Transcript of Special briefing by Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s visit to USA (June 23, 2023)

June 23, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good evening to all of you here in Washington DC. As you're aware, the official state visit of honorable Prime Minister to USA is underway and he arrived in Washington on 21st. He has just concluded day two. Thank you for joining us so late in the evening, but this is just an indicator of the large number of events and the pace of the activities. To give us a sense of what's been happening in the visit so far, particularly today when we have had a number of engagements we have the privilege of having with us here Foreign Secretary sir Shri Vinay Kwatra. Also joining us here on the dais is Shri Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to USA, as well as Shrimati Vani Rao, Additional Secretary of the Americas Division in the Ministry of External Affairs. Sir may I request you to take the floor.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much Arindam, Ambassador Sandhu, Additional Secretary Vani Rao, friends from the media. Thank you very much for coming out at this late hours and in reasonably good numbers, for us to together go through important segments of day two of honorable Prime Minister's ongoing visit to the U.S.

Prime Minister arrived in Washington yesterday, after concluding his program in New York, which basically comprised of celebrations of International Day of Yoga at the UN, a couple of meetings in New York the day before, and a set of engagements yesterday in Washington. Yesterday in Washington, honorable Prime Minister basically had two main engagements. One was an event with the First Lady on Skilling for future; event which was organized at the one of the community colleges near Washington, Montgomery Community College. And thereafter in the evening yesterday, honorable Prime Minister and the President and the First Lady had a private engagement at the White House.

Day two began early this morning with a grand welcome, ceremonial welcome at the White House, which all of you I'm sure, witnessed. The ceremonial welcome in the morning, the proceedings throughout rest of the day and the last event which just concluded… One thread, which ran through all the events today and also yesterday, was exceptional warmth and hospitality that the President of the U.S., the First Lady extended to the honorable Prime Minister. It was very clearly visible. You all saw in the morning at the ceremonial welcome yourself, the clear manifestation of it. Large presence of the Indian-American community at the ceremonial welcome, the cordiality, the exceptional warmth between the President and the Prime Minister; also that was very very clearly visible.

Besides the programming element of today which I've already mentioned to you - which is the ceremonial welcome to start with, Congressional address and the bilateral talks thereafter between the Prime Minister and the President, Congressional address thereafter, and the dinner just a while concluded. Besides those programming element, I would like to just run through very briefly with the substantive outcomes that this visit, this exceptional visit has been able to achieve. You may have had a chance to look at the joint statement that was put out earlier during the day. But I would just summarize some of the key elements listed in the joint statement across various domains.

First domain, I would say would be of technology. Now even before I go to what's in the joint statement it is important to flag that when the honorable Prime Minister and the President held their discussions in the White House after the ceremonial welcome, technology featured very prominently in the discussions and not technology just in a single sub-domain or limited segmentation of it… but technology cooperation across all most of the ecosystem that pertains to it, which would include technology transfer, which would include technology trade -- trade in technology products, technology services, which would also include working together to create research, co-produce and work on developing technologies across different sectors…which would also include the technology capacity building cooperation between the two countries.

Now, if you look at specific sub-domains which are listed in the joint statement, you will find that there are roughly 20 to 25 areas of technology partnership that have been identified in the joint statement as a direct result of the discussion between the two leaders earlier in the White House. So you have a full set of technology partnership areas in the field of semiconductors.. whether it is the decision of Micron to set up an assembly line and test facility in India with a total investment amounting to roughly $2.75 billion.. of course it would have a large chunk from Micron, but there will be other investors too. Lam.. the company Lam's decision to train a 60,000 Indian engineers which falls more in technology capacity building engagement, the decision of the advanced applied materials to invest $400 million to establish a collaborative engineering center again heavily centered on technology.

If you go to the entire domain of initiative on critical and emerging technologies, you would find that there was a decision today to set up a quantum coordination mechanism and also the quantum information and science and technology agreement. Also partnership in several plurilateral engagements which focus on technology areas, quantum entanglement exchange, Quantum Economic Development Consortium.., Research Partnership Program under the U.S.- India Science and Technology Endowment Fund, which focuses more on joint development and commercialization of AI and quantum technologies, critical area of HPC..High Powered Computing technology and development of source codes, and the regulatory easing in that space. So the five sub-domains of technology I mentioned, you can easily add two more to that…one is relating to the regulatory easing. Google's AI Research Center also announced to continue its investing through the $10 billion digitalization fund.

