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Transcript of Media Briefing on ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit (January 26, 2018)

January 28, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar, good afternoon and welcome to the second briefing on ASEAN India Commemorative Summit. Since our briefing yesterday afternoon a lot of events have happened. To take us through these events I have with me Secretary (East) Smt. Preeti Saran. I also have the Chief of Protocol Mr. Sanjay Verma, JS (South) Shri Vinay Kumar and Jt. Secretary (ASEAN-ML) Shri Anurag Bhushan.

They have all been instrumental in pulling off spectacular summit in terms of not only substantive point of view but also from the logistics and protocol point of view. So Ma’am without any further delay I give the floor to you.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Good afternoon dear friends. Thank you Raveesh. First of all please accept my warm greetings on Republic Day. What a Republic Day it was as you all know, we were personally present there so we could see firsthand and perhaps some of you were there but otherwise on television you would have also picked up and captured this amazing spectacle of ten leaders from the ASEAN countries, ten Heads of State and Government sitting on the dais with our Rashtrapati Ji and other leaders of India to watch this amazing Republic Day parade.

There was this very specific element which were specific to ASEAN as well. And of course those elements you would have seen yourself. One of course the two tableaus that you know when we have a visiting dignitary, there is always some way to honor them. For the last two year there was a marching contingent. This year the components that were very specific to ASEAN leaders as a mark of respect to them and to honor was the fact that we had flags of all the ten countries and ASEAN flag as well to head the parade and thereafter there were two tableaus.

The themes of the two tableaus really focused on our ancient civilizational and cultural linkages including Buddhism, education, Nalanda University and Bodh Gaya were represented there, Ramayan was represented there and our maritime trade links which have connected us to the ASEAN countries and later one of the schools had in fact performed a very beautiful cultural piece, again which resonated very well with the fact that this particular summit, the 25th anniversary of our India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit was held just a day before our Republic Day and to have all the ten leaders as Chief Guests for our Republic Day.

Certainly I will request our Chief of Protocol Sanjay Verma, after I just quickly make some opening statements, to share some other elements but you must understand that it was a huge exercise in logistics and security as well because we have summits of all kinds, we have had FIPIC, we have had India-Africa Summit, we have had several other summits but they have never been done to coincide with our Republic Day.

Republic Day when hundreds and thousands gather at Rajpath itself is a huge security and logistics bandobast affair for the entire administration of Delhi, for Delhi traffic, for the security agencies and for the Ministry of External Affairs because we invariably have to tackle with one dignitary but to have been able to meticulously plan the entire presence of all ten Heads of State and Government at Rajpath with precision, with punctuality and not just starting of Parade at 10 O Clock sharp but even earlier, the entire summit that was held yesterday.

Since we last met, I think what happened was the plenary followed by a gala dinner hosted by our Prime Minister and then a bilateral that he had with the President of Indonesia. And this morning immediately after the Republic Day parade our Prime Minister also had two bilaterals. One with Prime Minister of Laos and the other with the Prime Minister of Malaysia. That means we covered nine bilaterals that he has had.

Tomorrow Prime Minister of Cambodia, His Excellency Mr. Hun Sen, he is here with a large delegation, in fact will be on a State visit with a full forecourt welcome to him followed by talks and lunch and a call by External Affairs Minister on the visiting dignitary and then delegations level talks with our Prime Minister and calls on Up – Rashtrapati Ji and Rashtrapati Ji.

This is as far as the program elements are concerned. So I’ll first focus just on the outcome of the summit. You would have seen what the statement that our Prime Minister made at the plenary as that is available on Prime Minister’s website and you would have also heard the response of the ASEAN leaders because the Prime Minister of Singapore who is the Chair of ASEAN had responded to that and then in a closed session we focused on how to move India ASEAN relations forward.

If I would have to just sum up what has been repeatedly mentioned by all the leaders to our leadership especially in the bilateral calls to our prime minister, the sum and substance of it has been that all of the ten ASEAN countries have appreciated India’s role and the bilateral relationship that we enjoy with each one of them and the fact that India has played such a positive role in the Indo-Pacific region and as a result what the message that we got from the ten leaders is that they feel India is a very important component for peace, prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

Whether I go through the entire series of what they discussed specifically, I can share that with you, but I can tell you that this was a repeated refrain. One that they really appreciated India’s role and they would like a greater presence of India. Two, there was a deep admiration for India’s growth story. All of them repeatedly acknowledged the growth rates that India is clocking at the moment being one of the fastest growing economies, the amazing reforms that have been introduced by the government, whether it is to fight corruption.

