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Transcript of Press Conference by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran at the Embassy of India

Washington, DC
December 22, 2005

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: Thank you very much. Good evening to all of you. This has been a two day visit to Washington to exchange views with the United States administration in terms of what we need to do in order to prepare for the landmark visit of President Bush to India which is expected to take place sometime early next year. In the course of that, we undertook a review of the various initiatives which were adopted on July 18 which are listed out in the joint statement operation.

I also had a number of other meetings. As you know I was able to meet Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice. I also called on National Security Advisor, Steve Hadley. I had a meeting with my counterpart in the Department of Commerce, Mr. David McCormick. This afternoon I met the Under Secretary in the Department of Energy, Mr. David Garman, and we had the first meeting of the Steering Committee on Energy Cooperation between India and the United States. 

As you know, on the energy side, we have a number of initiatives that we are working on. We have set up several working groups, and these working groups include one on coal, on new and renewable sources of energy, on petroleum and natural gas, on energy efficiency and also on civil nuclear energy cooperation. These working groups have met. Some have had video conferences. A fairly detailed plan of action has been drawn up for each of these working groups, so it was very useful for me to have this first meeting of the steering committee and go over the progress that has been achieved by the different working groups. 

This evening, the last meeting I had was with the Under Secretary in the Department of Defense, Mr. Edelman. As you can see, I have had a very crowded agenda during these two days. I go back very satisfied with the progress that has been achieved in the relations between our two countries. We have achieved considerable advance in terms of the implementation of the various understandings which were reached on July 18th and I believe that we have a very good foundation for taking our relations to a much higher level. 

It was conveyed to me that President Bush and the First Lady are very much looking forward to their forthcoming visit to India. I in turn assured Secretary of State as well as National Security Advisor, and my interlocutor in the state department Nicholas Burns, that a very warm welcome awaits President Bush in India and that we would like this visit not only to be a demonstration of the transformation which has taken place in India and United States relations during the past year, but would also have a lot of substance in that relationship. 

Of course among the initiatives that we have been discussing is the Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation. As I mentioned to you, we had the meeting of the Joint Working Group and in this working group, our two sides shared ideas about the processes which flow from these commitments, in their own countries and with relation to their international partners. Significant progress was achieved in developing a mutual understanding of the steps needed to advance the early implementation of the agreement. The working group expects to hold its next meeting sometime in January in New Delhi. 

So all in all, this has been an extremely satisfying visit for me. I believe that in all India - United States relations are poised for a very significant advance in the coming months. Thank you very much.

Question: ….Inaudible

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: As far as the Civilian Nuclear Energy cooperation is concerned, as I said, we had a very positive exchange of views. Also we came to the conclusion that in fact we should be in a position to make a significant advance on this initiative before the visit of President Bush to India. I had of course this morning, a very important meeting with Senator Lugar, who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It was an extremely positive meeting, and from my point of view a very encouraging meeting. I have every reason to believe that there is in fact a very encouraging environment for seeing this agreement through.

Question: At Carnegie yesterday you spoke about the fact that you have come with ideas, vis a vis, the separation plan. Is it fair to assume that there has still not been any completion of the separation plan which the United States can go to Congress with and that it requires more discussions when Mr. Burns comes over there next year? Secondly, yesterday at Carnegie you said that United States, India relations were at crossroads. If this agreement gets delayed, and protracted negotiations in congress delays it, is it going to be at a cross road where only the status quo will be maintained or can this relationship survive the vicissitudes of this agreement not being confirmed in the next few months?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: Well you know, I think I mentioned very clearly that this meeting that we had produced very positive forward movement on a whole range of issues. We have exchanged views on the implementation of our respective commitments as contained in the July 18th joint statement. I also mentioned to you that I am going back very encouraged by the environment with regard to the implementation of this agreement. 

