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Transcript of Joint Media Interaction of External Affairs Minister and US Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry

June 24, 2013

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends. I welcome you to this media interaction. As is usual, we will first have opening remarks followed by a few questions that the two leaders have agreed to respond to.

May I now request the External Affairs Minister Shri Salman Khurshid to make his opening remarks?

External Affairs Minister (Shri Salman Khurshid): Mr. John Kerry the Secretary of State, Secretary Moniz, distinguished delegates from the US, colleagues, friends from the media:

I am indeed delighted to host Secretary Kerry and Secretary Moniz and a very distinguished American Delegation that is here. It is a pleasure to welcome the two Secretaries on their first visit to India after taking over their current responsibilities.

We have just completed detailed discussions covering key strategic pillars of our relationship - security, economics and technology, regional strategic and political issues, and global issues. Our discussions were truly characterized by their convergence and the candour.

Secretary Kerry was positive in his assessment of our strategic partnership, and generous in his appraisal of the potential for the future of our relationship. It is a perspective my colleagues and I fully share. This shared perspective is also reflected in our Joint Statement and in the Fact Sheets drafted by officials on both sides which will be made available to you very shortly.

Today we are expanding our bilateral cooperation to new horizons such as energy while intensifying existing avenues of cooperation in health, science and technology, education, space, defence and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. At the same time, we are very satisfied with the ongoing pace of our political dialogues which have enabled us to intensify bilateral consultations on key issues in our region and beyond including in the larger Asian context. We are delighted to be developing an increasingly global dimension to the India-US Strategic Partnership.

Today at the conclusion of this fourth round of our Strategic Dialogue, we can take satisfaction in the fact that within the few years since we raised our relationship to the strategic footing our bilateral dialogue is wide-ranging to the extent of taking on an all-of-government character. To put that in perspective, we have exchanged as many as 112 senior official and high-level visits in the year 2012. Exchanges in the current year continue to be equally intense and wide-ranging, with over 47 official visits already exchanged covering conversations ranging from Homeland Security to Education, from Space to Energy, and from our trilateral dialogue with Japan to a trilateral conversation with Afghanistan.

A number of important visits and dialogue processes are scheduled over the next several months including the Ministerial Energy Dialogue and the CEOs Forum, both of which are coordinated on our side by Deputy-Chairperson of the Planning Commission.

In participating in special events celebrating our partnership in Green and Affordable Innovation and in co-chairing the Higher Education Dialogue with our Human Resource Development Minister, the Secretary has highlighted the significance of innovation and education as pillars of this strategic partnership. I want to particularly thank him for this as there has otherwise been too little said about these very vital aspects of our partnership which exercise an important impact on the lives of our people.

I want to thank our distinguished visitors for their presence here in India. We deeply appreciate their commitment in this partnership and their substantive contribution during our dialogue. We hope to continue to build on the good work done so far in expanding the horizons of the India-US relationship.

May I say on a personal note that Secretary Kerry and I seem to have struck the right chemistry and we will work on it. It is now my pleasure to request Secretary Kerry to address you, after which we will take a few questions each.

Thank you.

US Secretary of State (Mr. John Forbes Kerry):Thank you very much, thank you, Minister Khurshid.

I do not think we seem to have an …(Inaudible)…so, I am happy to be here with you.

I am really delighted to be here at the fourth US-India Strategic Dialogue. This is my first visit to Delhi as Secretary of State, but I have had the privilege of coming here to India many times as a United States Senator. And I am always grateful for the wonderful reception, the warmth of the reception, the good friendships that I have here as the Minister said this morning too where he said ‘welcome home’. So, in a sense it is a second home, and I appreciate the chance to be here.

I want to thank the External Affairs Minister and the Government of India for a wonderful welcome to our entire delegation. I commented this morning that there were more people from more agencies at a higher level than I get to see on any given day in Washington. It is a significant representation, and there is a reason for that significant representation. It is because this is a very important relationship, it is a very important dialogue, and today I think the breadth of the issues that we discussed really underscores that reality.

I am very pleased to announce that in furtherance of this dialogue and in an effort to keep the high level that we think this relationship deserves that Vice-President Biden will be visiting India in late July in order to continue this dialogue, and I look forward to welcoming the External Affairs Minister to Washington as soon as we work out a date.

This is the first time that Minister Khurshid and I have together led this dialogue. Both of us are particularly and committed to taking this relationship to new heights. India and the United States - two of the most powerful economies in the world, two democracies, two countries that share so much in terms of our values and our aspirations - we believe have an opportunity to be able to set a new standard for cooperation on the number of challenges that we all face.

Twenty years ago, as a United States Senator I led one of the first, if not the first, US Senate Trade Delegation visits to India. It was at a time when there was a fellow who was the Finance Minister by the name of Singh the current Prime Minister. He had just embarked on a series of major economic reforms and nobody quite knew where those were going to go, where they would take either India or the rest of the world. Now, that is a matter of history. It has taken India to new economic heights and potential.