Corruption again is something is very very dear to, for example, the President of Philippines. He has also taken himself several initiatives and he was particularly interest in wanting to hear more about the Aadhar system, about the digital economy, about the desire to do cashless transactions. Cashless transactions was another issue which was of interest to Singapore because they too would like to move more and more into cashless transactions and financial inclusion.

So repeatedly all the leaders acknowledged, as I have mentioned yesterday, Prime Minister’s speech in Davos because that seems to have had a huge impact and a resonance for them. India’s growth story was something that they were inspired by and as a result they felt that they could do more in terms of greater investments and trade with India and the reforms that are taking place in India can set a good example for them to replicate. So that was the second point that came out repeatedly both in the interventions in the floor and in the closed session of the summit and the plenary as well as the bilateral meetings.

The third element is what is reflected in the outcome document which is available on our MEA website and I know that some of you have already quoted, I have seen the media reports about three Cs of it being focused on commerce, culture and connectivity, about the need for working collectively in combating the menace of terrorism. Also of working collectively in countering radicalization. Here in specific discussions that our Prime Minister had with the Prime Minister of Malaysia and Indonesia, they both shared their own experience and the legislation that they have introduced within their own countries in countering this i.e. the soft and hard aspects of countering terrorism. The harder aspects were the strict actions to be taken through enabling laws and softer actions in terms of how to ensure that the youth do not go onto the path of extremism and radicalization.

There has been, in the past as well, an offer made by India to host a conference, which we would, in consultation with all of the ASEAN countries and beyond. The other big elements which you have already quoted, maritime cooperation was another one specifically relating to handling both tradition and non-traditional security challenges including humanitarian disaster relief, security cooperation and freedom of navigation were the key areas that were identified for maritime cooperation. Yesterday when I briefed you about the retreat I also mentioned that they agreed to set up a mechanism for following up on discussions on maritime domain.

So these were main points as far as Delhi Declaration is concerned. Specifically the announcements that were made by India which are also contained in our Prime Minister’s speech and the one which is of utmost significance from the point of commemorating the summit was the announcement of ten Padam Shri awards that were given to commemorate the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN relations and these have been given to ten eminent people from each of the ten ASEAN countries who have been known to make significant contributions both in connecting India to that country or to the region or for their seminal contribution in their specific field whether it is in restoration of archeology.

For example the Laotian recipient has contributed in the restoration of Vat Phou Monument or Ramli Ibrahim, the Odissi dancer from Malaysia, he has made a huge contribution. He is an iconic dancer and choreographer who is recognized not just in Malaysia but is also recognized all over the ASEAN region and in India too. In fact today when Prime Minister Najeeb met our Prime Minister he said that Ramli Ibrahim, the Odyssey dancer, dances Odissi dance better than you Indian dancer do. That is how good he is at his trade.

I have to say that you would have seen the op-ed that appeared by the Prime Minister of Singapore yesterday. Our own Prime Minister also wrote op-eds which have appeared very prominently in all of the ten ASEAN major dailies of the countries. The most important and with the widest circulation newspapers have all prominently published our own Prime Minister’s op-ed which appeared in today’s newspapers.

Six initiatives that our own Prime Minister has announced as a result of discussions under the rubric of commerce, culture and connectivity which also includes education was 1000 fellowships for PhD students in Indian IITs. Second was a dedicated training course in the Indian Academy of Highway Engineering. Third was to set up a virtual network of universities. Earlier when our External Affairs Minister had gone, the ASEAN network of think tanks also agreed to set up a network of universities as well as museums. Then the Prime Minister, again this is a result of the discussions which took place at the plenary, which was agreed by other leaders as well, given the importance to digital connectivity and importance of role that India can play in digital connectivity with the ASEAN countries.

Our Prime Minister offered to undertake pilot projects to set up digital villages in the CLMVp countries under the $1 billion line of credit that was offered earlier and once those pilot projects have been completed we would then replicate the success of that to other countries as well. Yet another initiative that our Prime Minister announced was to have an ASEAN-India Start-up Festival in this year itself and next year i.e. 2019 we would celebrate it as the Year of Tourism. Why was that chosen because when we are looking at cultural connectivity, when we are looking at enhancing trade tourism was identified as a very important one specifically Buddhist tourism, wellness tourism and education so therefore tourism formed an important component. So as we still continue to celebrate India-ASEAN relations and build on some these key decisions and announcements that have been made we will also build to work towards focusing our attention on tourism. We should be celebrating in a very big way next year.

I’ll stop here and I will request Sanjay to fill you in on some of the challenges and the tasks that we confronted in managing this huge exercise.

