On board VVIP flight from Hanoi to New Delhi
National Security Advisor (Shri Shivshankar Menon): As you know, Prime Minister received a call by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this afternoon. It lasted about 45 minutes. The main topic discussed was actually President Obama’s visit. Both sides were looking forward to the visit and were sure that it would be a historic visit which would enable us to add content to the strategic partnership and would also explore various ways, as Prime Minister just told you, of expanding the relationship in the various areas in which we cooperate together - whether political, whether security, whether economic and trade, commercial relations and in other areas.
Both sides expressed satisfaction at the state of preparations and looked forward to the conversations that will take place during the visit. Apart from the exchange on the visit itself which took most of the meeting, they also had a discussion about the situation in the region. Secretary of State Clinton mentioned to Prime Minister about the strategic dialogue that the US has just conducted with Pakistan, and about US determination to continue with their goals that they are presently pursuing in Afghanistan. She welcomed the work that India is doing to contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
That about sums it up. I will be happy to take one or two questions.
Question: Was China discussed?
National Security Advisor: No
Question: Was sharing of information discussed?
National Security Advisor: They spoke in general terms about counter-terrorism cooperation.
Question: Were the concerns that the US still has on the Nuclear Liability Bill discussed?
National Security Advisor: One of the things that we are working on certainly is, how we will carry our civil nuclear initiative forward. That is one of the issues which I think is being discussed by the Department of Atomic Energy with the US firms concerned. But those are practical discussions.
Question: Sir, can you please explain what this effort is to reduce the list of high-tech items with the US, and what are those high-tech items and how do they help India?
National Security Advisor: The US has a double system of export controls which is built up over the years whether in terms of crime control, regional stability concerns, nonproliferation, some are related to missile proliferation. In effect they categorise countries, and depending on your category you are cleared for certain levels of exports of high-tech goods or dual use goods. They also have a list of entities to which US companies cannot supply to or can only supply with a licence, if they are on the entities list. We have been discussing with the US how to amend the system, and the US has been very positive. This actually has been going on for some time, since 2005 when we set up high-technology cooperation group under the Foreign Secretary which has been discussing what to change, how to change. You know India has adhered to the NSG guidelines. After all we have a very good nonproliferation record. We have passed our own export control laws which more than meet international standards and in fact, in some respects are even higher. So, we have been arguing that, therefore, the older restrictions need to be changed. And the US agreed with us that these restrictions need to be brought in line with present reality. That is the exercise we have been engaged in. I think we have made considerable progress in that.
Question: During talks with the American Secretary of State, this issue of Pakistan …(Inaudible)… has come up again and again? …(Inaudible)… said we will gradually taper off defence supplies to Pakistan and we will sort of gradually start giving them only economic assistance. Is this something Americans are seriously considering particularly in the light of …(Inaudible)…
National Security Advisor: Ask the Americans! First you are informing us of a fact. Then you are telling us what the Americans think. Ask the Americans! Where is the question?
Question: Sir, they have given naval aircraft. Are we going to speak to them about it?
National Security Advisor: For us, US arms to Pakistan which are not related to counter-terrorism certainly are an issue which we have discussed. The US knows our view. We have consistently made clear what we think about them.
Question: Sir, Foreign Secretary said that we may ask the US for setting up a legal mechanism to make more accountability of the aid which is given to Pakistan. Are we considering anything?
National Security Advisor: I am not going to comment on what Foreign Secretary said. We all speak for the same Government She speaks for India too.
Question: Can you elaborate on that, Sir?
National Security Advisor: No, that is not fair.
Question: Sir, I wanted to ask whether we are going to finalise any agreement on the entities issues with the US during Obama’s visit.
National Security Advisor: As I said, this is a matter of US law and practice and regulations. This is not something that we do by an agreement between India and the US. We will reflect the state of our discussions with the US in the announcements that we make during the visit. I do not want to anticipate outcomes now. But as said this is primarily their own regulations, their own system which is being adjusted to reflect today’s reality. That is something we will do.
Question: In your talks with the Chinese side did you get a feeling that they are trying to force decisions, or they are going to stress on resolving the boundary issue?
National Security Advisor: I think we are both agreed that what we would like is a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of boundary question. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Premier Wen Jiabao said that during the meeting of yesterday. It was quite clear. So, I do not think it is a question of either side trying to somehow force their views. Both want a mutually acceptable settlement.
Question: But he said that he wants his visit to be productive in what sense?
National Security Advisor: We would also like the visit to be productive.
Question: Sir, I just wanted to ask whether the meetings with the Japanese Prime Minister and Malaysia came up with …(Inaudible)… several very strong remarks from China in the last couple of days.
National Security Advisor: No, they did not come up. There was not enough time. This was basically about the visit and the immediate region