In S&T there were three or four critical technology related announcements which were made, which are reflected in the joint statement. One of which was implementation arrangement between the NSF and the Department of Science and Technology of India, relating to cyber physical systems and secure and trustworthy cyberspace. This area is particularly important given the increasingly complex and increasing number of cyber-related threats…that are critical infrastructure in particular phases in both the countries, signing off an implementation arrangement between NSF and the Ministry of Electronics of India for funding of joint projects and applied areas of research, which would include semiconductors, next generation communication, cyber security, green technologies, intelligent transport system etc.

Technology space then also continues into defense, where one of the landmark announcements done earlier this morning by GE was the signing of an MoU with HAL for production of GE- F414 aeroengine for the India's light combat aircraft. There was also an announcement on India-US Defense industrial cooperation roadmap, which also has a heavy segment of technology. There are then technology related announcements in the field of energy…there are good six-seven of them. So, if you put them all together, you will find that very clearly technology, in particular advanced technology across various domains, whether it is the defense domain, whether it is in the area of space or other domains, it has been one of the most important outcomes, substantive outcomes from the visit and from the discussions between the leaders.

Besides the technology related segment another area of important outcome has been people-to-people ties. This finds manifestation in a decision by the U.S. side…and both India and U.S. have agreed that U.S. will start the process to open two new consulates in India- one in Ahmedabad, one in Bengaluru. India will open its consulate in Seattle and two other places which are to be determined later.

Defense has been another important area of significant outcomes during this visit. One element of it which I have highlighted is the agreement to produce GE-F414 engine. The other elements include India's plan to procure MQ-9B Reaper drones from the U.S. There have also been some decisions and announcements with regard to placement of defense personnel in each other’s facilities to better understand different systems and their operations. We have also announced commencement of negotiations with the U.S. Department of Defense for concluding the security of supply arrangement, as also discussions on the reciprocal Defense Procurement Agreement. Energy, as I mentioned earlier on, is another area where we have seen significant and considerable number of outcomes and these are all available for you to see in the joint statement.

Our trade has also been another area of priority discussions between the two countries and that also featured in today's discussion. Now, one of the key elements in this has been that out of the seven WTO disputes between India and the U.S. there has been a resolution for six of the outstanding WTO disputes. There have also been cooperative understandings with regard to up-skilling of employees arrangements between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Indian Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, announcements of substantial investments by companies like Boeing, 100 million in this case on infrastructure and programs to train pilots in India, etc….so a fairly important set of announcement.

Space, that has been another area which has seen important outcomes being announced today. The one in particular needs mention is the signing by India, Ambassador Sandhu signed it yesterday, is Artemis Accord. India has become signatory to the Artemis Accord which would essentially open up a new area of partnership between Indian Space Research Organization and NASA and other relevant entities for cooperation in the field of outer space, in particular relating to exploration initiatives on moon and other outer space objects.

The other important segment which I should highlight is India's decision and the U.S. welcome of that decision for us to join the mineral security partnership, which essentially opens up opportunities for India and the U.S. to cooperate in this entire field of critical minerals, which is so important for strategic new industries coming up in the field of electric mobility, energy transition, in particular green transition, etc.

So, if you were to…if I was to kind of wrap it up in some sense, you will find, you know expressions of these key elements of day two of Prime Minister's visit and also his engagements yesterday reflected in multiple statements by Prime Minister today, including in particular his congressional address. So, Prime Minister spoke of, in this visit, one a new chapter of relations. He spoke of new direction and energy. Three, he emphasized on the strong and futuristic partnership. Four, resilient supply chains was an important aspect which he mentioned in his statements. Mutual trust and shared strategic priorities. Friendship between the two leaders; the leadership connect, which has been one of the principal drivers of such a rapid and large set of achievements that we have managed to register in the relationship. And again, a leadership connect friendship, which is not just for the benefit of two of our countries but it's also something which is very, very relevant for the entire humankind and the global peace. The strong strategic partnership, the strong leadership connect, President Biden himself mentioned that both India and U.S. have democracy in their DNA, is proof essentially of the power of democracy, of the value based relationship, the value based relationship which also delivers..delivers for the respective country as also furthers relationship and you'll find expressions of these sentiments in these substantive outcomes which I have listed.