But relationships do not transform by chance, they transform through a lot of hard work and through a shared vision, and that is exactly what the Strategic Dialogue that we have engaged in today is all about. It is an effort to galvanise both sides to think ambitiously and creatively about the next steps in the partnership so that twenty years from now our successors will stand here before you and they will be able to look and say how far the relationship has come.

In witness of that today we talked about space, space cooperation, about technology and technology possibilities of joint venture. We talked about procurement issues between our countries. We talked about defence co-development, co-manufacture, co-purchase. We talked about education, about agriculture, about health, and ways in which we cooperate in terms of health capacity building. We talked about commercial enterprises. We talked about some of the impediments to joint investment and to foreign investments. And we were reassured certainly from our part that India is taking important steps to try to address each of those concerns, and that we are committed to taking steps to address the concerns of our friends in India. There are always mutual concerns.

Yesterday at the Habitat Centre I had the privilege of speaking and I talked about how India and the United States are really uniquely positioned and equipped to take on some of the toughest challenges of our time, particularly security challenges, the challenge of global climate change, and the challenge of bringing full economic possibilities to not just our populations but to the region and to other countries.

So, in today’s Strategic Dialogue we dove into these, as I mentioned, into all of those topics. We talked about how to increase our energy cooperation, our efforts with respect to climate change and other issues. Let me highlight a couple of the outcomes from our discussion today.

First, we reaffirmed that the United States and India share a very specific and similar vision for peace, democracy and stability in Asia and in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. We welcome the strong leadership that India plays today both in the region and on the global stage. And there is more that we can do together.

Both of our countries support a stable, democratic, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. We are grateful for India’s investment in Afghanistan and support and help. We support India’s bilateral economic assistance programmes with Afghanistan with its private sector investment and its leadership in promoting regional economic integration.

I think it is safe to say that our economic engagement has seen tremendous progress in the last decade. Since that time, trade between the United States and India has grown five-fold just in the years of the Obama Administration. Investment between our countries has grown by a factor of ten. In last year we almost topped 100 billion dollars in two-way trade in goods and services, and we are on track to do even better this year in 2013. It is a good start. But both of us agreed today that we can do better, we can do even more, we can break down trade and investment barriers. And I was particularly appreciative of the productive discussion that we had on those issues.

India is currently reviewing the text of its bilateral investment treaty model, and we agreed today to try to look forward and move forward on that model as soon as possible.

We had a productive dinner last night with business leaders from the United States and India. I look forward to welcoming India’s Ministers of Commerce and Finance to the United States for the CEO Forum that I will host in the State Department on July 12.

I was also pleased that the United States and India reaffirmed our commitment to full and timely implementation of the civil nuclear deal. We welcome particularly the intention of Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Cooperation of India to arrive at a commercial agreement. And we agreed that that commercial agreement should be arrived at by September of this year.

I have been a strong personal advocate of this civil agreement. Since I came here a number of years ago and engaged with Prime Minister Singh and then with our Congress and we shepherded it through our Committee ultimately, and was pleased that it was accepted, I will continue to be a strong advocate.

We also talked today about the common threat of terrorism. Democratic societies such as ours have obviously suffered at the hands of terrorist groups. We are open, we are more open than others. We welcome people to our countries. And at our Homeland Security Dialogue in Washington last month and here in the Strategic Dialogue today, we discussed ways that we can further cooperate on keeping our countries safe.

I spoke extensively last night about the imperative for both the United States and India to act forcefully and cooperatively on the subject of climate change. Climate change grows more urgent. The science grows more compelling. And it screams at us, all of us, to take action. There is no country in the world that has not experienced some of the impact of climate change already. Together, India and the United States are undertaking clean energy research. We are collaborating on development efforts. And together we believe we can do more to work on climate change. To that end we agreed to today that we will create a Working Group, which Minister Khurshid and I will coordinate within our respective governments, in order to intensify our efforts to find out ways that we can bilaterally join together in order to address the urgency of climate change.

I might add that led by the very very vibrant diaspora, the Indian American diaspora, we have seen our exchanges, our travel, our higher education cooperation greatly expand. And we want to take that too to another level. As large and as prosperous as our democracies are, both the United States and India know that transformative change takes a certain amount of time. But we are both countries of innovators and big thinkers. You see that in the remarkable accomplishments of technology and of other efforts in India in the last years.

We also have vibrant civil societies. We welcome that. And we have a vibrant free press. We share common values and goals, and we both share the will and the determination to keep pressing forward towards positive change. So I am convinced that the US-India friendship, as President Obama said, is one of the defining partnerships of the 21stcentury. And today I believe we laid a path for helping to make certain that everybody understands that.

We have made a long list of items that we need to follow up on, and we are undertaking to create an action plan so that these won’t just be words but they will be policies and programmes that will be implemented, that can improve the lives of both of our people and hopefully in keeping with our values and our spirit, they improve the lives of our neighbors around the world.

