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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary of India at Abu Dhabi on Prime Minister’s visit to Jordan, Palestine & UAE (February 10, 2018)

February 11, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good evening and a warm welcome to this special briefing from Abu Dhabi. Today we are in the third leg of Prime Minister’s visit to four countries. As you are aware Prime Minister has already visited Jordan on his way to Palestine and in fact today this is the third country which we are visiting in a day.

To give us a sense of the visit over the last couple of days to Jordan as well as Palestine and the meetings which we had earlier today evening I have with me the Foreign Secretary of India, Shri Vijay Gokhale. I also have Shri Navdeer Suri, Ambassador of India to the UAE who will brief first about the visit, about the meetings which have taken place. I would request Foreign Secretary to start the briefing. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Prime Minister arrived in Abu Dhabi a couple of hours ago. This is a four nation tour of Arab countries that he is undertaking in three days i.e. 10, 11 and 12 February. He sees this as a visit to an extended maritime neighborhood and the key priority in our external relations in terms of engagement with the Gulf countries.

These are multi-faceted partnerships, these are partnership in which we are adding new pillars. We of course have a very active and important diaspora in many of the Arab countries but to that pillar of diaspora we are adding an energy pillar, we are adding an economic pillar and that has been the agenda of this government when it has dealt with the Arab world and with the Gulf in general.

Let me begin with Prime Minister’s transit visit to Jordan. Exceptional courtesies were extended to him by His Majesty the King of Jordan. The King received him at his residence. It is usually the practice of the King to receive visiting prime ministers at the office but in this case an exception was made, our Prime Minister was received at the Royal Residence on a Friday and the King provided his own helicopter to the Prime Minister for making the visit today to Palestine.

This was the first visit to Jordan by a Prime Minister since Shri Rajeev Gandhi made a visit in 1988, so it has been three decades since an Indian Prime Minister visited Jordan and the King of Jordan, King Abdullah II described this as the beginning of a new chapter in our ties as a relationship with great potential in every field from economic to defence and as you perhaps already know our President has invited His Majesty the King of Jordan to make a State visit to India from February 27 for three days and the Prime Minister said he was looking forward to the visit by the King of Jordan. During that visit we will discuss several issues relating to how we could take that relationship forward and fulfill the potential which the King of Jordan felt was something that we could look forward to in the relationship.

This morning the Prime Minister made a State visit to Palestine. This was a historic visit in every sense. During the term of this government the President of India has made first ever visit to Palestine in 2015. President Mahmoud Abbas made an official visit to India in May 2017 and this is now first time ever that the Prime Minister of India is making a visit to Palestine in 2018 and as you know it is a stand-alone visit.

The three visits taken together, I believe, reflects the government of India’s commitment to the cause of Palestine and the Prime Minister himself was very pleased to make this visit. He was very warmly received by President Mahmoud Abbas and his government. He paid his respects at the memorial of the Mausoleum of the late President Yasser Arafat. He toured the museum and then there was a very productive round of discussion followed by several MoUs.

He was given the highest civilian award that the State of Palestine gives and our Prime Minister when speaking at the Press conference subsequently said that he was accepting this award on behalf of all the 1.25 billion Indians and on behalf of all the citizens of India he expressed appreciation to the state of Palestine for giving him this award.

The talks with President Abbas were very fruitful. They spoke about a number of issues. As you can well imagine the President of Palestine spoke about peace process, spoke about latest developments in that regard and the Prime Minister assured President Mahmoud Abbas that India stood by Palestine and that India was ready to assist in whatever way it could in the development of Palestine, in building up Palestine and he spoke the need for optimism and hope for the Palestinian people.

Six MoUs were signed and the cumulative value of them is approximately $40 million and this was highly appreciated by the President and his team. The Palestinian authority has thanked India for on-going projects. We have technology park which is in the process of being built, we have also earlier supported the construction of a Diplomatic Academy and this time too especially new projects that I would like to bring to your attention include a specialty 100 bed hospital that we would be building in Palestine and also Women’s Empowerment Center where women from various parts of Palestine can come and learn skills. So these are two particularly interesting projects we are doing, we are also constructing or renovating some schools. We are also going to supply machinery to the national printing press of Palestine.