So, a visit which has been extremely rich on form but equally if not more, rich on substance, I listed out some of it for you --- Discussions, achievements, outcomes, focused not just on the individual items, but also focused on how those outcomes need to be achieved in a value based framework. Working in this value based framework on different aspects, the two leaders sketch their vision of the relationship, which as I said, is a pathway for a future cooperation and the convergence of strategic interest. The two also working in this value system spoke of the need to listen to the voices, other voices which are there in the world for their own benefit, spoke about the vigor in the relationship, and I mentioned these examples clearly pointed out, and the new ventures, the ventures which cut across space of technology, trade, energy, space, critical minerals, et cetera, and the last to top it all, that all this, in an absolutely trustworthy, reliable way in a manner that works for the relationship, but also works for the regions and for the global good.

All in all, a truly path breaking ongoing visit of the Honorable Prime Minister, and we hope that the set of engagements that are anticipated for tomorrow will add on additional value, more substance, show us maybe newer domains in which the two countries and the two systems can partner more strongly to even forge a deeper, more extensive, and a stronger partnership between the two countries.

Just one last word on the Honorable Prime Minister’s congressional address. You all must have watched, we saw many of you, if not all of you, in the US Congress. You clearly saw everything that Honorable Prime Minister said. The extent to which how deeply it resonated with the Congressmen and Senators present in the Congress, how the address brought up Honorable Prime Minister’s vision of India that is transforming under his leadership in last nine years, how he sees important developments in important regions of the world, and his perspectives on some of the global challenges such as climate change, challenge of terrorism that we all face, et cetera.

I think what we saw at the Congress today is unlike anything that we may have seen in some time, but all in all, a truly special visit, exceptional visit, and which we hope, which we are confident that would build on to this relationship and take it to higher reaches further. I would stop here and if there are questions, I’ll try and take them. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much, sir. Before we take the questions, ground rules, please introduce yourself and the organization that you represent. Ayushi, we’re going to start with you.

Ayushi Agarwal: Good evening. Ayushi Agarwal from ANI. So I have two questions. My first is, since we know that cross border terrorism and Pakistan was part of the conversation between the two leaders. Was there any sort of discussion or request made by India regarding the extradition of Tahawwur Rana, the Pakistani terrorist? Second question is, during the bilateral meetings between the two leaders, was there any discussion on having a free trade agreement between the two countries, any prospects for an FTA?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Can you just repeat the second part of your question? Was that agreement in free trade, what did you say?

Ayushi Agrawal: Any prospects for an FTA.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Prospects, okay.

Ayushi Agrawal: Yeah. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Sidhant, can we go ahead with you.

Sidhant: Hi, sir. Sidhant from WION. How much there was a conversation on China and aggressive Chinese actions in the Indo-Pacific and across the world as well, if you can talk about that, sir?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yeah, just one second, okay. China and discussions on that. Yeah, Manish.

Manish Chand:
Manish Chand, India Writes Network. Sir, President Biden in his ceremonial welcome, spoke quite a bit about Indo-Pacific, Quad. Later in the Congress speech, Prime Minister spoke about the dark clouds of coercion and connectivity and all that. Clearly, these were obliquely targeted at China. How much of China was discussed between the two leaders, and any concrete plans to intensifying cooperation in the Indo-Pacific? Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Why don’t I come back on another round of questions. Sir, we may take three questions at this time.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Thank you. Look when the… besides the reference in the Congress to the challenge of terrorism, the reference clearly brought out, if you heard, Prime Minister said that even after the two decades of 9/11 and one decade of 26/11, the problem of terrorism remains a pressing challenge for the global community. Clearly, what he was highlighting was the need for the international community to recognize that the people who sponsor terrorism, support terrorism, they continue to pose a serious challenge to the safety and security of our societies and have to be very sternly and firmly dealt with.

When the Honorable Prime Minister and the president held their discussions, all aspects of such global challenges were discussed between the two, and how India and US could cooperate to mitigate, address, and try and deal with this challenge as comprehensively as possible, that was also discussed between the two leaders, and going forward, it would be our effort to see how some of those discussions can translate into concrete cooperative decision between India and the US.

