank the Government and people of India for the warm welcome and hospitality.

Thank you.

Official Spokesperson: The two Ministers will take a few questions.

Question (Mr. Richard Wolf, USA Today): Secretary Clinton, I would like to ask you in particular about the latest underwear bomb plot in Yemen and how that relates to other terrorist issues in Pakistan involving Ayman al-Zawahiri, involving Hafiz Saeed; and your thoughts also on the rise of the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan; whether you feel that the efforts against terrorism are indeed still working or there is something else needed.

US Secretary of State: Richard, that is obviously an incredibly important question that is on the minds of not only our Government but of course the Indian Government because we both know the tragedies and losses that come with terrorism on our soil. So, we have increased our cooperation between India and the United States and we are going to continue to do everything we can not only to prevent terrorists from carrying out their evil acts of violence but also to try to convince people not to be recruited into terrorism which is a very much of a dead end, literally and figuratively, when it comes to pursuing any kind of political or ideological aims. In democracies like ours people should be in the market place of ideas. If they have views, they should put them to the test of the debate, the dialogue and the political process.

With respect to the plot that was discussed in Washington, as the White House said, the device did not appear to pose a threat to the public air service, but the plot itself indicates that these terrorists keep trying, they keep trying to devise more and more perverse and terrible ways to kill innocent people. And it is a reminder as to why we have to remain vigilant at home and abroad in protecting our nation and in protecting our friendly nations and peoples like India and others.

With respect to the question on the terrorist groups that still operate out of Pakistan, we are committed to going after those who pose direct threats to the United States, to Afghanistan, and to our allies in Afghanistan. We are also cooperating closely with India regarding the threats that emanate against them.

The 166 people killed in Mumbai during that horrific terrorist attack in 2008, included six Americans. So, as part of our Rewards for Justice Programme we have offered a ten million dollar reward that could lead to the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Saeed for his role in those attacks. Our Rewards for Justice offer demonstrates our seriousness in obtaining additional information that can withstand judicial scrutiny, and that leads to arrest or conviction, and brings the perpetrators and the planners of the Mumbai attacks to justice.

This effort that we are pursuing is not just about the United States. Combating violent extremism is something we all agree on, and we need to do more, and we look to the Government of Pakistan to do more. It needs to make sure that its territory is not used as launching pads for terrorist attacks anywhere including inside of Pakistan because the great unfortunate fact is that terrorists in Pakistan have killed more than 30,000 Pakistanis. So, it is very much about the people of Pakistan and their right to go to a market, or go to a mosque, to live their lives.

We need stronger, more concerted efforts on behalf of Governments and societies against the scourge of terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, it is a losing tactic. But we have to prevent as much death and destruction as possible as we uproot and destroy these groups and convince those whom they recruit, that that is no longer a decision that should be made.

Question (Mr. Abhisar Sharma (Aaj Tak): Secretary Clinton, it is interesting that you talk about the ten million bounty on Hafiz Saeed. My question to you is that, in order to sound politically correct in Pakistan, is the US indulging in doublespeak on the issue of Hafiz Saeed? I would like to draw your attention to what Ambassador Munter said in Islamabad that there is no exclusive bounty on Hafiz Saeed.

And my question to Foreign Minister Krishna is, did you raise this issue because this is contrary to the things that were told to our Government by the US Ambassador in India?

US Secretary of State: I am sorry, I do not really follow your question. We have a Rewards for Justice Programme that we have used quite successfully for a number of years. It has led to evidence and information and tips that we have used to bring terrorists to justice. We have used it in Pakistan; we have used it around the world. So, this is not unique; this is not a special case.

We wanted to raise the visibility and make it very clear that the United States had reason to believe that Hafiz Saeed had been one of the principal architects of the attack against Mumbai. And, therefore, we wanted to send an unmistakable message of solidarity with India, but not only with India solidarity with people everywhere who will not tolerate the continuation of terrorism and want to see terrorists brought to justice wherever they may be.

External Affairs Minister: Secretary Clinton has come out I think very eloquently as to how the United States has made up its mind to fight terrorism across the board. Even in our discussions this morning over breakfast we did talk about terrorism, and all that terrorism brings into this region and to the other regions of the world as well. Hence, India and the United States have strong cooperation on combating terrorism. In addition to the growing intelligence exchanges and cooperation, we also have a Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism, Counter Terrorism Cooperation Initiative, and a Homeland Security Dialogue. So, we always keep in close contact, and thereby we are trying to checkmate terror from wherever it emanates.

Question (Mr. Shaun Tandon, AFP): I wanted to follow up a little bit on the comments on Iran, its nuclear programme, and about oil. Madam Secretary, in your conversations here in India, are you confident that India is doing more? You commended Indian efforts. Do you think India has done enough to become exempt from the sanctions that will come into place on June 28th?

Mr. Foreign Minister, if I can follow that up, do you agree with the strategic view of the United States when it comes to Iran, the idea that Iran is a global threat? And do you agree with the use of a domestic US law to try to influence Indian policy on this?

