Special Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran on the eve of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's Visit to St. Petersburg for G-8 Summit, July 15, 2006
July 15, 2006
OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON (SHRI NAVTEJ SARNA): Good afternoon everybody. Thank you for turning up on a Saturday afternoon for this special briefing by the Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s visit to St. Petersburg for the G-8 Summit. The visit begins tomorrow.
I would request the Foreign Secretary to say a few words and then we will take questions. Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY (SHRI SHYAM SARAN): Thank you very much. Let me add my word of apologies for dragging you out on a Saturday afternoon. I thought before Prime Minister leaves for St. Petersburg tomorrow morning I would just give you a background of the preparations for the G-8 Summit and the kind of issues that are likely to be addressed at the Summit. Also, we would be briefing you about some of the positions that India has taken on the points that we would be discussing at St. Petersburg.
Let me begin by saying that it has now become something of a tradition that when the G-8 annual Summits take place, India along with some of the other important developing countries is also invited for what has become knows as Outreach Session. Just as we had, these countries participated at the Gleneagles Summit last year. Many of you would be aware that the countries which were invited were India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico. It is the same group of countries who have been invited for the St. Petersburg Summit. But, there will also be Congo which is representing the African Union because Africa-related issues could also be a major theme of the Summit.
You might have seen reports that for the G-8, this particular Summit is to address mainly issues relating to energy security, the global infectious diseases, global health problems, as well as education-related problems. In addition, since Africa was a major theme at the Gleneagles Summit, this time there would also be a focus on Africa, in particular what progress has been made on the implementation on some of the recommendations which were made at the last Summit.
In addition, there will be discussion on issues of global security. Terrorism would certainly be an important element. There would also be a focus on world trade, in particular the follow up to the Ministerial Meeting which was held in Geneva which as you know was not a very resounding success. So, this is a gathering where some of the international trade related issues relating to the Doha Round would also be discussed. So, as you can see, there is a fairly important agenda, a very wide-ranging agenda.
On each of these issues the developing countries, the Outreach countries, would have in fact quite a great deal to say. What we have done is, as we did for Gleneagles, there are certain papers which India itself has circulated on different issues. The Outreach countries have also been meeting amongst themselves and they have harmonized their position on several of these important issues. This will form the input also for the G-8 Summit.
Prime Minister would be reaching tomorrow evening. Our plan is to have a meeting of the Outreach countries soon thereafter in the evening itself tomorrow. Thereafter, the next day virtually the entire forenoon including lunch would really be the Outreach Session where the G-8 Heads of State and Government would have a chance to interact in a very informal, in a very free atmosphere with each other at the Outreach Session. And the discussions on these various topics will continue over lunch and then the Summit would be over.
Now you may ask what really would be the expectations that we would have from the Summit. Of course, for us a very important area of focus is terrorism. This has acquired a very, I would say, topical dimension because of the events which have taken place in the last few days, the tragic terrorist bombing incidents in Mumbai and before that in Srinagar. So, terrorism is going to be, from our point of view, a very important issue that would be addressed at the G-8 Summit. We have been receiving messages of very strong support and solidarity from a very large number of countries including all the G-8 Heads of State and Government. Certainly our expectation would be that the G-8 will come out with a very strong statement on terrorism, the need for us to unitedly deal with the scourge of terrorism and the ideology of extremism and violence. So, for us that would be certainly a very important element.
As far as some of the other issues are concerned, as I mentioned to you, we have a great stake in the success of the Doha Round. We have a very strong commitment to a rule-based, multilateral, equitable world trading regime and a trading regime which takes development as its centerpiece. It must provide for differentiated treatment of developed and developing countries. This is not really happening.
On major issues, for example on agriculture, we still do not have a spirit of flexibility among some major developed countries on the reduction of agricultural subsidies. There still does not seem to be a sensitivity to the requirements of the large developing countries who have vulnerable rural populations. There is the phenomena of subsistence agriculture. There is need for safeguards for the interests of these populations. So, from our point of view there are a number of issues of this kind which need to be addressed.