Chief of Protocol, Mr. Sanjay Verma: Thank you Ma’am. Good evening to all of you, I can recognize a lot of familiar faces. Let me give you a peek into what seemed like a seamless exercise which seemed well synchronized, things falling into place, elements following one after the other. There is a mosaic behind a lot of hard work which goes into delivering protocol targets. And the idea here was to make the whole platform predictable, assured and time-bound.

This was a summit plus plus. It just wasn’t 25 years of ASEAN but also an extraordinary and unprecedented gesture from the Government of India that we would receive ten heads of state and government for Republic Day parade.

Any event of this nature required a number of rounds of consultations and meetings etc. This began way back i.e. two months ago that we had the first advance security liaison teams coming in from different ASEAN countries where protocol, security, media related issues were talked about in detail. There again an advance security liaison team just about four days before the summit.

We had put into place layers of diplomatic professionals to engage with each delegation. We has a media liaison officer, a chief liaison officer, a delegation liaison officer and spouse liaison officers and these colleagues, about thirty of them were flown in from different parts of the world, from different embassies about eight days before the visit. They were all attached to individual delegations to service each and every aspect conceivable requirement that a delegation may have. We also had to factor in specific requirements, allergies, food habits so that whether it was a banquet, even simple things like if we are sitting in a chair and if you are allergic to a certain fabric that had to be taken care of.

Particularly when it came to meals, whether it was the meal hosted in Rashtrapati Bhawan or the gala dinner last night which had to be executed in a time bound manner. You’d be happy to see that in this entire summit and the Republic Day celebrations there was no time over run. Today on television screen you would have seen that ten leaders arrived within nine minutes of each other but they came from five different hotels around the city and they all had to converge at the Rashtrapati Bhawan and then come in a straight procession, align Prime Minister and VP to proceed and Rashtrapati Ji to follow.

The line I used to convince the ASEAN delegations that they needed to abide by the timeline is that six hundred million people would be watching, at the minimum, Republic Day celebrations live on television and in the history of India Republic Day parade has never started late and even today with ten leaders it didn’t start late and that sort of worked.

We also had to cater for the requirements of interpretation both at the simultaneous level and at the consecutive level. This was also an occasion where we had nine bilateral meetings. So even while we had the major elements of the summit, we were clubbing in bilateral meetings. On 24th we had three, we had four yesterday including one which concluded at eleven in the night after the banquet and we had two this afternoon immediately after the parade.

So what you see, there is a lot more work going both behind the scenes and on screen. The leadership Prime Minister, Rashtrapati Ji, MEA colleagues have been engaged for the last two days morning to night in different engagements and as a Chief Protocol Officer it has been my responsibility to ensure that the playing field, the predictability of the summit is maintained. As I said I can mention that usually when we deal with heavy requirements we have WhatsApp groups and every time after three or four minutes I would look at my telephone there were forty messages on my WhatsApp group. Because at any given time over 150 officers in MEA feeding into that.

I’ll conclude here, this is just to give you a sense. Before I conclude let me just place on record deep appreciation for the number of stakeholders we have worked with. This includes Delhi Police, NDMC, the Hotels which we use frequently for such occasions, the agencies, even management companies who worked with us and the guidance of EAM, Secretary, Prime Minister and the support of colleagues on the table, without which it would not have been possible. Thank you.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I’ll also request Jt. Secretary ASEAN to also share details of the meticulous planning that went on and several other aspects in the run up to the summit as well as some things like for the first time the Ministry of External Affairs mounted two Tableaus which is again unprecedented. But from what you have heard from our Chief of Protocol the bottom line is we were like ducks, swimming furiously, but you just saw us looking very calm on the surface but we were all really very very furiously, vigorously swimming in quite a dizzy there to make this look so smooth and calm and seamless.

The second was the attention to detail which again the Chief of Protocol mentioned. Meticulous attention to details, directions coming straight from our External Affairs Minister. Again to give you very small examples, this morning the dais where our leaders were sitting, there was some heating facility but maybe not warm enough. She personally had provided her shawls to ensure that they are warm in their feet or the fact that every key to the hotel room had the flag of the country concerned.

So ten countries, each of them, this is again every time we met whether they were from Laos or Cambodia, they said look this is so thoughtful that the hotel has given us keys carrying their national flag. Those were instruction that came straight from our minister or the fact that leader’s names were actually etched on their pillow covers etc. again these small little things which give a personal touch and attention to detail and also our desire to make them feel welcome in our spirit of Atithi Devo Bhav.

Jt. Secretary (ASEAN-ML), Shri Anurag Bhushan: Thank you Ma’am. Good evening, I see a lot of friends here that we have interacted over the past one year. Today is a day when all of us on this table feel really proud as part of the ministry that undertook such a massive exercise. Today is also the day that marks the culmination of year-long commemorative events that we had organized to mark this silver jubilee of our partnership with ASEAN.

