Transcript of the Press Interaction of External Affairs Minister on SCO Summit and his meeting with Chinese Vice Premier
June 06, 2012
Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends. I welcome you to this interaction with the External Affairs Minister, Shri S.M. Krishna. The External Affairs Minister will make opening remarks and then he will be willing to answer a few questions from you.
With that, I invite the External Affairs Minister to make his opening remarks.
External Affairs Minister (Shri S.M. Krishna): Thank you, friends.
I have come to Beijing to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s meeting. I utilized this opportunity of calling on Vice Premier Li Keqiang who, as you all know, is set to assume higher responsibilities. The primary focus of our discussions was the future of our growing bilateral relations.
I conveyed to Vice Premier Li that India attaches the utmost importance and high priority in our foreign policy formulations, our cooperative partnership with China. We have a strategic relationship with this country. And it is the desire of the Government of India and the people of India that we would like to forge this relationship, the bonds much stronger.
I indicated India’s desire to be a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. And it was indeed very heartening to hear from Vice Premier Li that the modalities of admitting new members are being worked out, the process is on.
I also indicated to Vice Premier Li, considering the fact that he is going to be one of the most important persons who is going to decide the economic destiny of this country once he assumes the mantle which he is supposed to, and as a result of that I conveyed to him that India’s continued interest in China’s bilateral relationship and our economic relationship.
I conveyed to him that India is going through for a massive expansion of our infrastructure development. And we were willing to create a level-playing field and total transparency in terms of international bidding evaluation, and then ultimately decision-making. This was to convey to Vice Premier Li that the whole process is open, fair and that it could be very beneficial for all Chinese companies to participate in this.
As economic and trade relationship has been a driver of our relationship over the past decade, we discussed our growing economic relations. I conveyed our desire for greater trade and investment with China. At the same time I did convey to Vice Premier Li that there has to be a balanced growth of trade, and our concern regarding the trade deficit was given ample expression to.
Vice Premier Li was positive in his response. He said that the Chinese Government is encouraging Chinese companies to invest in India, especially in infrastructure. He agreed that for trade to be sustainable it has to be balanced. While the Government-to-Government interaction on the political front, on the economic front, on the cultural front is robust, both of us agreed that we need to continue our efforts. You know that 2012 is the Year of Friendship and Cooperation between our two countries.
India will encourage greater tourist flows and student exchanges. Following my meeting today with Vice Premier Li, I am confident that India-China relations will continue their current upward trajectory under the …(Inaudible)… leadership of China which will be in place later this year and early next year.
Official Spokesperson: Any of you have any questions?
Question: You mentioned that modalities are being worked out in terms of membership. Was there any timeframe discussed? Earlier the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister said that they wanted Observer countries to work hard. So, …(Inaudible)… what it is that needs to be done.
External Affairs Minister: We have been coming to SCO since 2005 as Observers, and we have made known our seriousness in our association with this very important grouping. And India’s track record, when we discussed this with reference to other groupings is well-known. As a result of that, from my position of evolving a consensus, I think we have moved in a more positive direction of finalizing the modalities, the terms and conditions under which new members could be entertained. And we are looking forward to that, we are waiting.
Question: I think the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister who briefed the media said that actually the onus is on the Observer states. The words that he used were that these states need to work hard to comply with these modalities. That is you are talking about.
External Affairs Minister: We are working indeed very hard to comply with the modalities. We have shown our seriousness. Otherwise, nobody would be coming to attend these meetings since 2005. And this is my third meeting as Foreign Minister of a huge country like India. And when India comes into an association or a grouping, it comes with a lot of strength, a lot of positives on its side. I think that will have to be evaluated.
Question: Isn’t it something that despite the fact that the Russian Foreign Minister went on record several times, even in the Foreign Ministers’ meeting that was held last month, that India, of course he was naming Pakistan as well should be the members, the sense one gets is that it is China that has reservations about it.
External Affairs Minister: Today I spoke to the Vice Premier who is going to assume greater responsibilities, as all of us know, and I think what I say is the latest position of the Chinese side.
Question: Just a clarification. Did we express our willingness to join the SCO this year or have we been asking for it for some years now?
External Affairs Minister: We are prepared, we are ready, we have been asking for it. Well, sometimes things move slowly. But I am glad I get the total sense that it is moving.
Question: I think in 2009 or 2010, Russia almost publicly said that it wanted India. So, why is it taking such a long time?
External Affairs Minister: I could not answer that particular question.
Question: Sir, this was your first meeting with China’s future Premier, and you say that after talks with him your sense is that the trajectory of India-China relations is going to be on an upstream. My questions is, what did he convey to you about India-China relations, what is his assessment and what is the way forward according to India? Secondly, were global issues like Iran and Afghanistan discussed in your talks?
External Affairs Minister: We discussed on the bigger picture, the vision that the Vice Premier has for India-China relationship, and what he feels and what he believes to be the agenda for the next decade. I think it was something like a peep into the future with the Vice Premier being the Head of the Government here in the policy-making process. That way I feel very encouraged. I invited him to come to India. He was telling me that he was in India in 1985 perhaps as a youth communist activist, and he has not been in India since 1985. Well, India is not the same as it was in 1985. So, I am looking forward to his visit to India at a time convenient to him.
Question: So, none of the global issues were discussed.
External Affairs Minister: No, we did not. We looked at the bigger picture, we looked at the vision, we looked at the future of the relationship.
Question: Sir, have the family or the traders gotten in touch with you recently during this current trip seeking help, and was that raised? And, did India raise any concerns on human rights issues vis-à-vis the Tibetan self immolations?
External Affairs Minister: I had a good meeting with the two traders. They conveyed the position as they see it. Then I did tell them that tomorrow I am going to be meeting the distinguished Foreign Minister and I certainly will take up this issue with him. As regards your second question, I said that we looked at the larger picture. We did not talk about other issues.
Question: There is a report that India and US are going to find the remains of the World War II personnel in the North-East region. Is it true?
Official Spokesperson: If I can answer that, this is a request that has been made previously. The US Government has in 2006 and onwards made this request. They sent teams there and at that stage they did not find anything. They have since then raised this again. This is a humanitarian issue, and we have agreed to deal with it in a humanitarian measure. This is being done not only in India. These are remains of World War II pilots who may have lost their lives there. This is their perception and we welcome this and we are willing to assist in any way. This is not a new request, so let us not take it as a new request.
Question: There is a lot of interest on the US’s pivot to Asia, especially after the announcement in Singapore that they are boosting their deployments in the Pacific vis-à-vis the Atlantic, there is a lot of interest in China on what role India would or would not play in this US’s pivot to Asia. So, what would be your message to the Chinese at a time when this has become of an issue of concern to Beijing, in terms of India’s role in this?
External Affairs Minister: India’s position is I think very clear that these are all international waterways to increase trade amongst nations, and hence we will have to look at it from that angle. We have to strengthen that angle, and India is willing to do with other countries so that the trade relations will get a boost through these waterways.
Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much.
June 6, 2012