On the side of services we have certain strengths. We would certainly like a more liberal regime for the movement of professionals which again is hampered by a number of restrictions. So, there will be a number of issues that will need to be addressed. We would certainly take these up in a fairly strong manner at the Summit.
Then we come to the major issues that have already been put forward by Russia sometime ago, energy security. In fact from the point of view of Russia as well as from the point of view of other G-8 partners, energy security has become a very important overriding concern. As you now see, just on the eve of the Summit oil prices are hitting about 78 dollars per barrel. So, it has really concentrated the minds as it were on the importance of energy security, how do we deal with these kind of fluctuations, this kind of volatility in the energy market?
In terms of our strategy, we have always said that from the point of view of the developing countries our perspective is somewhat different. Our perspective is that for our development we need to increase energy consumption. It is not a matter of capping energy consumption or trying to reduce energy consumption. From our perspective, if we are to overcome the constraints on our development, we need to increase our energy consumption. How do we ensure that in this kind of an environment of volatility and an environment of rising energy prices? For long-term strategy we ourselves have committed India and we have advocated that we should diversify the energy mix. Our dependence upon fossil fuels should reduce. Over a period of time we should move to renewables and that we should have a large menu of energy resources that we should be able to draw upon. Of course, there are issues of energy efficiency, the balance between energy consumption and environmental protection. All these issues get interlinked. Of course, to some extent these issues were already addressed at the Gleneagles Summit last year. But there would be a much more focused discussion at this Summit.
As I mentioned to you, we have also presented our own perspective on issues like education. Russia has come up with proposals for focusing attention on technical education, vocational education, generating employment through this kind of education, making education much more relevant to the requirements of our time. We certainly subscribe to that notion. We ourselves have suggested that in terms of meeting our goals for “Education for All” there have to be much more dedicated resources provided for education.
There is the issue of pandemics which will come under health. There again the need for us to have a global response, a global strategy particularly in terms of early warning systems, in terms of surveillance mechanisms to detect in a timely manner the emergence of this kind of infectious diseases, and some kind of a quick response mechanism, these are the kind of things which we would be looking at under the health item.
Africa – on our side we have indicated that we have already in place a very very elaborate programme of cooperation with African countries. You are aware of projects like the pan-African e-network. We also have programmes in Western Africa, the TEAM-9 initiative. There are a number of things which are happening between India and Africa which we have already given in the shape of a paper to the G-8. So, this is one area where India has already done quite a bit.
I think with regard to the elements that we would be taking up at the Summit itself I would confine myself to these issues.
We also look forward to the opportunity for the Prime Minister to have a number of bilateral meetings with several of the important Heads of State and Government who would be present there. As you know, the President of the United States, President of China, the British Prime Minister, the German Chancellor, the Japanese Prime Minister, they would all be present at St. Petersburg. There would certainly be opportunities for the Prime Minister to have exchange of views with them not only on the issues that are in front of the Summit but also on a number of bilateral issues.
Thank you very much and I would be happy to take questions.
QUESTION: To what extent will Prime Minister be seeking greater pressure from the international community at the G-8 on President Musharraf to contain the terror network within Pakistan?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think the need for there to be a serious effort on the part of the international community to deal with the challenge of terrorism is self-evident. Prime Minister would certainly be making a very strong pitch at the G-8 for a united response. This is something which is not only a matter which affects India: it is a matter which affects the region, it affects us globally. You have seen the networks which have come to our attention whether you look at the London bombings, or what has been happening in other parts of the world. It is quite apparent that these are all interlinked. Therefore, you cannot have a segmented response to terrorism. I think the message which should come out from the G-8 is that the world accepts that there cannot be a segmented response to terrorism and that unless we are ready to work together and really look this problem in the face we do not really succeed.
