Media briefing by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shivshankar Menon on Prime Minister's visit to Germany for the G-8 Meeting
June 5, 2007
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have requested Foreign Secretary to be here to brief you on Prime Minister’s visit to G-8 beginning tomorrow. After FS has made his initial remarks, if you have any questions please let us know.
FOREIGN SECRETARY: As you know, Prime Minister will be leaving Delhi tomorrow to go to Germany for the G-8 meeting with the Outreach countries. This is the third year in a row that India has been invited to the G-8 Summit of Heads of State and Government along with Brazil, China, South Africa, Mexico to participate in a special meeting.
Prime Minister will be leaving tomorrow. Day after tomorrow, on the 7th (June), he will be in Berlin where he will be meeting with some of the leaders who will be present there, for instance, with the President of China, with the UN Secretary General, with the President of Nigeria, and with the President of Mexico. In the evening there will be a meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the five developing countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa - in Berlin itself. We will brief you immediately after that evening on that series of meetings in Berlin.
On the 8th (June), Prime Minister will go to Heiligendamm which is where the G-8 Summit is for a meeting of the G-8 Heads with the five Outreach members in the morning. They will have a working session on the morning of the 8th lasting two hours which will cover basically issues relating to the global economy, subjects like climate change, foreign direct investment, promotion and protection of intellectual property rights, energy, and development. It is a fairly full agenda. As in the past it will be an informal discussion between the Heads on these topics.
Thereafter, the leaders will move to lunch where they will also be joined by some of the African Heads of State and Government who are also doing a separate outreach with the G-8. Over the working lunch they will probably be discussing the Doha Round and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, in other words trade issues and development issues as a whole.
While in Heiligendamm, Prime Minister will also be having meetings with G-8 Heads of State and Government. Given the nature of the situation, most of these will all be in the form of pull-asides rather than formal bilateral meetings or calls because they will be squeezed into the official programme. He will return to Berlin late that evening and return to India the following morning.
From our point of view the significance of the meeting is, of course, that it is an occasion to review at a very high-level the nature of the world economy, of some of major issues that we as an international society face together. I think the fact of India’s participation is proof of our interest and willingness to participate in the evolution of global solutions to global problems. This year’s Summit, you would have noticed already, will probably be dominated by the theme of climate change which is an issue which affects us all. In India especially, I think we are particularly sensitive to this. This is an issue which we regard, not just climate change but environment as a whole, I think we were among the first to raise this as a real issue - Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did when we had the first World Environment Conference in Copenhagen. It is an issue that matters to us tremendously. In some ways it is even harder for an economy which is still a developing economy to adapt to the effects of climate change and to mitigate the effects on the lives of its own citizens.
We are looking forward to the bilateral meetings as well where there is a fairly detailed agenda, a full agenda to cover in the two days. We will brief you at the end of each day and if possible even before that. I think on the 7th, we will probably try and brief you before the evening meeting of the O-5, and then brief you after that so that we can tell you about the bilaterals in the course of the day in time for you to report back, and may be at the end of the day. 8th (June) might be a bit difficult until we get back to Berlin which is when we will do an India-specific briefing for you. I would be happy to answer any questions which you might have.
QUESTION: Is there a meeting scheduled with President Bush?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: As I said, on the 8th in Heiligendamm what we expect is pull-asides with various G-8 leaders, that is what we are scheduling right now with the various leaders including President Bush.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about two things specifically. You just mentioned that it is very hard for developing countries to adapt technologies in the climate change context. Do you think there are tensions for India on that count? Do you think there is some kind of pressure on India to yield more than what is fair?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think from our point of view the best form of adaptation is development. If you look at the kind of contributions that we have already made, I think it is quite sizeable. Many of the steps that we actually take as part of our normal development process or for other reasons also actually help to mitigate the effects of climate change. For instance, we decided that Delhi will have CNG buses. We might do it for public health reasons; we might do it for other reasons, but it also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So, there is a large series of things that we do as part of our own development. You look at the energy efficiency in the Indian economy. Since 1970s, steadily it has gone up - up meaning the amount of energy that you use per dollar GNP has steadily shrunk. Today we are at levels of energy efficiency which are about the same as Germany. Now, it would not always stay this way. This may be because services is a relatively large part of our economy. But the fact is that that is something that we did for our own reasons - to use whatever energy we have efficiently for our own growth. But it also has climate change advantages. So, there are a set of steps, both adaptation and mitigation, which we do. I think what is important is that the burden of incremental costs of doing additional steps, that must be shared fairly. The principle for that is well-known. It is agreed in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change where it says, ‘common and differentiated responsibilities according to respective capabilities’.
So, as long as that is the principle that is followed - and it is an agreed international principle - and as long as we work on that basis, I do not think it would be unfair in any way. The fact is, historical responsibility even in terms of present emission levels, it is quite clear who is responsible for this. But we are all affected by the results of it. We will be very happy once our per capita emission levels reach the same as the industrialized countries to do our share too.
QUESTION: With Chinese President, what are the issues which you expect that may come up?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think we will do the bilateral relationship, we will do all the issues that are on the table, we will see how far we have got in following up on the various decisions that were taken during his visit last November, and look forward to the future. But I would rather brief you on that after the conversation.
QUESTION: I have two questions. One is that Angela Merkel had called PM on Saturday. What did she tell him? Now that President Bush has come out with an alternative proposal, what is India’s reaction?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Chancellor Merkel had called Prime Minister about the G-8 meeting with the outreach countries and they had a very good conversation on the agenda of the Summit, how they expect to see it, play out, and what they hope for from the Summit. It is on that basis really that I am saying that climate change will be one of the major themes of the Summit. I think they have also discussed development and how important it was, which is why there will be a whole separate segment on the Millennium Development Goals and development as such. On the US proposals, I think you would have noticed in the last few weeks there have been several proposals. President Bush has made some proposals on climate change. Prime Minister Abe and the Chinese have also issued a paper on climate change from their point of view.