US Secretary of State: Let the Minister go first.

External Affairs Minister: In the contemporary context that is a very important question. Iran is a key country for our energy needs. But we have to look at the Iran issue beyond the issue of energy trade. In the first place we have to think about the security and stability in the Gulf region. India has vital stakes in the Gulf region. Six million Indians live and work in the Gulf region and beyond. It is one of the critical destinations of our external trade - over 100 billion US dollars in exports, and over 60 per cent of oil imports, and a major source of remittances. There are ties of religion, culture and civilization that bind us to the region. There is turbulence in wider West Asian and North African region with uncertain outcomes. Hence, we have a strong interest in peaceful and negotiated settlement of issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme. Our position on the nuclear issue has been clear, and it has always been consistent.

With respect to our energy, we are dependent on imports to meet bulk of our requirements. India’s imports are growing on an average by about ten million tonnes annually. Given our growing demand it is natural for us to try and diversify our sources of imports of oil and gas to meet the objective of energy security.

Since you asked a specific question about Iran it remains an important source of oil for us, although its share in our imports are declining which is well-known. Ultimately, it reflects the decision that refineries make based on commercial, financial and technical considerations. We have discussed our position and our perspectives on energy security, and these discussions will continue. As far as India is concerned, we subscribe to and rigorously implement the UN Security Council Resolutions. This issue, however, is not a source of discord between our two countries.

US Secretary of State: Shaun, as the Minister said, the United States and India share the same goal. We both want to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. And India has been a strong partner in urging Iran to live up to its international obligations and to use the P5+1 talks that began again in Istanbul and will meet again this month in Baghdad to demonstrate unequivocally the peaceful intent of its nuclear programme. As I said in Calcutta yesterday, we do not believe Iran would be back at the negotiating table unless there had been the unrelenting pressure of the international sanctions. And this pressure must stay on if we want to see progress toward a peaceful resolution.

So, we commend India for steps its refineries are taking to reduce imports from Iran. We have also been consulting with India and working with them in some areas on alternative sources of supply. So, we have had a very good discussion of these issues during my visit. Our Energy Coordinator, Ambassador Carlos Pascual, will be here with an expert team next week to continue these consultations. But there is no doubt that India and the United States are after the same goal.

Question (Mr. Ashish Singh, Star News): My question is for both Secretary of State Ms. Clinton and for External Affairs Mr. S.M. Krishna.

Madam, to you first. Both of you discussed Afghanistan issue also. Could you, Madam, say in your assessment how you see the current situation of Afghanistan? And after the western forces start pulling out from Afghanistan, what role do you see India playing in Afghanistan? And to you, Sir, could you also respond to the same question as to what role do you see India playing in Afghanistan after western forces start pulling out from Afghanistan?

US Secretary of State: First let me say that our consultations with India and Afghanistan are very substantive and helpful. As you I am sure recall, India entered into a strategic partnership with Afghanistan last year. We have just signed our Strategic Partnership Agreement when President Obama went to Kabul to do so with President Karzai. We have made clear that we intend to remain an active presence in Afghanistan. We will support Afghanistan’s security and stability. We will contribute to building their capacity in their Government, and enhancing their economic growth and development. I think that the phrasing you used is technically perhaps correct that after 2014, the NATO ISAF mission of combat will end. But the United States and NATO will maintain a commitment of security and development support. That will continue. I think the details of that are being worked out on our side, speaking just for the United States, with the strategic agreement. And now we will negotiate a security agreement.

There are a couple of milestones up ahead. At the NATO meeting in Chicago in about two weeks there will be a reaffirmation of our commitment to Afghanistan, both to the transition to Afghan-led security and then after 2014. The Indian Government will host a private sector conference to encourage more private sector investment in Afghanistan in June. Japan will host a donor conference to encourage more philanthropic contributions and government contributions in July. So, the international community is very engaged. I think we all understand that it is imperative we continue to work together to provide as much support for a stable, secure Afghanistan moving forward.

External Affairs Minister: Afghanistan has made significant progress in the last decade. The United States has made enormous contribution. Afghanistan is at a crucial juncture as it begins to assume greater responsibility for the governance, development and security. The most important signal that the international community has to give is a strong, sustained commitment to Afghanistan. With that, I am confident that Afghanistan will become a sovereign, independent, united and economically viable state capable of defeating terrorism, and resisting interference from outside. We see the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement in that spirit.

We will continue to support Afghanistan on the basis of our own Strategic Partnership Declaration of October, 2011. Elimination of safe havens in Pakistan is indeed vital for success in Afghanistan and regional security and stability. We remain supportive of any reconciliation effort that is fundamentally acceptable to us as long as it is led and owned by Afghan people, that upholds the redlines and embraces all sections of Afghan society, and that does not fritter away the gains of the past decade. The international community along with India wishes Afghanistan all well.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much.

With that we come to the end of this media interaction. Thank you.