QUESTION: Is a trilateral meeting with India, Russia and China also scheduled?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: There has been a proposal made by Russia for a trilateral meeting of the Prime Minister of India, Presidents of China and Russia but it has not yet been scheduled. So, we are waiting for a word from our hosts as to if and when this meeting would be held. Of course, we would welcome an opportunity for such a meeting.
QUESTION: You mentioned making pitch for a united response. What would that united response look like? What are you looking for from the international community specifically?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Number one, there must be a very unambiguous expression from the international community that such acts of terrorism are totally unacceptable. If there is, as people say, zero tolerance for terrorism as far as the international community is concerned, then when something like this happens, that zero tolerance should be very clearly and unambiguously demonstrated. Secondly, we have said this before, it appears that as far as terrorist groups are concerned they seem to have much better international cooperation amongst themselves rather than the countries who are facing them. We need to have a network amongst ourselves to deal with such a global phenomenon.
There has to be greater information exchange. There has to be greater cooperation as far as intelligence is concerned. There should be a readiness to deal with each of these kind of phenomena without some kind of, as I said, segmentation that fighting terrorism in one part of the world is perhaps much more important than it is in the other because that is really failing to look at the phenomenon itself because it is global. If you have to defeat it, then you must fight it wherever it occurs. That is what we are trying to put across. It is not just an India-Pakistan problem. I think unless there is a recognition that this is not just an India-Pakistan problem but this is a wider regional and global problem, it would be very difficult to confront it.
QUESTION: Are you somewhat disappointed that western nations have not condemned the Mumbai blasts as they should have? Are you planning to share any evidence with Pakistan on the Mumbai blasts?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: The first question, I think there have been a number of very strong statements by Heads of State and Government of western countries. So, to say that there has not been a good enough response from our point of view would not be correct. In fact we have received very strong messages of solidarity and support.
As far as sharing information with Pakistan is concerned, we have a mechanism through which we are supposed to exchange information. It is for our agencies to decide what they wish to communicate through those channels.
QUESTION: In the bilateral meeting with President Bush, would terrorism be a topic on the agenda? Is a bilateral meeting scheduled between India and Pakistan?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Pakistan is not represented at St. Petersburg. With regard to the meeting with President Bush, I think it is for the two leaders to really decide what they want to talk about. But certainly for us a major item of concern would be terrorism. Certainly. But there are a number of issues on the bilateral agenda as well that the two leaders would be talking about. I am certain they will review the progress of the very wide-ranging agenda on cooperation that we have drawn up together between the two countries. I am sure they would like to know and like to assess how far we have made progress and what needs to be done in the future.
QUESTION: Foreign Secretary sahab, aap ne kaha ki terrorism ko lekar ambiguous response raha hai. Kya aapko lagta hai ki is ambiguous response ki vajah se jo pehli casualty hai voh aksar peace process hota hai jo do mulkon ke beech mein chal raha hota hai? Yahan main zikr India-Pakistan ka kar raha hun. Is tarah ka response, is tarah ki gair sanjeedgi partner countries mein dikhayi deti hai terrorism ko lekar. To kya aapko lagta hai first casualty yahan par peace process hogi India-Pakistan ke beech mein?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Dekhiye, main koi prediction nahin kar raha hun ki peace process jo hai voh casualty ban jayegi. Main yeh kehna chahta tha ki is tarah ki jo international meeting ho rahi hai, yeh ek jo international context hai jis mein ki yeh meeting ho rahi hai, us mein terrorism ka jo mudda hai voh bahut topical mudda ho gaya hai, kyonki abhi haal mein Mumbai blasts hue hain. Aur isko dekhna chahiye kaise connected hai international terrorism se - jo London mein bomb blasts hue, Madrid mein bomb blasts hue - aap logon ne agar dekha hai jo reporting hui Mumbai blasts mein saari jo international press hai, voh bhi yeh connection dekh rahi hai ki jo yahan hua hai uska kahin na kahin jo terrorist incidents baaki jagah hue hain unse linkages hain. Aur kya origin hai uske baare mein bhi baat ho rahi hai. Har bade desh ke neta ne bahut strong statements of condemnation issue kiye hain. Lekin, uske saath-saath hum chahte hain ki ek coordinated global response bhi hona chahiye. To agar G-8 Summit se ek united strong statement niklegi ki international terrorism ko tolerate nahin kiya jayega, is tarah ki jo violence hai usko tolerate nahin kiya jayega, aur hum saare jo desh hain voh Bharat jaise desh ke saath aur baaki jo desh hain unke saath milkar kaam karenge isko defeat karne ke liye, parast karne ke liye, to iska ek achha prabhav padega.