In what was rather unusual day our Prime Minister sort of maximizing the time that is available to him has done two State visits so we had a State visit of Palestine in the morning and then we had a State visit of United Arab Emirates in the evening and at the end in the UAE the Prime Minister had received exceptional courtesies, I will request our Ambassador also to speak in some detail about that.

I just want to mention however that His Highness the Crown Prince of the UAE and Abu Dhabi as well as members of the Royal family were present at the airport collectively to receive the Prime Minister and that is a great honor as you would all agree. This was also the first ever occasion in which a Head of State of government has been received in the new palace that has been build and that too is an exceptional honor and that to our Prime Minister.

A number of agreements were signed and our Ambassador will talk about it. I will just end by saying that the Crown Prince described the Prime Minister as a friend. He said that Abu Dhabi was his second home but what was particularly noteworthy is that on more than one occasion that the contribution of Indians in the UAE in building the nation is something which every citizen of Abu Dhabi appreciates that the Indians with their trustworthiness, with their hard work have built this country and that the Indian community is a community that can be trusted, the word he used was, we can trust Indians.

Our Prime Minister of course felt very honored by that. He said that Indians have contributed to the building of Abu Dhabi, to the economy of the UAE, he was very happy that Indians have a good image here and he assured that we would continue to work together with Abu Dhabi and that Indians would continue to work here to build Abu Dhabi. So with these few words, I would request our Ambassador to also add something about the visit to Abu Dhabi and tomorrow’s forthcoming program of Dubai as well. Thank you.

Ambassador of India to Abu Dhabi, Shri Navneet Suri:Thank you Foreign Secretary for that excellent summation of not only the Abu Dhabi leg but the previous ones. As Foreign Secretary said the arrival ceremony at the Presidential airport today truly depicted a departure from standard protocol for us to see the Crown Prince and other members of the Royal family members were present at the airport to receive the Prime Minister. Then Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan personally accompanied the Prime Minister in the same car so that they could get some extra time together.

The banquet itself, as the Foreign Secretary mentioned, the palace was around for a bit and they said perhaps it was looking for the right visitor to come and so as a special gesture to the Prime Minister of India they sort of inaugurated the new Presidential Palace with this visit and a formal banquet.

There was an extended one on one meeting between the two leaders followed by a short delegation level talk and of course the signing of the agreements. The single most important agreement that was signed today and which really reflects a change in our energy relationship with UAE was that a consortium of Indian companies lead by OVL (ONGC Videsh Limited) including IOC and BPRL was signed the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). It was signed by His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jabbar, Minister of State and CEO of ADNOC from the UAE and side and by Mr. Shashi Shekhar, the Chairman and Managing Director of ONGC.

Under this agreement under the Lower Zakum field which is a major producing field just off the Abu Dhabi coast, we are getting a 10 percent concession in that. There was a total 40 percent stake available and 10 percent concession agreement has been signed today. This is important because this is the first time ever that an Indian consortium, and Indian company has received an oil concession anywhere in the Gulf. It means that for almost 40 years, it is a 40 years concession, we will receive about 2.2 million tons of oil per year so both in terms of our energy security and in terms of the signal that in a very competitive field, with a number of oil majors, there were companies from all over the world, the first concession agreement has been signed between ADNOC and India and it truly reflects the transformation in the relationship.

Earlier this morning we also signed an amended agreement that implements India’s first ever strategic petroleum reserve in Mangalore. We have established these caverns and six million ton barrels of Abu Dhabi oil from ADNOC will soon start flowing as the first strategic petroleum reserve that India helped in establishing and there will be more to follow but again between these two agreements, one finalized in the morning and the other one in the evening in the presence of the leaders really demonstrates to you the qualitatively different nature of this relationship.

