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Transcript of the media briefing by Foreign Secretary in St. Petersburg on BRICS Informal Meeting on the Sidelines of G20 Summit

September 06, 2013

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here for this briefing.

We have here with us Mrs. Sujatha Singh who is the Foreign Secretary of India to brief us on the BRICS meeting today because that was the event that has just been completed. So, we will focus on the meeting of the BRICS on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. I will request Mrs. Singh to make a few opening remarks. Followed by that she is willing to respond to any questions that you may have, if that is alright.

On Foreign Secretary’s right is Mr. Dinesh Bhatia, Joint Secretary who handles Multilateral Economic Relations in the Ministry of External Affairs in India. To his right is Mr. Pankaj Pachauri, Communications Advisor to the Prime Minister of India.

With those opening remarks I would request the Foreign Secretary to speak to you for a little while.

Foreign Secretary (Shrimati Sujatha Singh):Thank you, Akbar. Good evening everybody. I hope you are enjoying the bright sunshine in this beautiful city!

The BRICS leaders had their informal meeting this afternoon. Actually St. Petersburg has a very special significance for BRICS because the journey of BRICS started in 2006 from one such meeting at the margins of the G8-O5 outreach meeting when President Putin proposed that BRIC countries should meet as a group. It was BRIC at that time, now it is BRICS. Since then there have been several meetings and it has become an established tradition. Prime Minister paid tribute to President Putin for this visionary initiative. He made it a point to refer to it in his remarks. These meetings are basically meant to facilitate closer consultations among BRICS countries on the G20 agenda.

You would have all seen the media note that has been distributed. So, basically those were the issues that were discussed - the Development Bank, the Contingent Reserve Arrangement and the other areas on which the media statement has covered some ground. I will give you a little feedback on what the Prime Minister covered in his statement.

I was actually struck by the confidence that Prime Minister expressed that the BRICS countries would in the long run remain important drivers of the global economy and will carry significant weight in global affairs. He said that his confidence stemmed not only from the potential of the individual countries in BRICS but also from the progress that we have made on various BRICS initiatives. Of course one of these BRICS initiatives is the new Development Bank which was first mooted during the New Delhi Summit. And now there seems to be agreement on key issues. There are a few remaining issues and we hope these will be resolved soon, before the next BRICS Summit at any rate.

As you have seen from the media statement, we have agreed to subscribe 50 billion US dollars as capital for the Bank. India feels that the authorized capital could be set at a higher value. That is something to be discussed. We welcomed the progress on the Contingent Reserve pooling arrangement, especially now amidst the ongoing global currency volatility.

There was some concern expressed about the external effects of monetary policies, especially on the growth and macroeconomic stability of developing economies. Now, G20 has a vision of policy coordination. So, this achieves a special importance in this connection.

Prime Minister emphasized that we needed to pay attention to promoting growth and creating jobs and that the development agenda must be a core element of our deliberations.

That was by and large the points that he dwelt on. The other BRICS leaders made similar statements on the issues that were between them. It was a good meeting.

I will be happy to take questions.

Question: Was Syria discussed during these discussions?…(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: Syria was not on the agenda.

Question: So, it was not discussed at all?

Foreign Secretary: No.

Question: Madam, in the statement prior to the departure for St. Petersburg, the Prime Minister had expressed hope that the BRICS countries would be able to forge a consensus in terms of the tapering of the unconventional monetary policies overseas. And the Reuters news agency has quoted very senior officials from both China and South Africa that their statements reflect that they are not in sync with India’s concern over this. So, would it be fair to say that this initiative - which both the PM as well as the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs on the way had emphasized - was not a success at BRICS?

Foreign Secretary: About the new Development Bank?

Question: No, about the developing economies to take a coordinated effort in telling developed countries that you should be careful, and the tapering of the unconventional monetary policies should be done in a calibrated and predictable manner. Deputy Finance Minister of China and the Finance Minister of South Africa have independently talked to news agencies saying that this is not a concern, not in so many words but …

Question: In fact even Russia has said that. Basically they have said that these are individual problems because of which…(Inaudible)… specific countries, these are not on common agenda. This is quite disturbing…(Inaudible)… Even on currency swap they have said that it is going to happen whenever it happens…(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: If you look at the press note, the press note clearly reflects what the collective position is. "In the light of the increase in financial market and capital flow volatility during recent months, the BRICS leaders reiterated the concerns they had expressed in the Durban Summit”. And that was the position. That was pretty much discussed in the informal meeting. So, I am a little surprised that this …

Question: Madam, this statement is diplomatese.

Foreign Secretary: It is the common position.

Question: But the thing is they have categorically said on record that it is basically India’s problem. That is what they said.

Foreign Secretary: I can only tell you what I heard. And I heard all the leaders pretty much expressing concern about this issue, about the spillovers of monetary policies.

Question: Specific numbers have been mentioned on the currency reserve arrangement.

Foreign Secretary: Yes.