QUESTION: Are you hoping that the G-8 leaders will name Pakistan? Otherwise, on terrorism do you want Pakistan to be named?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: We are not in the business of telling G-8 who they should name and who they should not. I think I have said enough that there is a certain urgency and there is a certain need for there to be an unambiguous, united, international response to terrorism, not just linked to this event but to see how this is interconnected with, as a global phenomenon and needs (a global response) just as there are other global issues which require global response. We are talking about energy security which requires a global response, we are talking about pandemics which requires global response. These are cross-cutting issues. These are transnational issues. We are saying, so is terrorism. So, just as you need a global response to other such issues, we need to get together and also deal with this. And wherever it occurs, it needs to be fought.
QUESTION: Which are the bilateral meetings that have been confirmed as of now which the Prime Minister will be having?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: In this kind of meetings it is always a little difficult to say in advance what these bilateral meetings would be. But I think it would be fair to say that Prime Minister would have an opportunity to meet almost all of the important leaders who are going to be represented at the Summit. There have been some requests from other countries who are attending and there have been some requests from us. We are in the process now, our Mission in Moscow and our Consulate in St. Petersburg are right now in the process of going to tie up the loose ends and to schedule the various meetings taking into account the amount of time that Prime Minister has because Prime Minister would be having a very brief stay in St. Petersburg.
QUESTION: The NDA Government had said that it will have zero tolerance against terrorism. What is your Government’s stand? Do you adhere to that policy? Do you think that the threshold has been crossed with the 7/11 Mumbai blasts?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Number one, why are you making a distinction between me and the previous Government?
I think we have had zero tolerance for terrorism across several Governments. It is not something that is a Government-specific response. We have all along stated that we are very much committed to pursuing a policy of peace and friendship with Pakistan. We ourselves have taken the initiative to put in place a very large number of confidence-building measures. If you look at Kashmir specific confidence-building measures, virtually each and every one of them has come from India. If you look at some of the other confidence-building measures which have been put in place most of them are again at the initiative of India. So, I do not think that anybody can have a doubt in terms of India’s commitment to taking this peace process, taking the dialogue process forward. But we have reminded again and again that our ability to take the peace process forward is very much integrally linked to the implementation of the commitments, very solemn commitments, unambiguous commitments, which are enshrined in the Joint Statement of January 6, 2004 in which Pakistan committed itself not to permit any part of the territory under its control to be used for cross-border terrorism against India.
Each time there have been incidents which have taken place, we have pointed out that our ability – in any democracy – to take this process is dependent upon our ability to have public opinion behind us. We must have the people of India behind us when we take this peace process forward. Every time something like this happens, it undermines public confidence. It undermines public opinion. Negative public opinion is created. Anger is generated. So, obviously, whether we like it or not, this becomes a question mark over the process. And what has happened recently is really a playing out of what we have been saying again and again. If you ask me what is really the threshold, it is very difficult to predict what the threshold would be. But I think it would be fair to say that as a result of these terrible terrorist incidents it is becoming difficult to take this process forward.