Secretary had earlier taken press briefing twice before the event where she had briefed you in detail about the events that we had undertaken but just to recap, we had an Artists Camp, we had a famously successful band show where we got ASEAN bands from all the ASEAN countries and thereafter we had multiple events where ASEAN countries participated.

Ladies & gentlemen, from here it looks like South East Asia is a region but when we actually work, I started working only in the ML division last year, I realize how much diverse these countries are from one to another and that if you go beyond the two or three big cities you will find a fantastic region which is very culturally rich, enormously promising. I think the relations with India are slowly maturing. Our job was to bring this relationship into very focus especially in the three Cs vertical, as we call it, which is Connectivity, Culture and Commerce.

Our activities were therefore focused in bringing all these pillars of our relationship into focus, specifically speaking culture. I told you just that we had an Artists camp and the product that came out of artists camp, the paintings were actually displayed in this summit and were appreciated by every leader including our Prime Minister.

When I say connectivity, of course connectivity was a central theme of the summit but beyond that for the first time we organized a connectivity summit in December last year where we had multiple ministers and senior officials from all ten ASEAN countries. In terms of commerce we had the textile expo. The last one week or so has been particularly crazy because we really wanted to build a background to this summit so the whole thing started with the External Affairs Minister visiting Singapore for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and for the ASEAN-India network of think tanks, which secretary has briefed you earlier.

Thereafter we had agriculture ministers descending on 11th, this was the first time agriculture meet was organized in Delhi which is an important sector of cooperation between the two regions. For the first time we had a Ramayana Festival. I must put on record the kind of work that ICCR did to bring this festival within 20-25 days to get troops from all the ten ASEAN countries, of course the cooperation from all the ASEAN countries was very forthcoming as well and this show has been very successful. The one or two shows that I have attended have been full house. And I am sure all of you would have been there as well.

We also had a Start-up Festival that Secretary talked about that we will do, we also had a Hackathon which gave a glimpse of the kind of future that awaits if we have a cooperation in this particular area. We had almost 25 companies that came, 125 total companies from India and ASEAN that participated in Hyderabad and Jaipur for a startup festival and Hackathon, both were highly valued by Telangana government and Rajasthan government. We had a valedictory session in Delhi also.

Thereafter there were a few days of crazy activities that started with the ASEAN-India Investment expo and summit which was organized by Ministry of Commerce & Industry together with MEA. State ministers, senior ministers and senior officials from ten ASEAN countries participated in this expo. Thereafter we had a textile expo because textile we feel is a very promising sector of cooperation where designers, entrepreneurs etc. from various parts of the textile value chains came together to discuss cooperation.

We also had a ASEAN-India Youth Awards for the first time where EAM awarded promising entrepreneurs and young business leaders of both ASEAN and India. So this whole helter-skelter kind of activity made it a very complicated exercise because while we were preparing for the summit we were also busy with organizing these events, going into minute details of these events. Each of these event by itself is a summit because if you see ASEAN-India Business Expo, Textile Expo, there were trade ministers participating.

We also had a senior officials meeting which was co-chaired by the Secretary herself and so we also had senior officials coming in. Just to underline how important this even ASEAN considered, the Secretary General of ASEAN came on 21st and stayed as long as today so we can really see how important this whole week was, how valued even ASEAN countries considered the events and how much pressure there was to our entire team. I think this is very important. Total 50 major events were organized in the last one year. Just to put into your perspective how important we considered it that for the first time, at least I don’t remember, I have been 23 years in this service that External Affairs Minister herself took two inter-ministerial meetings.

Officials from across the government which were involved in this right from the various line ministries which were participating in the summit and the allied activities to the various agencies of Delhi government, law and order, everybody was invited for these meetings. Our Minister of State General V K Singh organized two meetings, Secretary herself organized one. So really the entire exercise was undertaken at a very high level to ensure that it goes on smoothly. That was one part, finally I think the last two days were very special because for the first time ministry undertook several activities which were new, of course the presence of ten leaders is by itself a very new thing.

The second was for the first time MEA organized two tableaus to mark this occasion because it was a very new exercise for us, it was very complicated because first of all it was very difficult to find a tableau maker who knows about South East Asia and how to bring the elements of those culture back into India. So we had to work very closely with the Tableau maker in terms of design. The designs went through multiple iteration right up to the level l of EAM herself who gave a lot of time in terms of designing of the tableau. The two tableaus captured the shared heritage between India and ASEAN. The first tableau marked the boat which is symbolic of the maritime connectivity that India and ASEAN shared not just now but from centuries. The second part was Nalanda which again represented education connect.

