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Transcript of Joint Press Interaction of Minister of External Affairs Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice


Hyderabad House
October 4, 2008

Minister of External Affairs (Mr. Pranab Mukherjee): Secretary Rice and I have just had very constructive and useful talks. It is always a pleasure to welcome a good friend and trusted partner to India. Under Secretary Rice's stewardship, India-US relations are today better than they have ever been before and have been transformed into a truly strategic partnership.

During our discussions we covered a wide range of subjects. We were both very satisfied with the status of our bilateral relationship and are convinced of its future potential. Today India and the US engage as partners across the entire range of human endeavour. The civil nuclear energy initiative is now in its last lap. We look forward to signing our 123 Agreement and bringing it into effect soon. I am grateful to Secretary Rice for all that she has done to make possible this landmark achievement and transformational event. It is this agreement which has opened the door for India to international nuclear commerce.

What India and the US are doing today has direct benefits for our peoples, and assists India's effort to develop. Whether it is energy, agricultural research, trade or high-technology, India's quest to build a knowledge society leads us to work very closely with US. Today the USA is India's largest trading partner, our largest source of investment and a major source of technology. As India grows and develops, our relationship with the US too will grow and develop.

India-US relations today have more than bilateral significance. We naturally also discussed the regional situation and global issues. Ours is a neighbourhood of several challenges. India seeks a peaceful periphery within which to develop. We have an interest in the peace, stability and prosperity of our neighbours, and will make our contribution to these outcomes.

Among the global issues that we discussed, we found commonalities of approach. We determined to continue working together on a wide range of issues, ranging from climate change to UN reform, including that of the UN Security Council.

As we looked back with satisfaction at the transformation of India-US relations, we are convinced of the future prospects of this relationship. The vision for this relationship laid down by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush is one that serves the interests of our peoples, and those of the region and the world. India and the US, as two democracies with shared values, look forward to building this partnership based on principle and pragmatism in the years to come.

US Secretary of State (Dr Condoleezza Rice): Thank you very much, Minister Mukherjee, for hosting me here for the wonderful hospitality, for the wonderful lunch and the good company, but also the very substantive discussions that we have just finished. I look forward to seeing the Prime Minister a little bit later. Indeed President Bush very much enjoyed hosting him in Washington just nine days ago. I think it is fair to say that as I come here to Delhi and work with you, Minister, we both have a lot to be pleased about, particularly, that I think we are executing the vision of Prime Minister Singh and President Bush for closer and deeper relations between the United States and India.

We have, of course, just concluded the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. A lot of people have worked very hard diplomats, and parliamentarians, and civil servants, and politicians. I think that everyone has worked to bring this into being. The negotiations have sometimes been tough along the way, but it is because it is such a historic agreement and a historic achievement. We have all persevered. The United States will stand by its commitment. I believe in that(inaudible) the unanimous support of the International Atomic Energy Agency, all 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, 298 members of our House of Representatives, and 86 members of our Senate, that is an enormous bipartisan margin. It shows that this India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement has broad support - bipartisan support, and broad and deep support.

This gives a new platform for cooperation in energy matters. We all need to find ways to diversify our energy mix and we look very much forward to helping India to develop civil nuclear power. We believe that it is important that the IAEA, and in fact Dr. Al Baradei was an early supporter of this because it builds on India'ss very good proliferation behaviour to strengthen, we believe, the IAEA framework. We believe it is also very important for our technological cooperation as it moves forward.

But, of course, this relationship goes very much beyond the civil nuclear power agreement. It is a relationship that is seeing ever larger numbers of travellers, of students, of scholars, of business people, and of families because, of course, the United States enjoys the tremendous energy, vitality and vibrancy of an Indian-American community that remains very committed to seeing a progress between the United States and India.

People are using these ties to gain new technologies, to innovate. Investment is flowing both ways creating jobs in both of our countries. Bilateral trade has set new records. Indeed, we have opened up new channels between our Governments as well, in trade and technology, in agriculture - one of the very earliest elements of cooperation between the United States of India - in education, in defence cooperation. I think it is fair to say that this is now one of the broadest relationships that the United States enjoys.

We are also putting this good relationship to use globally. We have had discussions today about Afghanistan and our joint desire to see Afghanistan peaceful and prosperous. We are working together on issues like climate change. Of course, as we look to transforming our economies we hope to work together increasingly to make certain that world trade prospers and continues so that our economies can continue to grow.

I think it is fair to say, Minister, that the last several years have indeed been banner years for US-India relations. As President Bush gets ready to end his Administration and to pass on to his successor strong relations around the world, I think that this will be one of the very strongest. I know that whoever becomes President of the United States will continue to build on the firm foundation that Prime Minister Singh and President Bush began in 2005.

Thank you very much.

Question (Ms Nidhi Razdan, New Delhi Television): I have a question for the Minister and for the Secretary of State.

Dr. Rice, we were all expecting the two of you to sign the 123 Agreement today. Can you tell us why it is taking so long for the President to sign it into law, what the procedure is now? Is it just a procedural delay or is there something else? Also, there are some concerns India has with the Bill that has been cleared in the US Congress. Would the President be addressing those concerns in his Signing Statement?

Mr. Mukherjee, technically India and the US could have signed this agreement even before the President,s Signing Statement. Why did India choose not to do that?

