Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, on the bilateral meeting between India and China on the sidelines of SCO Summit 2019 in Bishkek on June 13, 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first engagement after he arrived in Bishkek earlier on Thursday 13 June 2019, was a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China.
The meeting was originally scheduled for 20 minutes but went for a longer period and both the leaders had a very warm and a very cordial discussion on a range of subjects. President Xi Jinping congratulated the Prime Minister for his victory in the general election and he said that this was reflective of the aspirations and the trust that the people of India had placed on the Prime Minister.
Both leaders then did a review of the bilateral relationship and they agreed that there is a new momentum in this bilateral relationship since the Wuhan Summit in April last year.
The Prime Minister specifically noted that what had improved between both the sides is strategic communication at all levels and in that context some of the issues that we had been able to resolve through that strategic communication included long pending issues like the opening of the Bank of China branch in India as well as the resolution of the issue relating to the listing of Masood Azhar in the 1267 Sanctions Committee.
The two leaders agreed that while the outcome of Wuhan was a very positive one it was necessary now to move the relationship forward into new areas and therefore the Prime Minister specifically conveyed to President Xi and he agreed that both sides need to raise our expectations from the relationship and in that context the Prime Minister welcomed President Xi Jinping to India for the next informal summit, the second informal summit after Wuhan. He said that both sides must prepare very thoroughly for this summit that the outcome of the summit must meet the expectations of both sides and President Xi Jinping very warmly confirmed his readiness to visit India this year. He said he looked forward to discussing all issues from a strategic and long term perspective and that both sides should now begin intensive preparations for the visit.
There were some discussions between the leaders on the issue of trade. As you know since Wuhan, the Prime Minister has reiterated that it is important for us to tackle the trade deficit with China and in a number of areas that we had mutually identified there was progress in terms of the regulatory procedures that have been simplified by the Chinese side. The Prime Minister took note of this, he expressed his appreciation for the simplification of the regulatory processes that included non-Basmati Rice, sugar, certain agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and he therefore hope that now that these regulatory issues are out of the way there would be a significant uptick in our exports of these products to China or imports by China of these products.
President Xi Jinping took note of this, he said initial steps have been to redress some of these issues. He said that China will be taking further steps and both sides agreed that in some manner, we have to, in the next few months, see how we can achieve a significant breakthrough in this regard through discussions between the two sides.
Both sides agreed that next year is a critical year in our bilateral relationship, it would be the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations. In this regard the Prime Minister proposed that we need to mark this occasion in befitting manner, in a manner that reflects this new relationship and he therefore proposed that to mark the 70th anniversary India and China should hold 70 important events, 35 each in India and China and the two leaders have tasked their respective External Affairs Ministers to discuss this matter at the second meeting of the High Level Mechanism which will take place as you know the first meeting of this mechanism took place in December last year and it is a mechanism explicitly established to enhance people to people relations and people to people contacts.
There was also a brief discussion on the boundary issue. The two leaders have asked the Special Representatives to meet and carry forward the discussion and have instructed them to expedite discussions in this regard for achieving a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question. The two leaders have said that the approach should be constructive and it must be driven by the larger context in which we see India-China relations, in which the two leaders see India-China relations in the coming years in the new century of course but also in the coming years.
Both the Special Representatives, on the Indian side the National Security Advisor, on the Chinese side the Foreign Minister and the State Counselor Mr. Wang Yi were present in the room when the leader’s met.
Overall this was a relatively brief meeting because it is a meeting on the sidelines of the SCO Summit but it was very substantive in content. The atmosphere was very positive, the Wuhan Spirit was very much in evidence and this is the beginning of what will be a series of other interactions the two leaders will have. They are expecting to meet and greet each other at G20 Summit two weeks down the road, in Osaka. They will of course be meeting at BRICS this year, at the East Asia Summit this year and then there will be the bilateral informal summit. So we see this as the beginning of a process after the formation of government in India, to now deal with India-China relations from both sides in a larger context of the 21st century and of our role in the Asia Pacific region in this regard.
There was a very brief discussion on Pakistan. Obviously time was a constraint but Prime Minister in fact said that we have a consistent position with respect to Pakistan, we discuss all issues through bilateral mechanism and we look for peaceful settlement through negotiations. We are committed to this process, the prime minister recalled that he has made efforts in this regard and these efforts have been derailed.
The Prime Minister did inform President Xi Jinping that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere free of terrorism and that at this stage we did not see this happening as yet. And that therefore we expect Pakistan to take concrete action on the issues that India has proposed in the areas of concerns that we have flagged to Pakistan, that Pakistan should take concrete action in this regard.
There was a general discussion on the global situation and obviously in that context the China-US relationship came up as an issue but there was no time for a very detailed discussion in these matters. The focus of this bilateral meeting has been to reaffirm that in the five year term of this government which coincidently also closely matches the term of President Xi Jinping in his second term as president. The two countries have a historic opportunity to move forward on a number of issues, to address a number of problems and to take India-China relations to a new level. No detailed discussion took place, a general direction was given.
Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary on the bilateral meeting between India and Russia on the sidelines of SCO Summit 2019 in Bishkek on June 13, 2019
The warmth and the personal friendship were evident throughout the meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of the Russian Federation, President Putin and in fact the entire meeting was suffused with this relationship that they enjoy as colleagues and that they have enjoyed over the past few years.
President Putin specifically recognized Prime Minister’s personal contribution in strengthening this relationship. He mentioned this on more than one occasion, he also specifically said that Russia had conferred its highest award, the Order of Saint Andrew The Apostle on our Prime Minister in recognition of this effort and this initiative that Prime Minister has taken to develop the relationship with Russia.
Both leaders recognized the special significance of the partnership as an important pillar for stability in the world of the future and there was an understanding that this partnership, this relationship is an old relationship, it is a relationship based on trust between the leadership and between the people and that this relationship needs to be sustained, it needs to be developed, it needs to be given further encouragement.
President Putin has invited the Prime Minister formally to be the main guest for the Eastern Economic Forum at the Vladivostok in early September and Prime Minister has warmly accepted this invitation. This will be a bilateral visit which the Prime Minister will make to Vladivostok in early September as the Chief Guest for the Eastern Economic Forum and thereafter for the India-Russia Annual Bilateral Summit.
The Prime Minister felt that this is a new area of cooperation, something that must be explored actively by both sides and therefore the Prime Minister informed President Putin that we will do serious preparations on our side to ensure that its participation at the Eastern Economic Forum is meaningful and the Prime Minister has therefore conveyed that business delegations as well as representatives of key Indian states will visit Vladivostok and the Russian far east prior to Prime Minister’s own visit in early September to identify and to scope out and to work on potential areas of business collaboration in this new region.
The Russian Far East is extremely resource rich, besides oil & gas it has a number of other minerals, it has timber and this is an area in which we would like to work with Russia because Russia is also an important country in the Pacific region and this is part of our Act East Policy. So this is something that India is going to lay special emphasis on.
The two leaders reviewed trade & investment relations, they noted that we are on an upward trajectory, that in fact the targets that we have set for trade & investment have been exceeded, that our energy cooperation is going well. President Putin mentioned about the discussions going on between the Russian companies and the Indian consortium for the Vankor cluster which is supposed to be one of the biggest deposit of oil & gas which Russia has.
A new area of focus that was identified by both leaders is Arctic region oil & gas. This is an area where we feel we should look and engage further and we have already began that engagement. A delegation from Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has already has already had discussion with the Russian side last month and this is something that the leaders felt we should take forward.
Both leaders also looked at the Russian Far East offers is another important area and that is using skilled Indian manpower to develop this region. This region is vast but is, underpopulated i.e. a very small population. So this too will be explored in the near future and all the areas will be discussed both at the Strategic Economic Dialogue which from the Indian side is headed by the Vice Chairman of the NITI Aayog. That meeting will take place in July.
Prior to that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Special Representative of President Putin for the Arctic region in the Far East, Deputy Prime Minister Trutnev will visit India in June and we are also planning for the possibility of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Consultation, which is headed by the External Affairs Minister on Indian side to also be held, before September before the annual summit. So these areas – energy, manpower, trade & investment and the Russian Far East will be looked at in all these institutional mechanisms.
One of the areas President Putin particularly mentioned was the modernization of the Indian Railways. In this regard they are doing a study for the upgrading of the Nagpur-Secunderabad line and this was an area in which Russia is interested in. Naturally discussions did take place on defence related issues and Prime Minister thanked President Putin for the rapidity with which the Russia had responded to the Indian request for Make in India to manufacture the AK203 Kalashnikov rifles in Amethi. This is a project which was set up in record time and President Putin in fact confirmed that the first batch of orders was already underway. Both leaders were very pleased with this.
In a sense this marks the beginning of a process where India move away from a buyer seller relationship to one where there is technology transfer and Make in India and job creation and content creation in India. So therefore India will be discussing other inter-governmental agreements and there will be more such occasions where Russian technology and Russian manufacturing will be moved to India.
In overall terms it was a brief meeting but a very-very rich meeting in terms of content and in terms of outlining where India and Russia will go with the next Bilateral Summit which will be held two or three months from now. And of course they concluded the meeting by saying they look forward to meeting each other at Osaka at the G20 Summit. There also will be Russia-India-China trilateral meeting in the margins of the G20.
The meeting ended with the assurance that both leaders will again meet in the very near future and in the meantime both sides will be working on certain agreements to prepare well for the Annual Summit in September.
There was no specific discussion on any particular defence equipment except the Prime Minister thanking the President of Russia for the AK203 Kalashnikov factory in Amethi.
What was discussed was how we are going to take forward this Make in India and some of the other specific areas where we would like to have cooperation were touched upon but given the brief time available no detailed discussion took place. Nor was any discussion on any regional or international issues because the focus was entirely on how to make the Prime Minister’s visit for the next Annual Summit successful
Note: There was no discussion during the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Putin on issues like terrorism, Pakistan or the S400, for which US has been pressurizing India and has gone to the extent of offering the alternative to it ?