Ladies and gentlemen I am sure that you know how important Nalanda was for people in South East Asia and we have evidences of Kings in South East Asia who had actually endowed this university in terms of construction of hostels for the students of South East Asia. So Nalanda was another symbol of education connect and I must say that this theme was very dear to our minister.

The second theme was that of Ramayana because as I told you Ramayana festival, Ramayana in various versions is found in most of the places and you will be surprised how many versions there actually are and how much they differ from each other not just from our Ramayana but between their own versions of Ramayana. The second part was also Bodh Gaya because I think Bodh Gaya is also considered very important and holy pilgrimage site and any Buddhist from that region who travels to India finds their travel incomplete unless they visit Bodh Gaya.

So we had a Mahabodhi Tree and the temple and these two tableaus were very beautifully encapsulated. To bring their culture also we had a ground element of a couple from each country who wore the traditional clothes of that country and that is very interesting because we had no idea, at least the designer had no idea what kind of clothes they wear so they had to work very closely with the local embassy officials. The local embassy officials gifted clothes to them to ensure that they are very genuine and authentic.

The Ramayan artists that you saw on top of the tableau were all local people from all across India and when they started they had zero knowledge about South East Asia but all of them studied very hard, they watched videos, the masks were constructed out of the images that came out of that region from our embassies and we made it. The third thing is commemorative stamps and I think that is also a very very new item.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You heard directly from the source how the entire thing was planned and the idea was to give you a flavor about behind the scenes activity and that is the reason why we got the Chief of Protocol as well as JS (ASEAN) to share some of those behind the scene happenings with all of you. The floor is now open to questions.

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I thought after such a detailed briefing there would be no questions, we have answered in anticipation.

Question: My question is in the Republic Day tableau why the Ramayana from Vietnam why the Ramayana from Vietnam, Singapore and Brunei were missing and so also in the cultural events?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: For the simple reason that you know there is a very close cultural connect but Ramayana is not necessarily played in its full form in the three countries that you mentioned. With Vietnam, they have Cham dance form which is again very similar to Indian mudras and we had invited them to perform those dance forms as part of the Ramayana festival. From Brunei again the group that had come has performed the mudras, so where there was no specific Ramayana theme we wanted to include all ten, so all were included but not specifically focused on Ramayana but on our common cultural dance forms.

Question: Can you give us some details about the bilaterals with the Prime Minister of Laos and Malaysia?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: So I will quickly run through all three bilaterals. I will quickly go through what were the common elements of all the meetings not just the three meetings that we are telling you about but all the nine bilateral meetings that our Prime Minister had, tenth which our Prime Minister will be having tomorrow with the Cambodian Prime Minister. What was repeatedly reiterated again and again in all three meetings plus the earlier ones that I briefed you about was a deep appreciation for summit arrangements and the warm hospitality.

We have given you details about how attention to detail and our desire to really convey our deep appreciation in little gestures including the big ones which were there. There was also a very high craze for our Republic Day parade, I think for all of the leaders it was a great experience and their delegations as well because I was sitting in the enclosure where rest of the ASEAN delegation were sitting and the enthusiasm with which they watched the parade was itself very very energizing for me and very satisfying for us. So there was high praise for the republic day parade and the courtesy that were shown to all of the delegation as well as to the member states by recognizing with the flags, the tableaus, focus on common cultural connect etc.

Specifically as far as Indonesia is concerned you would remember that the President of Indonesia had come on a state visit in December 2016 and thereafter a series of decisions were taken including high level exchange so we have in that one year since his last visit undertaken a series of high level exchanges including an energy dialogue, trade dialogue etc. Then finally our EAM had gone to Indonesia earlier this month for the Joint Commission Meeting with her counterpart the Foreign Minister of Indonesia.

IN this particular month in the run up to President Joko Widodo’s presence here there have been few very important developments and visits. First National Security Advisor level talks with Indonesia to enhance and establish regular mechanism for security cooperation. The visit of their defence minister who also met with the Raksha Mantri but he also participated in the Raisina Dialogue. The fact that we established the first policy dialogue at a track one point five level were again very important prologues to the final meeting that President of Indonesia had with our Prime Minister. Immediately the President of Indonesia reiterated his invitation to our Prime Minister which had been extended by him in December 2016 when he visited and reiterated subsequently and I am happy to say that Prime Minister has very warmly accepted that invitation and he would be going to Indonesia.

