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Briefing by MEA Official Spokesperson on Dr. Condoleezza Rice's meeting with PM Manmohan Singh

New Delhi
March 16, 2005

Official Spokesperson:
Good Evening. You already have had a briefing on the meeting between Dr. Condoleezza Rice and External Affairs Minister Shri Natwar Singh. Thereafter she met the Leader of Opposition Shri L.K.Advani. She called on the Prime Minister. There was a restricted delegation meeting of the US Secretary of State and the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs. There was also a one-on-one meeting between the Prime Minister and Dr. Rice.

Some of the points that I have out of the discussions I will share with you. She told the Prime Minister that it was decided by President Bush that she should visit India early on in her tenure as Secretary of State and in his second term in order to convey the President’s strong commitment to the bilateral relationship between India and the United States and the great importance that he attaches to this relationship. She conveyed an invitation from President Bush to the Prime Minister to visit Washington. She also invited the External Affairs Minister to visit the United States.

The Prime Minster explained to Dr. Rice India’s growing energy needs in view of our rapid economic growth. It was pointed out that the two countries can cooperate closely in this area and hence the need for an energy dialogue covering all aspects including various traditional and non-traditional sources of energy. There was also an exchange of views on the regional situation. Dr. Rice welcomed the fact that the two countries had been in close touch on the Nepal situation and the two sides agreed that they needed to coordinate their approach to ensure an early return to democracy in Nepal.

The Prime Minister also underlined his strong commitment to the India-Pakistan dialogue process and also emphasized that Pakistan needed to deliver on its commitment to prevent cross-border terrorism. This was necessary in order to ensure public support for the peace process in a democracy like India.

Dr. Rice conveyed President Bush’s personal admiration for the vibrancy and strength of Indian democracy particularly as it was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society of 1 billion people. There is a sense of great affinity, she said, between the two countries as the US is also a pluralistic democracy and there is a strong sense of shared values, which provides a strong foundation for a multi-faceted bilateral relationship. In fact, she said that given the many points of complementarities that we have and areas in which we can cooperate, this could be an extraordinary relationship between our two countries in the next several decades.

On defence cooperation, she expressed United States’ keen interest to emerge as a reliable partner and source for defence hardware and technology. She particularly welcomed the excellent cooperation between the two countries on organizing relief during the recent Tsunami disaster and said that the speed and the scale on which India deployed its naval and air fleet was deeply admirable.

Question: How long did the talks with the Prime Minister last?
Answer: I do not have the exact duration. I think the one-to-one lasted about 20-25 minutes.

Question: What did Dr. Rice have to say when Prime Minister said that Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism?
Answer: I do not have a verbatim report of how the conversation went, but the United States and India have a deeply shared concern on cooperation against terrorism on a global scale

Question: In the discussion on energy cooperation was the issue of nuclear energy touched upon?
Answer: When we are talking of India’s growing energy needs then it is quite clear that nuclear energy is one of the sources that India looks for for meeting its energy needs. It is also what is called clean technology and that is very much a factor in our planning for our energy needs. As far as the morning conversation goes the need was felt to have an energy dialogue in which such issues and concerns, if there are any, can be sorted out. There is an understanding on the need to use nuclear energy for our development purposes, for our normal purposes. That understanding was obvious this morning and therefore there was also this shared interest from both sides. In fact, if you recall, Dr. Rice said in her statement at the press conference that there is a need to set up this energy dialogue forum.

Question: On the reservations on the gas pipeline between India and Iran…
Answer: I think a full answer to that has been given by EAM this morning. I am not trying to match that.

Question: Any dates on President Bush’s visit to India?
Answer: No I have no dates.

Question: On Nepal is there any sense on what India and US can together do?
Answer: There was a reiteration of the fact that the democratic agenda needs to be followed in the region with particular reference to Nepal, that there has been close cooperation between India and the US in this regard. This was appreciated by Dr. Rice and it was also underlined that we need to continue this coordinated approach so as to ensure a return to democracy.

Question: She also said that our Ambassadors in Nepal are closely in touch. Our Ambassador is here today. Anything on that?
Answer: He is here for consultations. I do not know what his consultations have led to. It is a normal thing for an Ambassador to come back for consultations frequently.

Thank You.