QUESTION: My questions are related to Iran and Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to India. Yesterday, in a lecture you stated that while Iran voted against India on NPT several times which was not acceptable to India, India did not say anything against Iran? …now when the Iranian Foreign Minister is coming to India, is India going to somehow remove that doubt between the two countries and try to heal the wounds? What are you going to specifically discuss with the Iranian Foreign Minister when he comes here? Day before yesterday the Iranian Oil Minister has rejected the pricing structure of Pakistan and India as far as the pipeline is concerned. He said that Iran cannot accept that pricing structure. What specifically are you going to discuss with the Iranian Foreign Minister on pipeline issue?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think I will leave it to the Iranian Foreign Minister to decide what he wishes to talk about. But we are very clear as to what our policy towards Iran is, and I think I have spelt out in great detail for you. If you keep insisting on finding negative elements in our relationship, I cannot help it. But I said very clearly that India places great value on what it regards as its civilisational ties with Iran. I do not think there should be any doubt about that. We have also stated in very clear terms that Iran is and will remain a very important energy partner for India. Iran is also very important to us in terms of our relationship with Central Asia, in relation with Afghanistan. So, if you are looking at the kind of relationship we already have with Iran, frankly I think the agenda for our meeting with Minister Mottaki could be a very substantial one.
As far as the pipeline is concerned, the negotiations are going on. I am certain that there will have to be further rounds of talks about issue like pricing issues, like security issues, like quantities. Let the people who are handling this negotiate the deal in the best manner possible. Eventually we will have to come to a deal which takes into account the interests of Iran and taken into account the interests of India and Pakistan. We cannot have something which is one at the expense of the other We have also said I think time and again that India’s position concerning this particular project will be based on the economic viability of the project but, of course, taking into account the very privileged relationship that we have with Iran. We would hope that Iran in turn when it deals with this issue, will also take into account this privileged relationship.
QUESTION: Aapne kaha ki G-8 mein bahut se muddon par baat hogi. Kya Iraq mein anischit-ta ki halat par bhi baat hogi? Aaj yeh khabar bhi aa rahi hai ki paanch Indians ko vahan agwa kar liya gaya hai. Uske baare mein kya aapke paas kuchh jaankaari hai?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Dekhiye, jaisa ki hamne kaha G-8 ki Summit mein ek to jo agenda ke items hain unpar baat-cheet hogi. Lekin, saath-saath jahan pe itne saare world leaders ek saath ekatrit hue hain to yeh to bahut hi vajib hai ki voh saath-saath kuchh aur jo mudde hain unpar baat karenge. Ab Middle-East mein ek samasya khadi ho rahi hai. Ek Lebanon aur ek Palestine issue hai us par baat-cheet hogi. Iran ka jo mudda hai voh Security Council mein le jaya jaa raha hai, P-5 plus 1 jo desh hain unke dwara us par shayad baat-cheet hogi. Kuchh aur aise bhi mudde hain jin par baat-cheet hogi aur agar us ke darmian Iraq ke upar bhi baat-cheet hogi to shayad hamaari jo Outreach ki meeting hai us mein agar yeh mudda uthega to baat-cheet zaroor hogi. Lekin voh aise specifically agenda pe nahin hai.
Aur jo aapne report ki baat ki, report hamne dekhi hai. Lekin abhi tak hamare paas koi iska confirmation nahin hai. Jo kuchh bhi jaankari hamne haasil karne ki koshish ki hai, usse abhi tak koi confirmation hamen nahin mila.
QUESTION: British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke about G-8 converting itself into G-13. What is India’s response to that? What kind of role you visualize for India in the expanded G-8?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: We will leave it to the G-8 to decide whether it wants to convert itself to G-13. But I would like to certainly make the point that as far as certain global cross-cutting issues are concerned, the world already recognizes that it would be very difficult to resolve these problems and deal with these global challenges unless you have countries like India and, of course, countries like China and some of the other important developing countries like South Africa, Brazil also part and parcel of that global dialogue.