They reviewed the various bilateral mechanisms that I am talking about, the foreign office consultations that were held last year, the joint commission meeting, our security dialogue and then they decided to accelerate economic cooperation increasing Indian company’s participation in infrastructure sector in Indonesia and the Indonesian President conveyed his support for the Indo-Pacific concept and said that he would work with India to ensure peace and security in the region. The president also conveyed appreciation for India’s support for ASEAN led mechanisms for maritime cooperation with India and he said that would be Indonesia’s priority. De-radicalization I have already mentioned that came up for discussion and then there was discussion on cooperation for Island connectivity and for developing blue economy. You know that we are all sea-faring nations and Indonesia comprising of thousands of Islands, in fact, has only maritime neighbors and in that India happens to be its immediate maritime neighbor.

On Lao-PDR, Prime Minister, you would recall, had gone to Vientiane in November 2016 for the ASEAN related summits at that time he had in fact met the Prime Minister because he was appointed in April 2016. With Laos we have again very strong cultural linkages and that’s obvious symbol being the Vat Phou temple and other Indian monuments. In fact the Laotian national who has been honored with a Padam Shri happens to be the one who has made contribution to restoring Vat Phou temple.

Then they talked about our traditional development assistance program where India has $150 million worth of projects in water and transmission lines that have been completed. So that is one very good example of timely execution of development cooperation projects. There is a proposal for extending a Line of Credit for construction of an agriculture college and both the leaders form both sides conveyed their desire to complete the formalities to start expediting this project.

There were other new projects that were proposed in the connectivity field, of physical and digital connectivity and of extension of trilateral highway. We have ongoing defence cooperation in terms of capacity building there and there was discussion about enhancing that further. There are other capacity building programs including human resource development, English language training and that was also discussed.

Restoration of monuments and ancient sites, Our Prime Minister invited a business delegation from Lao-PDR to undertake road shows in major cities to attract Indian investments in Laos and here there is a project development fund which has been announced, which in fact is intended to encourage Indian investors and businesses to invest in the CLMV countries and we hope that this particular roadshow will give a boost. Then there was recognition that the Prime Minister of Lao-PDR said that the Delhi Declaration was a very good document and that Lao-PDR will support its expeditious implementation. Contents of the document are already available with you.

As far as Malaysia is concerned, again our Prime Minister and Prime Minister of Malaysia have had frequent interactions. Bilaterally he had a full state visit one year back and then thereafter they had been meeting very frequently on the margins of these major summits. They have a very good equation with each other and they talked about the excellent cooperation in trade and investment fair and excellent participation of Malaysian companies in implementing a lot of road projects in different states of India. They talked about further cooperation in railway infrastructure, about enhancing law enforcement agencies, countering terrorism and countering radicalization which was a discussion that I mentioned earlier also, and about further enhancing defence cooperation.

We already have very good existing defence cooperation with Malaysian and they talked about enhancing this particularly in the light of the fact that both our countries do have common defence platforms where we can work together. Our Prime Minister invited the Malaysia companies to avail of new avenues of investments in India in the civil aviation sector.

Question: I just have two clarifications, the first, you mentioned that India is going to organize a conference on countering radicalization, who will be the participants and when will be the conference organized? And second one, you mentioned about this 1000 fellowships in IITs which you said was decided at the plenary session. So could you give some details about this also, 1000 fellowships?

Question: I think this is the first time that ASEAN has taken a resolution in the Delhi Declaration about cross-border terrorism. So did you pursue them and how it figured?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: To begin with I will first go on to the fellowship program. As I mentioned earlier that in the course of the discussions there was a desire, India has undertaken traditionally capacity building programs including under the ITEC program in several of the ASEAN countries and there has been a deep appreciation of the capacity building and scholarship programs that India offers to several of the ASEAN countries. It does not necessarily offer scholarships to all the ten ASEAN countries, for example there is a reverse trend in a country like Philippines where there are several Indian students studying medicine there.

So there we have benefitted from the capabilities but the Sultan of Brunei, for example, recalled when he met our Prime Minister that he himself had been taught by Indian teachers. So there has been a very strong educational connect ongoing over years between India and ASEAN and a desire to enhance this cooperation of education which focuses on youth, focuses on capacity building and in that context our Prime Minister, at the end of the discussion, concluded it by offering these 1000 additional scholarships in IITs for PhD programs.

Coming to the question on the text that contains several references and paragraphs to terrorism, when you read the contents of that text you will see that there is of course very strong language of 11 leaders coming together to strongly not only condemn terrorism but also to recognize that this menace requires collective action, global as well as regional. Terrorism does not know any boundaries. You know what is cross-border terrorism, you know that when it knows no boundaries you cannot be selective in terrorism. You cannot say good and bad terrorism and in that context the fact that ten leaders of ASEAN recognized and endorsed in this declaration shows the need and recognition of this menace to be fought collectively.

