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Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon friends and welcome once again to this special press briefing at Qingdao on Prime Minister’s visit for the SCO Summit. Day two of Prime Minister’s visit was started with a restricted session which was followed by a plenary and there were also bilateral meetings which took place, there is one scheduled after this briefing i.e. with Kyrgyz Republic. I have with me Secretary (West) who will be briefing us on day two of Prime Minister’s stay in Qingdao. I also have with me the Jt. Secretary who looks after SCO and she will also chip in as and when required.
Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanshyam: Thank you so much Raveesh and thank you all for coming here. Good afternoon to you all. As you all know Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi participated in the 18th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization which was held under the Chairmanship of the President of China, President Xi Jinping in this beautiful city of Qingdao.
This was the first SCO Summit after India became a full member in June 2017 and in that sense it was a historic summit and this was the fact that most leaders also recalled. Prime Minister’s program in Qingdao included participation in the welcome banquet hosted by the Chinese President Xi Jinping on the evening of June 9, 2018.
Prime Minister attended the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in both the restricted as well as the extended formats in addition bilateral meetings of the Prime Minister were held on the sidelines of the summit as has been highlighted by the spokesperson just now.
The SCO summit is a forum and this is just for understanding its importance that this is a forum which enables India to engage with countries of Central Asia. It is the highest decision making body in the SCO. It meets for annual summits in Member Countries by rotation. This summits marks the culmination of China’s yearlong chairmanship of SCO and of passing on the baton to Kyrgyzstan for the next year.
At the summit the Qingdao declaration was adopted by the Heads of State. Other documents were also adopted at the meeting. The important ones among them, well all are important but some of them which I want to point out to are, Joint Appeal by the Heads of SCO Member States for Prevention of Radicalization of Youth, Program of Cooperation in Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for the years 2019-21, MoU within SCO in the field of MSMEs, Joint Statement by SCO Members on Trade Facilitation, Joint Action Plan in the Field of Tourism for the period 2019-20, SCO Concept on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection and SCO Concept on the Prevention of Abuse of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and SCO Anti-drug Strategy.
Some of these documents are the result of negotiations at the expert level from various fields and they are reflective of India’s active participation during the last one year in the meetings and various expert level meetings of SCO. The Prime Minister, amongst the things that he highlighted, was that SCO should explore ways to utilize the SCO platform to stabilize the energy market for mutual benefit and that the development strategy of SCO until 2025 provides a good roadmap for cooperation.
He said that India would be ready to play its role in fostering socio-economic development of the SCO region and it can offer its experience in skill development, capacity building and human resource development. Amongst the things which Prime Minister also pointed out was the importance of tourism and he specially mentioned about the foreign tourists coming to India only 6 percent are coming at the moment from SCO countries while it can easily be increased perhaps even to double the number.
He highlighted the importance of creating awareness about tourism between SCO countries and India and in this regard he offered that India could host an SCO food festival and an exhibition of the common Buddhist heritage of SCO countries and that these could be held in India.
He also underlined the importance of skill development, capacity building and human resource development and of cooperation in these areas. In this regard he made a number of specific suggestions. I think these would be available in the Prime Minister’s statement which would be available to you on our website.
The Prime Minister gave a kind of acronym SECURE which stands for Security for our citizens, Economic development for all, Connecting the region, United our people, Respect for sovereignty and integrity and Environmental protection. So these are some of the areas that he highlighted during the statement. The Prime Minister also congratulated the President of Kyrgyzstan who will take over as chair and offered India’s full support and cooperation to him in the pursuit of his chairmanship.
All the leaders held discussions in a very friendly atmosphere and in a very constructive manner. They also exchanged views on various issues of interest regionally and internationally. Those were some of the important highlights. Yes we had bilateral meetings just now after the summit with the President of Kazakhstan. You have already been briefed about the bilateral meetings yesterday.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: One bilateral meeting took place today. There is another one which will take after this briefing with Kyrgyzstan. In the meeting with Kazakhstan I think the focus was on India’s participation at the SCO plus more on the bilateral side, the sectors that were covered were India and Kazakhstan working together in hydro carbon sector.
There was some discussion also on how to facilitate visa and travel of people between the two countries. PM also thanked Kazakhstan for their support during the election of Justice Dalbir Bhandari and some discussion also took place on how to enhance the level of trade and investment which exist at this point of time.
Kazakh President did mention that compared to previous years the trade had gone up by 50 percent and that was an encouraging time. So in the limited time I think this is what was discussed between the leaders.
Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanshyam: Prime Minister also invited Kazakhstan to join the International Solar Alliance and the President of Kazakhstan responded enthusiastically because he said this is an important initiative. So we hope that Kazakhstan will also take now greater interest in the Solar Alliance.