Question: I am very keen to know about two things. One is, essentially was this reaffirmation of these numbers today or were these numbers firmed up a bit more today? Also, the statement says, ‘to expect tangible results by the time of the next summit’. So, is it fair to expect let us say by this time next year the CRA will actually be in place? Can we expect that? I would also like to see if on the NDB also you can put a timeframe or a timeline on it.

Foreign Secretary: I do not think you can put a timeline on these things. This depends on several issues that have not yet been resolved. That also is clear in the media statement that there are some aspects that still need to be finalized. These figures as given in the statement - China, US, 41 billion dollars, etc. - that is pucca. It is the other areas …

Question: Those numbers were decided earlier, not today.

Foreign Secretary: They were decided earlier.

Question: On this occasion is there any consensus where the Bank would be located?

Foreign Secretary: Not yet decided.

Question: Madam, in fact that same report mentioned that the Deputy Finance Minister of China and a senior person from Russia have actually said that in India’s case they need to tackle the external deficit by devaluing the currency and raising interest rates. Your comments on that.

Foreign Secretary: I do not want to comment on somebody else’s comments on my economy. On the Indian economy I would rather go by our own comments.

Question: Was there any discussion on the…(Inaudible)…?

Foreign Secretary: There was certainly no discussion on the Indian economy.

Question: Not on Indian economy but did Russia and China raise the issue of what other emerging market economies should be doing?

Foreign Secretary: No. They did not.

Question:…(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: Just let me repeat. I can only tell you what I heard. There was no discussion on these issues. There was a general concern raised about the spillover effects of monetary policies and the withdrawal of quantitative easing.

Question: What are we really taking back? We came here expressing a lot of hope and raising a whole lot of substantial points on how to deal with the so-called global economic crisis. Even Mr. Mayaram told us onboard the aircraft that this is all linked to global developments and we need to thrash this out. So, what are we really taking back with us?

Foreign Secretary: Are you talking about the BRICS or the G20?

Question: About our currency problem, about our economic mess. Are we taking back anything specific, concrete steps, any assurances?

Foreign Secretary: I suggest that you wait till tomorrow morning when the Deputy Chairman will brief you. The G20 has just started. It is going to continue tomorrow.

Question: There is a tweet on PMO saying that PM expressed concerns over the developments in West Asia. In that light, was Syria actually discussed or it was not discussed at all?

Foreign Secretary: PM did not say anything on Syria. There was no discussion on Syria. It was just mentioned in passing by one of the delegations who talked about it in the context of the global economic situation.

Question: You said it was discussed on the agenda…(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: It was not discussed, it was on the agenda, it was raised in passing by one of the delegations. It was not discussed. He did not say anything on Syria. Syria was not discussed.

Question: Madam, this agreed position of the BRICS countries, what would be the format? How would this be placed in the G20? Will it be raised by the individual countries or as BRICS group they will articulate their views in the G20? What would be the format?

Foreign Secretary: BRICS meets informally on the margins of the G20. So, once they go into the G20, they would express their views as members of the G20.

Question: Madam, this is a question on the Indian contribution that has been mentioned in the statement as far as the currency reserve arrangement is concerned – 18 billion dollars. The statement says that tangible results would be had by the next BRICS summit. The question that comes is, is there a commitment in terms of a timeline because this 18 billion dollars will have a clear impact on our currency and, therefore, this would be read probably a little negatively back home?

Foreign Secretary: There is no timeline.

Question: Are BRICS nations going to press for including their views on a calibrated withdrawal from monetary stimulus in the communiqué which will be released tomorrow?

Foreign Secretary: I think we need to be clear that the BRICS meeting is an informal meeting on the sidelines of the G20. Once the G20 starts, then it is the G20 process that takes over. So, let us wait and see how the various members of the G20 formulate their positions and arrive at a common position.

Question: One small supplementary, Madam. Since you said that you cannot put a timeline and there are aspects that need to be firmed up, is it possible to perhaps indicate a couple of these factors that might be of concern in their working out of details, at least in terms of broad parameters?

Foreign Secretary: I do not want to go into further details beyond this. I suggest you ask the Deputy Chairman when he speaks to you in his media briefing tomorrow.

Question: What are your expectations from the G20 Summit which is going to start today? Are you thoroughly satisfied with the informal discussion which BRICS held?

Foreign Secretary: I think it is important to understand that all these mechanisms are mechanisms to exchange views on various issues whether they have been ongoing for some time and the various other issues that engage the countries that take part. So, it is a way of talking directly to each other, finding out how they approach the problems, how they approach the issues. And as such it is an important part of our policy of reaching out and engaging with key economic and political partners. So, to that extent, yes, I am happy with the manner in which things have gone in BRICS. We had a good meeting. Even with the G20 these are useful mechanisms, they are useful mechanisms to bring the leaders of the most important economies in the world together and to make sure that each of them knows what the other feels about the current state of the economy and the steps that need to be taken in this regard.

Question: I just wanted to know if BRICS summit is giving a strong consensus for the unintended spillover effects. Do you hope to see that in the G20 because that is what we were told that India will be pushing for? How hopeful are you that you will be able to achieve that?