On the question of countering radicalization, this particular conference, this has been on discussion for some time, it came out as a result of specific discussion that our leadership has had with the leaders in Malaysia and Indonesia because both these countries have had very successful programs and legislation in position on ensuring that their youth are not radicalized. Again in that context Prime Minister of India, at an ASEAN summit last year, had offered to undertake a conference, a seminar, for discussion amongst concerned experts to discuss and learn from each other’s experiences.

And in that context I would also mention that there are positive experiences as well. Indonesia and Malaysia are positive experiences. India too has had some very positive experience in handling this particular menace because it can be very toxic if it were to spread and the fact that they have managed to contain it, the fact that we all come from very plural, tolerant and diverse societies, the fact that we have very strong, dynamic youth bulge who should be positively focused and in that context there is a huge problem of radicalization of youth taking place through the internet and otherwise where we felt that this particular conference and it will be global conference but the experiences of India and the ASEAN countries would be one which could set a very positive example for the rest of the world and that is where it comes in.

Question: I think I know the answer but I going to ask my question anyway. This conference will be organized, will the focus be on specifically, you said counter-radicalization, will the focus or the motive so to say will be on Islamic fundamentalism or Islamization fundamentalism or we look at all sorts of religious fundamentalism that considers religiosity as perhaps, its motive, so to say?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: We have always maintained that terrorism does not has a religion because when we talk about radicalization of youth or extremism it is in the context of extremism in its form not really associated to any religion for sure.

Question: This is a clarification that is required, yesterday at the press conference you said that during retreat there was a talk among leaders for a mechanism on maritime cooperation. So I just wanted to check with you because in Delhi Declaration there is not specific mention of the mechanism. There was one thing that India has proposed a framework for blue economy, is that what you were referring to or is it something else that is in the works?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I don’t have exact text with me but if you read the entire Delhi Declaration there is a specific reference to maritime cooperation in the context of humanitarian disaster relief and in the context of security cooperation, freedom of navigation as being key areas of maritime cooperation. So that is where it is so if you read the language you’ll get the full content of it.

Question: ASEAN leaders also emphasized on early conclusion of RCEP. So is India ready for that, has India got any reservations in RCEP?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: No, not at all. India participated in RCEP negotiations as a very enthusiastic partner. India is a huge market for all of the participating other 15 countries. India itself would have a lot to gain to be part of this region grouping which is why we have participated very diligently in the negotiations but you know when there are six countries involved obviously everyone has to take on board everybody else’s concerns but we have maintained and we have shared with our counterparts through the negotiations that we look forward to a balanced outcome which takes on board all elements of what is strictly regarded as free trade agreement including goods, services and investments.

When they are negotiating we cannot specifically talk. When negotiations are going you cannot talk about specific concerns because it is really not for me to divulge, it is really for the negotiators. All I can say is that we maintain that we expect it to be a balanced outcome which is acceptable to all parties concerned.

Question: I have two questions, did Zakir Naik came up during discussions during the bilateral with Malaysia? Secondly on connectivity, did predatory practices by certain countries were discussed when the ASEAN leaders met with the Indian leadership, predatory economic practices?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: No to both your questions.

Question: What we have achieved so far with this 25 years of India-ASEAN friendship?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Well I would like to say that everything that we have been saying for the last half an hour is a complete failure if at the end of this briefing you are asking me what have we achieved. That is what we have been talking about. I think we have achieved a great deal in terms of the three rubrics. So after that if you are asking this question then I think perhaps we have not communicated that well.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: To start with please take a look at the Delhi Declaration, I think there is a lot of substance in that.

Question: Secretary, as you mentioned that maritime cooperation is one of the key areas of cooperation is freedom of navigation. What are the key issues or common challenges discussed in the summit, especially in the Delhi Declaration we see the implementation of TOC and early conclusion of COC in South China Sea?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: You will see that both India and ten ASEAN countries are positioned in the Indo-Pacific region which is the waters which carries 90 percent of the global trade and therefore it is essential for all of us countries to be participating, again we are sea-faring maritime nations and so therefore for us maritime cooperation becomes a very important element and in that context we very firmly believe as do the ASEAN countries as you have seen in the declaration which has been endorsed that freedom of navigation is an important element for movement of goods and people and also for the peace, prosperity and stability of the region.

Question: We heard about the Prime Minister’s speech and the Singapore Prime Minister’s speech at the plenary, rest were closed doors as I understand like other plenaries. Could you just give us a sense of the other nine leaders, what did they say?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I have already gone through the whole exercise.

Question Contd.: Plenary in particular, what the other leaders exactly said?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: Exactly what the other leaders have said is what is captured in the Delhi Declaration. The Delhi Declaration is adopted at the end of the summit after listening to everybody’s views on board.