Other agreements that were signed, there was an important agreement that we have been working on for a while, which is in manpower cooperation because with 3.3 million Indians here, 70 percent of them blue collar, obviously concerns related to our working class are of great concerns to us and under this agreement we will have much more closer cooperation with the relevant authorities.

The third is a very forward looking agreement between the Ministry of Railways in India and the Department of Federal Road and Transport Authority and it was signed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Dr. Abdullah and what we are looking at is right now UAE has a fairly nascent railways program but Etihad railways got major expansion plans and they are looking at India as a partner in terms of track, in terms of consultancy, in terms of rolling stuff etc.

The fourth important agreement was signed between DP World and Jammu & Kashmir government. DP World, as we know is one of the world’s largest logistics companies, they are the world’s third operator of ports, they had also recently announced that they have created a $3 billion fund together with National Infrastructure Investment Fund to invest in logistics and so this agreement between the Finance Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Mr. Haseeb and the Chairman of DP World was signed to establish an inland container terminal in Jammu.

The final one that was signed in the presence of leaders was an agreement between the Bombay Stock Exchange, the CEO of Bombay Stock Exchange was here and the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and again that provides a very important element in the financial architecture between the two countries.

There were two other agreement that have been finalized. One is a currency swap agreement where India and UAE, it is an agreement between two Central Banks and the agreement has been completed and it is going to be exchanged through letters and under this businesses from the two sides will be able to trade directly in Rupees and in AE Dirhams and not have to go through dollars which means that there is a saving for business community. It makes trade between the two countries more competitive.

And the final one which has been finalized and is going to be signed in the next three days is an agreement between the Financial Intelligence Unit which commits both countries to work more closely together in money laundering, in preventing money laundering that takes place.

Over and above that, I know that some of you were there in the morning, we witness the signing of three agreements between private entities and Indian Institute Of Management, Ahmedabad announce that they are going to set their first overseas extension campus in UAE and that under the new parliament act they now have the ability to expand outside India.

The Manipal Institute announced that they are establishing their first Medical college in Dubai and work on that is beginning and finally the Dubai Multi-commodities Exchange is signing an agreement with a Nagpur based company called Crop Data and that is going to create 500 electronic trading platforms to enable farmers to sell their produce directly over those electronic trading platforms which eliminates middlemen and gets the farmer much more income directly into their hands. So those are some of the agreements that have been signed today. You would agree that it has been a fairly busy bouquet.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Foreign Secretary, thank you Ambassador. We have time to take few questions.

Question: Mere do sawaal hain, ek to jo MoU sign hua hai Bharatiya Shramikon ke liye ki unko behtar suvidha mil sake uska agar thoda detail de sakein ki wo kaise rokaa jaayega, usko lekar MoU mein kya hai aur doosara jab Pradhanmantri in aham dauro par hain, aaj subah fir Jammu Kashmir mein fir ek aatanki hamla hua hai, to kya aatank ko lekar koi baatcheet hui hai, Sheikh aur Pradhanmantri ke beech ki usko counter karna hai?

(I have two questions. First, the MoU that has been signed for better facilities for Indian workers, if you could give some details about that what all is there in the MoU and my second question is when Prime Minister is currently on such important visits, there has been another terrorist attack this morning in Jammu & Kashmir. So has there been any discussions between Sheikh and the Prime Minister of terrorism and how to counter that?)