Question: In terms of the second question that we were at crossroads at Carnegie and you said that you can either be at the status quo level or that if the challenge is ahead you could…?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: I ended that speech by saying that I have every reason to believe that we will move forward and we will move forward in a positive manner.

Question: You are talking about the landmark visit of President Bush to India sometime next year. Would you still consider it landmark or historic if the Civilian Nuclear Agreement does not go through? Secondly there are a lot of people in this town who believe that this Bush administration at this time does not have the political muscle to push through any major agreement in Capitol Hill. Do you get that feeling as well?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: I think I have already answered the question with regard to Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement, and I don’t think that there is any need to belabor this point. India, United States relations are very wide ranging. We are talking about a knowledge initiative with regard to agriculture. We are talking about a whole range of cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy. We are talking about the United States and India working together on a whole range of global issues, global challenges, for example, HIV Aids. We are talking about India, United States cooperation on global terrorism. We are talking about India and United States working together on disaster management. India and the United States joined together to launch the United Nations fund for democracy. So I don’t think that it is really fair to peg India, United States relations only on one particular thing. It is very wide ranging. As I said, and I will repeat, we have had a very positive exchange of views on the Civilian Nuclear Energy cooperation agreement and I go back very encouraged. 

Question: The second part, what is the view on Capitol Hill?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: In the meeting that I had with the Secretary of State, and in the meeting that I had with other interlocutors in Washington, it was put across to me that there is very strong commitment on the part of the United States administration to India - United States partnership. 

Question: The officials in the Bush Administration with whom you have had discussions are waiting for a list from India as to how India would separate the civilian and military nuclear installations. When will this list be received by Washington and what kind of time-frame the two countries are looking at ?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: As I said earlier President Bush would be visiting India in the first few months of next year and it will be our effort that all the initiatives that India and US have taken - there have been several this year - would be discussed and implemented. As far as separation of nuclear installations is concerned, I would say that the exchange of views during this visit would result in a positive outcome.

Question: Let me ask you the same question that I asked the White House. As far as the infiltration of terrorism across the border from Pakistan into India is still there according to Prime Minister and Defense Minster; where do we stand? Are you discussing all this terrorism and they are still supporting Pakistan? You just mentioned about fighting against global terrorism that we have cooperation with the United States; so where do we stand on this issue today?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: In the spirit of our relationship, I have shared with the United States administration the phenomena of cross border terrorism as well. I have brought to their attention the fact that we still do not see a clear pattern in terms of the degrees and elimination of cross border terrorism and infiltration.

Question: So what is their answer sir? What are they saying, are they just listening, are they not doing anything?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: We have been assured by the United States of America that this is a matter which is very high on the agenda of United States - Pakistan talks. 

Question: Yesterday you said that you had come with certain ideas about the plan of the separation of the Civilian Military and Nuclear Installations. Could you tell us about the response from the United States side on your ideas or your plan for separation?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: You know there is a joint working group in which we are exchanging ideas; we are trying to advance our common agenda. I don’t think it is necessary for me to go beyond what we have already stated. We have had a very positive exchange of views and we believe that we have made significant progress. I think that should be sufficient.

Question: The Bush administration has given the indication that the sooner a separation plan is given to them, the sooner they can possibly push this on the Hill. Did you actually give them a list of installations yesterday and today and secondly, what about the Canadian request for the Sirius reactor, is that going to be considered a civilian installation or a military one?

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran: Again, since you have asked a question which has been asked before, which has been answered before, let me again repeat; Both the United States of America, as well as India are conscious of the time line in respect of the implementation of this agreement and we have exchanged ideas on the implementation of the July 18th agreement. We have, again I repeat, made significant progress in this regard, and we hope that we will be able to have a successful outcome of our deliberation, sooner rather than later. Again I see really no reason why one has to talk about this or that reactor. We are exchanging ideas on precisely what you spoke about in terms of the separation of civilian and military facilities and in terms of that exchange of ideas, we have made significant progress and we will continue to make progress.