Question Contd.: Anything in particular?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: It is contained in the declaration. Specifics I have already mentioned. The fact that they conveyed their deep appreciation for India’s role that they would like India to play a greater part, that India is very important, this is the specific that they said, the rest is all contained in that declaration.

Question: Congratulations on the successful summit. My question is regarding what the Prime Minister said in his plenary speech. He was very, I think quite frank, in his opening statement where he said that security cooperation and freedom of navigation will be the key focus. Can you please name the problem that you face in freedom of navigation, in ensuring freedom of navigation in the region? You have talked about South China Sea but isn’t it the issue that the Chinese are building artificial islands and possible hindrances to airtime traffic and maritime traffic is what you are referring to. I wanted to name the problem of freedom of navigation that why this reference to freedom of navigation is so significant to us?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I did not name any problem and nor did he name any problem. When we talk about freedom of navigation and security challenges for maritime countries it is specifically related to both traditional and non-traditional threats.

Question: Two separate questions but quick answers. One is to do with, could you just tell us where we are vis-à-vis India-ASEAN FTA, if there is something happening in that particular domain? And number two for my own particular understanding, whenever you have a gathering of so many leaders, when it comes to protocol how do you decide who sits where, I mean who sits next to the PM, left, right, center. How does one decide that, that must be quite a task?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: There is an already an India-ASEAN FTA in goods which is operational. There is another one that is negotiated and signed on services and investments. The services and investments has not been ratified by two countries who are completing their internal processes but even while we are in discussion on RCEP and we have bilateral arrangements with some of the ten countries, CICA with Singapore for example, which is in its second round of discussions and another one with Thailand, but we also have this FTA which is already in position, so there is already an ASEAN India FTA in goods.

Moving on to your other question about the seating, for us there is strict protocol but there is no one size that fits all. In the ASEAN context we go strictly by their own protocol, their own secretariat because they have a very set protocol and that is what we follow in consultation with them.

Question: In Republic Day parade, the protocol was different when they were moving on to dais and while coming down the order was reversed.

Chief of Protocol, Mr. Sanjay Verma: There is a rocket science to diplomacy and if you want me to deconstruct that let me say that there is a protocol order to things. The most fundamental is that Royalty trumps elected representatives, then you have region specific protocol ASEAN protocol. India has its own protocol and sometimes when the occasion demands functionality becomes the criteria. So when leaders were getting on to Rajpath and to the saluting base we had to work between seniority, ASEAN protocol and the fact that they were spread over five different hotels and there were bubble movements, it gets a little technical here, bubble movements of three leaders moving together depending on which part of the city they were.

Though you have noticed that there was a change and that change was also because some of them had to leave early for the airport. So a lot of things are to be taken into account and we could actually come up with an algorithm on protocol after this visit. Of course there is an ASEAN culture which in itself suggests certain amount of informality which helps and consultation which also helps. I hope I have confused you enough. I will just conclude by saying that all the arrival orders, positioning placement in banquets was done in consultation with the ASEAN secretariat.

Question: As you said that almost all ASEAN leaders appreciated India’s role in ensuring peace stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region. Was there any expectation from any of the ASEAN leaders for India to play a more proactive role in Indo-Pacific region actually, in the context of Chinese assertiveness?

Secretary (East), Smt. Preeti Saran: I didn’t say almost all, I said all the leaders. India-ASEAN relations stand on their own, they don’t require any third party’s participation. Yes because India-ASEAN relations stand on their own, yes all the leaders conveyed there desire for a greater participation by India because they realized that India plays a very positive role.

Question Contd.: Was there any apprehension from any of the leaders about India joining the Quad i.e. India Australia US and Japan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You have moved onto a very different question now, it is not related to ASEAN and it was not discussed.

Question Contd.: I am just saying that Mr. Vinay Kumar could answer that since he has been quiet for a while.

Jt. Secretary (South), Shri Vinay Kumar: As the issue was not discussed what could I say specifically.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As we mentioned it was not discussed specifically.

Question: Ye jo Rohingya Muslim ka issue hai Myanmar ka iske baare mein ASEAN ne kya sochaa, kya baat ki?

(What has ASEAN thought about the issue of Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Ye jo aap sawaal pooch rahe hain, ye specifically mention nahi hua is summit mein. Ye bilateral mudda hai jo jaisa maine pehle bataya tha wo us dhang se discuss hota hai.

(The question that you have asked, it was not specifically mentioned in the summit. It is a bilateral issue and as I have told earlier it is discussed in that particular way.)

Thank you all very much. Have a good evening.
(Concluded)

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