Ambassador of India to Abu Dhabi, Shri Navneet Suri:Dekhiye jo Manpower ka MoU hai uski ahmiyat ye hai ki ek framework mil jata hai dono sides ko ki agar koi company yahan par band hoti hai aur usmein Bharatiya shaamil jinka rozgar khatam ho jata hai to kya system follow kiya jaayega, kya unko compensation milegi, mechanisms kya rahenge. Doosara hai ki kaafi der se ye tamanna rahi hai ki hamara jo e-migrate system hai wo inke system ke saath integrate ho. To peechhe kaafi der baatcheet hui is masle par aur abhi kaafi inhone manpower agreement mein bhi aur waise bhi baat ho gai hai ki acchha rahega agar hamara e-migrate inke saath integrate ho jaaye kyonki jo cheez hum band karna chahte hain ki yahan par log tourist visa par aate hain uske baad naukri dhoondhate hain ya koi sponsor unko naukri de deta hai aur uske baad unke pass hamari koi protection nahi rahti kyonki wo privately aa rahe hain.

Lekin jo e-migrate se aata hai to uske liye hamare pass poori information hai, jaankari hai ki uska kitne paise ka contract hai aur hum jab labor camps mein jab jaate hain to dekhate hain ki aadami ke pass contract hai 2000 dirham ka mil raha hai usko 1200 aur kuch nahi kar sakte, court bhi nahi jaa sakte kyonki uske pass nakli contract hai. So what we are trying to do is, inke saath baatcheet karke inke courts, inke labour laws, inke labour platforms jo bhi hain, unke saath integration ki jaaye so that jo contract bhi bane wo is format mein bane ki inko bhi wo acceptable ho, jo contract substitution ki hum mal-practice dekh rahe hain usko band kiya jaaye.

(The importance of the manpower MoU is that both the sides get a framework about the system or procedure that will be followed if a company shuts down here which has Indians employed in them. Will they get compensation, what will be procedure? Secondly, there has been this long standing wish that our e-migrate system integrates with their system. So lately there have been a lot of talks on this and in the manpower agreement it is also there that it would be better if could integrate our e-migrate system with their system because we want to stop the malpractice in which people would visit here on a tourist visa and then apply for a job or somebody will sponsor will offer them a job and after that they do not have access to any protection from our side, because they have come here privately.

But the people who come here through e-migrate, we have full information about them like what is the employment amount mentioned in the contract, because when we go to labour camps we have seen that there is contract of 2000 Dirhams, but in reality they are getting only 1200 Dirhams and nothing could be done about that, they could not even go to court because they have bogus contracts. So what we are trying to do is that we integrate with their courts, their labour laws and labour platforms after consulting with them so that the contract that are entered into are according to their format and which is also acceptable to them so that the malpractice of contract substitution can be stopped.)

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Jahan tak aatankwaad ka sawal hai, kal Jordan Naresh ke saath kaafi lambi baat hui. Jordan Naresh duniya mein jaane mane hain kyonki unhone Akba process shuru kiya hai aur de-radicalization ke issue par unhone bahut kaam kiya hai. Pradhanmantri ne unhein badhaai di aur dono leaders mein sahmati thi ki aatankwaad ek bahut badi chunauti hai aur hum logon ko milkar iska saamna karna chahiye. Is maamle mein Pradhanmantri Ji ne Jordan Naresh ko samjhaya ki Bharat se bahut hi kam fighters Daesh mein shaamil hue hain, shayad duniya mein aisa koi desh nahi jahan itni badi jansankhya ho aur itne kam log gaye hain Daesh mein aur Jordan Naresh ne bhi hamari Sarkar ki sarahna kii ki itne saalon bad ek moderate society hai. Aaj subah kyonki Kashmir mein hamla hua hai aaj subah to Palestine ke Rashtrapati ke saath bhi is baare mein charcha hui.

Pradhanmantri ne bataya ki inke kuch kaaran hain aur Palestine authority ke President ko unhone kaha ki hum sab milkar terrorism ko fight karna chahte hain, chaahe wo Palestine youth chaahe wo Bharat mein youth ho aur chaahe wo kanhin bhi duniya mein youth ho, hamara ek lakshya hona chahiye ki unka radicalization nahi hona chahiye, jahan tak ho sake unko mainstream mein le aayein, lekin jahan tak aatankvaad ki baat hai, we have to fight that with whatever we have, with whatever capacities we have and Prime Minister explained that it is well known as to where such actions are emanating from and that India would take all the necessary measures to ensure that we are able to fight terrorism. So in both the places the Prime Minister did touch upon this issue.