Bilateral FTA, prospects of bilateral FTA, look as I mentioned, you know, cooperation, bilateral trade cooperation, featured quite extensively in the discussions and also in the outcome statement that I mentioned. Currently, India and US bilateral trade is a little over $190 billion between the two countries. And as Prime Minister said in his press remarks after the discussion, US is India’s largest trading partner. That trade takes place in a certain framework between the two countries. Free trade area agreements by their nature are very, very extensive and require discussions and negotiations over a scope, which is defined between the two countries.

So, as such, the discussions focused more on what measures do we take to expand our trade engagement both in trade in goods and trade in services. Also, what steps can be taken to ensure that the capital flows between the two economies increase and are made more efficient. Indian side we did talk about importance of talking on the critical minerals agreement, which at least is a limited domain trade engagement, which is possible. So all these things were on the table in terms of discussion, but prospects of FTA I think is further down the line for both of us to build on and see how we can progress that.

Manish, your question and Sidhant your question earlier on, on China. Look, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, both Honorable Prime Minister and the President focused on the challenges that our strategic interest face all over different parts of the world. Naturally, in this regard, the developments in the Indo-Pacific area have always been an important area of cooperation between India and the US. That cooperation takes place across multiple domains. One, it takes place through our individual partnerships with the countries of the Indo-Pacific. Two, it takes place in terms of, that the two countries share their assessment of what is the kind of challenges that we face in the region, what we can do together to meet those challenges, what is the nature of those challenges, et cetera.

So in their discussion, the Honorable Prime Minister and the President focused on the nature of the challenges that the two countries face in the Indo-Pacific, including strategic challenges, and what India and US need to do across the different parts of their system to ensure that we mitigate those challenges through our cooperation, but at the same time, also harness the opportunities that are available in the Indo-Pacific. Plan to… what is this, intensify?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Broadly, the questions were on those lines. Maha.

Maha Siddiqui: Sir, Maha Siddiqui from NDTV. Sir, since India and US have decided to settle six of the trade disputes outside WTO, what is the hurdle now in India getting its GSP status back? Because the joint statement still says that relevant portions will be looked through by the US Congress. Sir, if there’s bipartisan support from the US Congress, what is preventing the US from returning the GSP status to India?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Is that directly linked to the WTO issue? Anyway I will…

Maha Siddiqui: It was a dispute, sir…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I will leave Foreign Secretary to respond to it, but GSP and WTO disputes are not…

Maha Siddiqui: The dispute, sir, with WTO, that will be resolved?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Yeah, fair enough. Prashant.

Prashant Jha: Hello, sir. Prashant Jha from Hindustan Times. Sir, I’d like you to zoom out if possible, if you know, ask you two questions around. The first is technology, which you said was the big takeaway. Now, the bilateral relationship in a way on the question of technology has been defined in the past by contestation, where we have felt that tech transfer has not happened, there has been tech denial. What you mentioned today and what you outlined seems to inaugurate a new chapter in technology collaboration. I wanted to ask you, what has changed and what has led to this pretty dramatic shift.

The second question, sir, is the many of the outcomes that you mentioned are outcomes that will play out in the long-term. Some will fructify in the long term, some will lock our systems in for the long term. So is this a long-term bet now that both countries are making on each other, and which will get reflected in our defence, in our tech and all the domains that you mentioned?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I saw one more hand. Yeah, please.

Ajay: Sir, Ajay from Doordarshan News. Any assessment about the cumulative investment that we are expecting from US from this…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry, repeat again. What was the question?

Ajay: The cumulative investments from USA after this very important…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Cumulative investments.

Ajay: Yeah.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay. Do remember that these investments are by private companies and they may choose to announce it at a suitable location, but I will let the Foreign Secretary…

Ajay: Absolutely. Also, how much time it may take for the GE to be, you know, endorsed by the Congress, so to say, and what impact does it have on the Make in India prospects under defence sectors? Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Okay.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: Look, to part one of your two-part question on the cumulative investments, I think those details are available in the joint statement that you will… if you go across that, you will find that many companies have announced their decisions even before the joint statement was issued, but those decisions have been captured in the joint statement. So whether it is the investment by Micron in the semiconductor space, whether it is the investment by I think Applied Materials, whether Google’s decision to move on.