Foreign Secretary: I do not want to prejudge the situation. Let us wait for the G20 to finish. Let us wait for the G20 to come to its conclusions and then you have people who are actually sitting on those meetings. You have Arvind Mayaram, you have the Deputy Chairman, you can speak to them about that. I do not want to prejudge the issue.

Question:Madam, pehle is tarah se position nahin dekha gaya joh BRICS mein aaj discuss hua aur note mein kaha gaya ki joh 2010 mein vaade kiye gaye hain unko pura karna hai jab hum agli baar milenge us se pehle. Jaise IMF quota reforms ki baat karte hain, financial restructuring ki baat karte hain, toh us par joh vaayde kiye gaye hain ab tak baaki Summits mein, un ko pura karein, toh us par Bharat Sarkar ka position ya BRICS deshon ka position kitna firm hai?

Foreign Secretary:Yeh toh Prime Minister bhi apne statement mein kahe the ki yeh joh reform of institutions of global governance hai us ko jaldi hi karna chahiye. He said that joh delay ho raha hai implementation mein, voh bahut unfortunate hai. Aur yeh toh saare joh member countries hai BRICS mein, voh sab apna disappointment koh express kiye the. Toh hamaara position kaafi firm hai. Aur aap media note ko bhi dekhenge toh is ka bhi zikr hai.

Question: Madam, you said…(Inaudible)…some aspects …(Inaudible)… Could you just throw light on one or two aspects that have …(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: I wish I could but the point is that it is Arvind Mayaram who is heading the group that looks after these issues. So, he would brief on that.

Unless there is something you want to add, Dinesh!

Joint Secretary (MER)(Shri Dinesh Bhatia):There are so many issues, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly one issue or two issues.It is not every day that you set up a bank of this order. So, there is a humungous amount of issues.

Question: Anything on the currency arrangement?

Joint Secretary (MER): For currency arrangement as well as for the Development Bank, the same expert group is working on which is led by Secretary DEA, as Foreign Secretary mentioned. And they are in discussion; they have had extremely good meetings in the past. The last meeting was held in Delhi in the beginning of August and they have been able to thrash out the capital of the Bank as well as the total amount of the CRA. But further details as to how to implement, how to formalize both the things, the discussions are yet to take place.

Question: So, we have no idea on the timeline?

Foreign Secretary: No, there are no timelines.

Question: What was discussed today because all these issues were discussed earlier also? We know…(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: We did not know about the amount, the 50 billion for the New Development Bank.

Question: Of the two ideas which have progressed, one is the Bank and the other one is currency swap arrangement. I was at the Durban BRICS Summit and I had the distinct impression that of the two, the currency swap is on a faster track. Is that true? There seems to be greater urgency on that.

Foreign Secretary: I cannot tell you this because this is something that Arvind Mayaram is dealing with. I would have been very happy to have had him sitting next to me at this media briefing but he is in there at the G20. So, you will get the details from them. They are the ones who are in the nuts and bolts of this.

Question: The sense I have is that the currency swap has far less disagreements than the idea of Bank which has a lot of other micro details to be tied up.

Foreign Secretary: You probably are right but I do not want to confirm or deny because I am not the person who should be doing that. I would rather leave it to the people who are actually dealing with this issue. So, I seek your indulgence on that.

Question: Can I ask you a question on Syria? Today Putin has given an interview to Channel-1 in Russia where he very clearly says and very aggressively says that there is no concrete evidence as far as he is concerned in regard to chemical weapons having been used by the Syrian Government. And he says it seems absolutely absurd that a regular armed force currently on the offensive and which is in control of the situation in many areas should be using such weapons and attracting use of force. He called it simply absurd and illogical. Does India kind of broadly agree with this view?

Foreign Secretary: India has her own view. You would have seen the media statement that was released just two days back. That pretty much sums of our view on that. President Putin has his views, we have our views.

Question:Madam, ise shabdon mein paribhashit nahin kiya gaya hai lekin kya aap is baat ko sveekar karna chahengi ki joh dominant view hai BRICS mein, voh American position joh hai Syria par us ke khilaf hai?

Foreign Secretary:Syria toh discuss hi nahin hui thi toh main kaise keh sakti hun ki dominant position kya hai.

Question: So far, as of yesterday or today it seemed that barring Russia…(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: I would not really like to generalize on this. I think that there are nuances in each country’s position. You cannot just put it all together and say that it is overwhelmingly against one country’s position or another’s.

Question: Does India still stand by its position that you would like to go through the UN Security Council for whatever action needs to be taken against Syria?

Foreign Secretary: The UN Security Council has to authorize collective action, is not it?

Question: But President Obama has a different view. Putin says that…(Inaudible)…

Foreign Secretary: President Putin says what he says, which is President Putin’s prerogative. We say what we say, which is our prerogative.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this event.

Tomorrow morning at nine o’clock in the hotel the Deputy Chairman will come and brief you on the G20 and specific aspects that you would like to know on the G20 as well as on the Bank, etc. Thank you.

(Concluded)



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