US Secretary of State: Well, the President will sign the legislation very soon. He wants to sign the legislation very soon. There are administrative details that have to be worked through, for instance, just to give you an example, a Bill once it is passed on Capitol Hill has to be enrolled, it is called, it then has to be transmitted to the White House. I think you know that this has been a busy time for our Legislative Branch over the last several days. But indeed the President very soon looks forward to signing the legislation. Of course, the Administration has made it clear in a number of fora and will make clear again that the Hyde Act is completely consistent with the 123 Agreement that we have signed with India, and the 123 Agreement is consistent with the Hyde Act. The United States will keep its commitments to both.

Minister of External Affairs: So far as the signing is concerned, we have completed the process of legislations and the approval of legislation in the US Congress is available. After the signing of the President the process will be complete. After the process is complete we will be in a position to sign. A mutually convenient date for signing of the Agreement would be determined. I hope it will be signed shortly.

Question (Mr. Lachlan Carmichael, AFP News Agency): I wanted to ask Madam Secretary and Mr. Minister about the commitment that Madam Secretary made to one of the top Congressmen in the US to go to the NSG and ask the NSG to amend the rules demanding a ban on the transfer of reprocessing and enrichment technology to countries such as India that have not signed the NPT. How soon will you do that, and what will you do to achieve that? And how does Mr. Minister feel about that? I understand you are not so happy about that.

US Secretary of State: It is for criteria based approach for the NSG on this matter, ---not audible--- Indeed, this could now be a global issue. The United States has been seeking this for sometime. So, there is nothing new. Here it is just a matter of whether or not it is de-linked from other issues. But this has been the US policy for sometime.

Minister of External Affairs: So far as NSG clearance is concerned, it has enabled the NSG member countries to enter into civil nuclear cooperation trade with India. This is just an enabling provision. Thereafter, through the bilateral arrangements the details of implementing the Agreement will be finalized. In respect of the facilities for reprocessing, as and when we will enter into bilateral arrangements these issues will be addressed. As I mentioned, this is an enabling provision. All aspects of the contract, bilateral contract, cannot be addressed in an enabling provision. The bar which prevailed, which did not allow the NSG members to enter into nuclear trade with India, has been removed with the approval of the India Specific Safeguards Agreement by the Board of Governors of IAEA, and clear clearance by NSG members. And how we will respond through the bilateral arrangements will depend on the contracting parties.

Question (Mr Manish Chand, Indo-Asian News Agency): My question is addressed to Madam Secretary of State. Madam, now that the 123 deal is almost done, what is the 456 in India-US relations? Also, what can India and the United States do together to deal with terrorism flowing from Pakistan and the surrounding region?

US Secretary of State:Let me be clear that 123 Agreement is done. It is a matter of signing that agreement. So, I do not want anyone to think that we have open issues. We, in fact, do not have open issues. These are administrative matters of signing agreements, just to be very clear.

In terms of the situation in Pakistan, we have had a very good discussion. The United States has encouraged the cooperation between Pakistan and India; encouraged dialogue between Pakistan and India which has taken place. My colleague, Foreign Minister Mukherjee was one of the first visitors to Pakistan after the new Government came into being there. I think we all have a stake in a successful civilian Government in Pakistan that can deal with Pakistan's considerable challenges, be they economic or political, but particularly in terms of terrorism. And Pakistan, more than anyone, has an interest in fighting terrorism as is witnessed by the fact that the great Benazir Bhutto was, of course, gunned down by these militants. So, we all have an interest. I do not think that there are any interest in conflict here. But to the degree that a good relationship between India and Pakistan is going to help, which I think it will, I have to say that I found both on the Pakistani side with the new Government and on the Indian side a full understanding of that and a willingness to pursue it.

Minister of External Affairs: I would just like to add to what Dr. Rice has already stated. We are having the Joint Anti Terror Mechanism to deal with these issues. Even during the recent discussion with President Zardari on the margin of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr. Manmohan Singh our Prime Minister and Mr. Zardari discussed the issues of tackling the problem of terrorism. We were assured by Pakistan President by reiterating that territories of Pakistan will not be used to carry on terrorist activities against India. We do hope the Joint Anti Terror Mechanism which has been established will be made more effective to tackle this menace.

Question (Ms Suzanne, Reuters): This is a question for Secretary of State Rice. Madam Secretary, have you made any progress in getting North Korea to hand over their verification protocol for their nuclear programme? Is North Korea willing to consider handing it to China first and then being delisted from the US terrorism blacklist?

US Secretary of State: Suzanne, I do not have any update for you. I have spoken on it briefly with the Assistant Secretary Hill who was at that time in Pyongyang. I will talk with him on Monday when I return to Washington, and we can review the discussions that he had in North Korea. But one thing was very clear. The North Koreans have an obligation to give a verification protocol - and I would say it is to all six parties, of course or to all five parties a verification protocol that gives confidence that we are able to verify the provisions of the declaration that North Korea made, and to begin to answer the substantial questions that that declaration raised. So, what we will be looking at is the verification protocol and what the North Koreans have said about it. But I do not have any specifics for you on the outcome of Assistant Secretary Hill's discussions. He himself has said that they were substantive. I am sure they were. We will see when he gets back, if they were productive.

Thank you.
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