(As far as terrorism is concerned, yesterday there was a very long discussion with the King of Jordan. King of Jordan is known world over for starting the Aqaba process and for his substantial work on the issue of de-radicalization. Prime Minister congratulated him and both the leaders agreed that terrorism is a very big threat and we must face it together. On this issue our Prime Minister informed King of Jordan that very few fighters from India joined Daesh. Probably there is no other country in the world where there is such a huge population and so few of them have joined Daesh from that country and King of Jordan also appreciated the fact that after so many years there is a moderate society in India.

Since there was a terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir this morning, hence this issue of terrorism also figured during the discussions with the President of Palestine. Our Prime Minister told that there are certain reasons behind it and he told President of Palestine that we want all of us to fight against terrorism. He said that whether it is the youth of Palestine or India or for that matter youth from all over the world, our aim should be that they do not get radicalized and we should try as far as possible to bring them to mainstream but as far as terrorism is concerned we have to fight that with whatever we have, with whatever capacities we have and Prime Minister explained that it is well known as to where such actions are emanating from and that India would take all the necessary measures to ensure that we are able to fight terrorism. So in both the places the Prime Minister did touch upon this issue. )

Question Contd.: With UAE?

Ambassador of India to Abu Dhabi, Shri Navneet Suri:With UAE we had an absolute congruence of opinion in terms of the fight against terrorism. UAE itself has zero tolerance on terrorism and not only that but they have very aggressive program to counter violent extremism and radicalization.

They have two important institutions, there is the Hidayat Center which is a global center of excellence for countering violent extremism and they have a Sabab Center which is the center that uses social media to counter the false notions that are being spread about Islam or about various ideologies and we have a very good working relationship now with the Hidayat center in particular. So not only do we talk with each other about the terrorism issue in general terms but we cooperate with each other in specific terms and we have a very important shared agenda to act against the kind of corrosive ideology that is promoted by certain groups.

Question: Sir How do we take forward our defence and security cooperation, we have a robust defence cooperation with these countries so how do we take it forward in days and months to come? My second question, if you can also give us more details on this agreement that we have signed on money laundering, how are we planning to work together and cooperate further on it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Defence cooperation with which country?

Question Contd.: All three?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: As far as defence and security cooperation is concerned, of course this was discussed but I am not at liberty to disclose the specifics of that discussion. With Jordan we have so far not had any specific defence cooperation although there had been exchanges of delegations from time to time. Mostly we had a joint meeting in the Month of December during which Jordanian team had come. We are looking at some of the requests that they had put forward for capacity building including in the area of cyber-security as well as in the case of maintenance of equipment and the Jordanian side is also got a fairly good capacity for training of special forces and they have offered that if we are interested they would like to show us around their facilities.

With the state of Palestine our cooperation is essentially development. With regard to UAE, maybe Ambassador could add something.

Question Contd.: With Oman also, we will have that meeting but if you could?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: Well, I think it is not appropriate for me to comment on what we are going to do in Oman until the Prime Minister actually goes there and we do something, so I won’t comment on that.

Ambassador of India to Abu Dhabi, Shri Navneet Suri:With UAE we have a very important and growing defence cooperation. We have had regular training exercises, we have had regular exchange of visits and the new thing that we will now have is the first ever bilateral naval exercises that will be taking place in March, right here off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

I guess there is a recognition that we have very common interests in maritime security in combating piracy, in keeping sea lanes open and UAE sees India as an extremely important partner in this area. We are also having some very productive conversations about working together in the field of defence production. There have been some visits that have taken place. Dialogue both with public sector companies and private sector companies, so again it is an important growing area of cooperation you would probable see outcomes in the coming months.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much for joining. I apologize for calling this briefing so late but there was no other slot available. Have a good time. Thank you.

(Concludes)

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