Frankly, I think we are now at the stage in the international society of all putting forward our ideas and then trying to see what works for all of us. I do not think we have quite harmonized everybody’s ideas yet clearly. You can see that in the various proposals that are on the table. There are elements in what President Bush has said which we are very comfortable with. The emphasis on technology, on energy security, on the need for transfer of clean energy technologies, these are elements that we think are very important, if the world as a whole and if developing countries are to be enabled to deal with the consequences of climate change. But frankly, process issues I think have not been solved yet. From our point of view, the main forum in which the international community takes decisions is really in the UNFCCC context. That is where we have an agreed international legal framework under which the Kyoto Protocol was done. That is where we think we should be taking our joint decisions. But that is a process issue. I think the first on the substance itself there are several ideas on the table, some of which we like and some of which we might not like as much. But this is something that we have to talk through. Over the next few months I think you will see a whole series of meetings where different countries try and harmonize their views and see how to carry this forward.
QUESTION: Is there any contradiction in India’s statement? On the one hand President Bush’s proposal is outside the UN. So, are you agreeing to going for a meeting outside the UN?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think we are ready to talk wherever. I do not think we are so worried about the process. What I am trying to say is that we will judge all these various processes, opportunities and so on, on the substance of what is agreed and what we all agreed to do. That is the important part. We are quite happy to talk to people wherever, anywhere in the world, about our ideas because we have our own ideas too.
QUESTION: Has the meeting between Prime Minister and President Bush been scheduled?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: As I said, the meetings in Heiligendamm of G-8 leaders will all be in the nature of pull-asides because we have to fit them into a fairly crowded schedule. So, they will step aside and spend a few minutes, ten-fifteen minutes. We will be doing that with all the leaders in the G-8 that he is meeting. There would not be a formal meeting at a table with delegations and that sort of the thing because of the nature of the situation.
QUESTION: India is the fifth largest polluter in the world...
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Not true. We account for four per cent of global GHG emissions and that is nothing. Anyway, go ahead.
QUESTION: In light of various countries giving proposals and initiatives like the Chinese and the Japanese and the Americans, do you have any new ideas at this meeting?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: You will see several new ideas and new approaches on our part as part of our own national development effort which means as we go through the Eleventh Plan finalisation process, I think you will see that in each of these sectors, whether it is energy, whether it is mass transport, whether it is housing, these are all sectors which have climate impacts as well. So, what we would like to do is to build this into our plans. What we can do maybe is over the next three or four days as we go through this process, through the Summit, I think we will brief you on the kind of ideas that we have for global approach towards climate change and what sort of things we think are essential.
QUESTION: Can you tell me if you expect to discuss the nuclear issue with the United States and what progress you both have made?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: I do not think we expect to discuss the nuclear issue because this is not a bilateral negotiating forum. I think we have other forums where we do that. I am sure it will be mentioned in the conversation because it is a very important part in the relationship. So, when they talk about the relationship it will be mentioned. This is not a place where we expect to negotiate bilateral issues.
(Foreign Secretary leaves)
QUESTION: Do you have any information on the kidnapping of seven Indians in Nigeria?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: I think we have difference in figures here. From the information I have, the total number of Indian nationals who have been kidnapped is twelve, two earlier and ten in the attack on the residential complex on June 1. This includes two women, two children and also includes the Managing Director Mr. Arun Taneja. This is about all the numbers and details I have and the names etc. In addition what I can tell you is that the family members of the Indian staff of the company have been evacuated to Lagos over the weekend. The High Commission is assisting those of them who wish to return to India, with their formalities. Also, our High Commission has taken up the matter repeatedly with the Nigerian authorities, with the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Advisor, the Governor, and the police authorities. Similarly, we have in Delhi too taken up the matter with the Nigerian High Commissioner here and seeking their continued cooperation in the present case so that an early release can be affected. Also, our High Commission has issued a security advisory for Indian nationals on the 30th of May. That is also being sent around to all the Indians who are working in the country. This is the state of the affairs at the moment. We hope that there will be an early release.
QUESTION: What does the advisory say?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: We do not have the text here but we will get it.
QUESTION: Which group is behind these kidnappings?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: No, I would not like to hazard guesses on that.
QUESTION: What is the status of the negotiations?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: It is the company that is doing the negotiations. I understand that Indo Rama of Jakarta has sent a Director-level officer to supervise the negotiations from the company’s side.
QUESTION: Is the company in question the same for both places?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: This is the local company called M/s Eleme Petrochemicals. I think the parent company is Indo Rama.
QUESTION: Has such an advisory been issued in the past?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: I think it is very difficult to give you a definitive answer whether any such advisory has ever been issued against any such kidnappings. I do not think that is significant. Every case is specific in itself. Every local situation is specific. Here we have a certain situation; the advisory has to be specific to that situation.
QUESTION: Any news of those kidnapped?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: The High Commissioner was informed by company authorities that they were able to speak to their people on Sunday and all of them are reportedly okay.
QUESTION: Has the High Commission given any reasons for the delay in the negotiations?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: Let me make it clear again. It is not the High Commission which is negotiating. The High Commission is trying to facilitate the safety of the remaining Indians. It is trying to put across our concerns to the Nigerian authorities to help in the early release. It is facilitating the movement of the remaining Indians.
QUESTION: How many Indians does the company have?
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: I am afraid I do not know. What I do know is that they are planning to shut down the plant in Port Harcourt and there are about forty Indians still left there to complete the task. I do not know what the total number of Indians working for the company was.