Other than that those were some of the important issues, connectivity between India and Central Asian countries especially India and Kazakhstan and how we can further improve this connectivity. These are also some of the issues that came up during the discussion.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Ma’am. We don’t have much time for Q&A session because we have another bilateral meeting as I mentioned to you. We will take questions only on the SCO Summit.
Question: Prime Minister spoke extensively about importance of connectivity and in that context he spoke about the need to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries while implementing various connectivity projects. India is the only country which has been actually opposing China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), so what was the mood inside the room when Prime Minister talked about territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations in implementing these kind of mega infrastructure projects?
Question: In total how many agreements were signed as far as the SCO Summit is concerned and the joint actions plans, so if you can segregate how many agreements and how many joint action plans were signed?
Question: Was there any discussion on Iran nuclear deal and were there discussion on SCO countries continuing to buying oil from Iran and other ways to ensure energy security?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Are you asking this question in the context of SCO because Prime Minister’s speech was also telecast live which we are going to put on our website. You will have to look whether there was a reference to this particular aspect which you are referring to or not.
Question Contd.: I thought there were some discussion in what was broadcast.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You know we can only share what our Prime Minister spoke but if other members spoke about it then it is something that you will have to ask them. This is not the right forum for us to answer queries about what the Iranian President might have said or others might have said.
Question Contd.: I am sorry, my question wasn’t about what the Iranian President said, it was about how India and other countries are responding. So you can only respond about India’s reaction.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I can only respond with the respect to SCO. If it is connected to the SCO and Prime Minister spoke at the plenary session and the speech which he delivered is available on our website. Our position on JCPO etc. is publicly articulated and is consistent and is available anywhere. So there is no change but as far as I recall there was no reference in Prime Minister’s speech.
Question Contd.: What about the SCO mechanism to stabilize the energy market? Was that about something else?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That is what I am saying, please go through the Prime Minister’s speech first. If you see any reference then maybe we can give some clarification to what is already spoken.
Question Contd.: Could you clarify then stabilizing the energy market?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will have to see if that reference is there in the PM’s speech or not.
Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanshyam: The first question was about connectivity, I don’t know if I can comment about the mood in the room but India’s position and I don’t think that India’s position is something that is not known to others. So I really don’t see India’s position coming as a surprise to anybody because this is not the first time India has articulated it. The prime Minister has articulated it earlier and it is a well-known position. So I think with that I will pass you on to my colleague for the list of agreements and documents.
Jt. Secretary for SCO: The total number of agreements that were signed, I wouldn’t call them agreements per se, they are outcome documents which were adopted by the Council of Heads of Governments of the SCO i.e. the summit and so the documents which were adopted were. The primary being the joint communique which is issued by the Head and after that there were 12 other documents and then we had four different documents which were basically agreed between the respective ministries of the member countries. There were two documents which relate to the customs, one which related to Small, Micro and Medium enterprises and the fourth one was on tourism.
So in total we had around 22 documents which were there. So these are basically outcome documents, program of action and like Secretary had already said that one of the most important document which came out as an outcome of the summit was the appeal to the youth against radicalization. So we feel that appeal document is something very important and we negotiated that document in the SCO.
Question: There were indications that India might press for mentioning of terror groups which operates in Pakistan. So was there any mention of terror groups operating from Pakistan in the document of terrorism?
Jt. Secretary for SCO: No, there was no such mention. These are issues which are primarily debated and negotiated in the SCO – RATS (Regional Anti-Terrorists Structure). So they were not done. Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanshyam: I just wanted to add to your query regarding stabilizing energy market, perhaps while I was reading, I misread because it was not part of the Prime Minister’s statement. These kind of issues can be discussed during the margins but in any case that the Prime Minister has said that is available on the website. But from India’s perspective Central Asia is an energy rich region and there are a number or mechanisms between India and Central Asian countries for cooperation in the field of energy. So I don’t think you should be linking it with other issues that you seem to have done.
Question: On terrorism, to speak about how India’s specific concerns will be reflected in the declaration, we haven’t seen it yet, can we get a sense how it would reflect our core concerns on terrorism?
Secretary (West), Mrs. Ruchi Ghanshyam: Actually the documents will be available ton the website and there is a program of action on this issue which will also be available on the website.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I can just add that most of the leaders they did mention about the scourge of terrorism. Several leaders spoke about it, they highlighted the menace of terrorism. We haven’t gone through the document but as Secretary mentioned there is a program of action on this particular topic which should cover the concerns of the global community vis-à-vis terrorism.
Thank you very much. Thank you Ma’am and Jt. Secretary and thank you all for joining.