QUESTION: There is still some confusion as to whether the Foreign Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan will be held? What is the position?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I do not know why there is confusion because what had been decided was that at the end of the Composite Dialogue level various rounds on the various items of the Composite Dialogue there would be a meeting of the Foreign Secretaries, there would be a meeting of the Foreign Ministers, and there would be a meeting of the Joint Commission. What has not been determined certainly from our side are possible dates for these meetings. We will take a decision on this at an appropriate time.
QUESTION: In your presentation you have mentioned about harmonization of issues among the outreach nations. Could you elaborate on that? To what extent this harmonization plan goes and which are the issues on which a joint kind of position will be taken?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: What we have tried to do is to give inputs from our side on each of these agenda items. At I mentioned to you, we have had meetings amongst the five outreach countries themselves and we have found that in fact on almost all these issues we have a very convergent position. For example trade. As you know, we have a very carefully crafted, united kind of strategy by the developing countries. These are the major developing countries who are in the forefront in any case. So, we have set out positions concerning, for example, how to treat agricultural subsidies, the whole issue of non-agricultural market access. We have looked at the issue of safeguards particularly for developing countries, those who have large rural populations. So, on a number of these trade related issues we have certain common position and this has been communicated as a G-5 or as an outreach country position as an input for the G-8 and an opportunity to have a very free-wheeling exchange of view on some of these issues will, of course, take place when the Outreach Session takes place.
Then on energy security, again as far as the developing countries are concerned - and these five countries are concerned – our views are virtually the same because there is obviously going to be an impact on our development if we are going to face an environment of rising prices of energy which we are already facing. It is no longer something which is in the future. This is something the future has come today. So, how do we craft a strategy which takes into account our own specific developmental needs but put in the larger global context. We certainly believe that there should be a balancing of the interests of producers, of consumers, of transit countries. We certainly believe that we must have a strategy of diversification of energy supplies, that in long term we need to move away from fossil fuels to renewables. If we are going to move for clean energy and clean development mechanisms, then the financial burden of this should not have to be borne by the developing countries themselves. There must be some kind of financing mechanism so that our requirements in terms of adopting these new technologies can be taken care of. So, on these elements there is a harmonized position.
On health, of course, the key issue for us is how do we have affordable treatment, affordable drugs available to enable developing countries, particularly the more poorer countries, to confront global challenges of, for example, HIV-AIDS. There we believe that developing countries themselves have certain strengths that they can bring to the table. Look at India’s own pharmaceuticals industry. We are the fourth largest pharmaceuticals industry in the world. We are a very large producer of retroviral drugs at very affordable prices. So, we believe that if we have agreed that this is a global challenge which needs to be confronted with all the instruments which are available to us, then we need to look at how we can draw upon the strengths of some of the developing countries themselves in order to confront them. So, we also offer as developing countries what we can do in order to contribute to these efforts. It is not only that we are recipients, we are also partners in this effort.
On education, we have pointed out that in many areas of education, particularly technical education, centers of excellence are available in our own countries. And we have on our own in fact been offering these educational opportunities to many of our brothers and sisters in the other developing countries. So, if there is a global response required, then perhaps you should take into account the assets which are also available in developing countries themselves. Then you can craft a global response. These are some of the ideas which are incorporated in the inputs that we have provided to the G-8.
QUESTION: Will there be any meeting amongst India, Brazil and South Africa on the issue of permanent membership in Security Council?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: We do not have a separate meeting which has been planned. But I have no doubt that when the Prime Minister would be meeting some of the leaders on a bilateral basis this would perhaps come up also as a topic of conversation. As you know, what is happening now in New York is that a strong recommendation has been made that there should be a discussion in the General Assembly about the reform of the United Nations, the implementation of the Millennium Goals, and in particular the reform of the Security Council because everyone agrees that expansion of the Security Council both in the permanent as well as in the non-permanent categories is inescapable. So we need to keep attention focused on that even though we may not have made much progress in terms of this reform being implemented but it should not fall off the international agenda. So, the G-4 along with other developing countries are working to see that this remains very much a focus of the global agenda.
Thank you very much.