You see some of these, besides the two three that I mentioned, some of these investment may not necessarily… may have been announced in a quantified terms straight out. But the decisions to partner between some of these companies or between India and US in some of these areas eventually lead to investment partnerships being built in the private sector, because the nature of partnership in technology is such that at some stage, the private sector based industrial ecosystems will begin to link with each other. Without that, it just remains in theory; it doesn’t materialize in practice, and that’s the time when the individual companies will begin to move in capital and other associated elements of the ecosystem that are required to be in place to make this cooperation happen.

Let me come to WTO GSP bipartisan support. You observed that that six of the WTO, out of seven outstanding disputes, six of them, as the joint statement say, have been resolved through discussions, seventh one remains under discussion. The resolution of the WTO dispute has happened between the two governments, the USTR on the US side, and the Ministry of Commerce on the Indian side. Those are technical discussions based on which the two countries have decided that six of the seven stand resolved.

The GSP, on the other hand, is a congressional issue. It is not an issue, which is entirely between the two governments. There are elements of it, which pertain to tariff fixation and the trade quantum that takes place under those tariff lines, but it’s broadly a much larger issue. It’s an issue which is an important priority for us, which we have been taking up consistently and very strongly with the relevant stakeholders in the US system, including the US Congress to ensure that the GSP benefits are restored for the Indian industry, and we believe that the segments of the industry which benefit from the GSP do make important valuable contributions to both our economies, and we will continue to take this up very regularly and very intensely with the US Congress, so that these benefits can be restored.

Prashant, I don’t think I understood your question in its entirety, but I’ll still try to, you know, say a few points, which hopefully address the structure and the specifics of what’s in your mind. First of all, when you said that, you know, these technology cooperation decisions, some of it may happen, some of it may not happen, et cetera, some of us may lock in, et cetera. I think I don’t want to be presumptive about, you know, what… I mean, I am not presumptive about my intent. My intent is to forge strong technology partnership. My intent is, my Prime Minister’s intent is to achieve everything that we decide to agree on. We don’t make an assumption that X, Y, Z will happen; A, B, C, D will not happen. So that’s the first part of it, just to make it clear, that every single decision that is based on the discussions between the two leaders and two governments is its needed to be taken to its logical conclusion, in fullest. That’s the line of effort and also the line of objective.

Technology, by its very nature, technology cooperation by its very nature, interfaces quite intensely with the regulatory system on both sides, both on the Indian side and also on the US side. On the US side, we all are aware, the regulatory matrix in which they are dealt with both of the EAR and ITAR. Given that it is crucial to address the regulatory ecosystem, which intersects with the technology cooperation, given that criticality, India and US have recently held the first meeting of the strategic trade dialogue. The whole idea behind the strategic trade dialogue is that we look at regulatory issues more in terms of finding ways to enable our technology cooperation.

So we are trying to focus on regulatory issues more from solution perspective, less from the problem perspective, and that is frankly in a way underwritten if you see the extent of technology cooperation decision, which have been announced. Many of these will intersect with the regulatory framework in the US and India, and our effort is to intensify our discussions. Do them in a manner, which become an enabler for our partnership in this technology in the multiple spaces that I mentioned. I think the discussions between the Prime Minister and the President clearly revealed that it is a shared priority. Technology partnership is a shared priority.

The decision on G-414, on seven to eight sub domains of the critical and emerging technologies, the associated set of technology industries in the case of energy transition, clean energy in particular, those are very strong strategic and shared priorities, and the focus on them clearly reveals that our intent going forward is to ensure that we progress in them, and we address the process and the procedure and the regulatory issues come in between in a manner that our cooperation in these areas is actually enabled rather than hindered. Thank you.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I think there’s a part two saying, is this visit a marker of both countries taking the long term bet on each other.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary: You are again, and your question embeds in, you know, inherent kind of doubt about the intent of… look, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, the the richness of form and substance of the visit clearly tells you that it’s an exceptional, landmark, path breaking visit. The decisions taken during the visit are truly transformative across a wide range of areas. Naturally, it is something which is possible when countries have deep trust in each other and are in it for long-term.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson:
Thank you very much, sir. Thank you also to Ambassador Sandhu, as well as to Additional Secretary Vani Rao. Thank you all for joining. I know it’s a late hour. I appreciate very much a large contingent of media that’s come out all the way to follow Prime Minister’s visit. We have one more day of packed activities tomorrow. We’ll try to keep you updated. Thank you.

Shri Vinay Kwatra, Foreign Secretary:
Thank you very much.


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