Thank you, Mr. Minister.

Official Spokesperson:We will now have questions.

Question (Indian Media): Minister Khurshid, the same companies that actually refused to engage with India on citing privacy issues basically give that kind of information to the US. They give the US access to private emails and two other confidential communication records. Is that cause for concern? Did you raise it with Secretary Kerry? What was his response?

And Secretary Kerry, do you think this is a case of double standards - one set of standards for American citizens and their right of privacy and another set of standards for the rest of us?

External Affairs Minister: I think saying have you raised it with Secretary Kerry might not be the correct way of looking at it. This is an area that we are both interested in and we discussed it. We discussed it and I think it is important to keep a distinction in mind, and I am sure that Secretary Kerry will tell you from the American point of view, but to keep a distinction in mind as to get access to content of communications is one thing and being able to study by way of computer software patterns of communications whether that is emails or telephone calls is two different things. I think the President of the United States has already spoken of this and has indicated their information that in several countries terrorist strikes were prevented because of some of this work that they have been able to do.

Now, the issues of privacy and issues of reciprocity etc., are issues that we will all keep in mind, and these are matters that engage our attention on both sides, and we are constantly in touch, and if there is need for anything to be brought o the notice of either side, it will be done so. But to that extent I think a meaningful discussion, amongst many other things that we have discussed, briefly took place on this as well.

US Secretary of State: I am really glad you asked that question and I am very very happy to answer it. And I want to answer it very very carefully because there is an enormous amount of misinformation, there is an enormous amount of misunderstanding about what the programme is in the United States. And I will proudly, proudly and forcefully defend the civil liberties and the protections of those civil liberties of the United States and of India and of other democracies over every other country in the world.

We take painstaking efforts, sometimes at the expense of endangering ourselves, to protect the rights of the people. The fact is that this law that is utilized in the United States does not look at content. It does not look at individual emails. It does not listen to people’s telephone conversations. It is a random survey by computer of anybody’s telephone, of just a number, not even a name. No name associated with it.

And it takes those random numbers and looks at whether those random numbers are connected to other numbers that they know by virtue of other intelligence or other things that have happened are linked to terrorists in places where those terrorists operate. And only then, only then, can they take that information if it shows an adequate linkage, they will meet a high standard of law, they then go to a judge in a special court and ask that court for permission, meeting the standard of the law to be able to go further in the investigation.

Now, all three branches of the American Government, the executive branch, the judiciary and the legislative branches were aware of this program, were part of this program by virtue of either a vote or implementing it or passing on it as the judiciary. And in so doing, the evidence has shown from our FBI, from our intelligence community, that we have avoided terrorist acts and we have saved lives.

Now, regrettably we live in a world that is more dangerous because there are some people who prefer to kill people randomly rather than to enter a political system and offer a program and try to make a change. Just today I was driving along on the streets here in Delhi and I was remarking how different it is today to see guards and barbed wire and people having to guard buildings and so forth – the things that we did not live with years ago. And this is true in country after country after country. I see security in front of the Capitol of the United States of America. Where once I used to be able to walk in at will, now there are barricades and police officers holding machineguns because some people do not choose to participate in democracy.

Now, I believe that what we have done is to put in place a program that meets the highest standards of scrutiny, and the highest tests of civil liberties. And there is a balance in this world we live in. When the marathon bombers bombed in Boston, Massachusetts, in April, one of the first questions that was being asked was why did not you guys notice that they were in touch with radical websites; how come you did not track them and know that they were being radicalized when they went to Russia or wherever they went? And the answer is, because we do not look at their emails without the sufficient legal justification to do it.

So, this is a dangerous and complicated world we all live in, and I believe that the program the United States has pursued is a very judicious balance of civil rights, civil liberties, but also of the right of people to live free from being killed by terrorists, and the right we have to be able to protect people in the effort to do that.

Question (US Media): Mr. Secretary, the Obama Administration and you personally have invested a great deal in the US relationship with Russia and China, and have indicated previously that things are on a good track forward. What does the Snowden incident tell you about the strength of those relationships and the possibility of future cooperation? Have you asked Russian authorities specifically to prevent Mr. Snowden’s departure from Moscow? And if so, what has been the response? Have you spoken to Mr. Lavrov in the past two days?

In the case of China, why did the State Department wait for nearly a week after the arrest warrant was issued to revoke his passport, and when was the Hong Kong Government informed? And finally, what response have you gotten from Latin American countries you have appealed to to deny Mr. Snowden entry?

And I have one question for the Minister. Neither of you spoke really about immigration reform in the United States. Could you outline India’s concerns on that issue and indicate what reassurances you received from Secretary Kerry?

US Secretary of State: With respect to the response of the Latin American countries, all appropriate countries have been notified with respect to his status legally and that is the appropriate step to take, to put them on notice that he is an indicted individual, indicted with three felony counts, and that he is wanted by the legal process in the United States, and those countries are now on notice about that. Historically we have always known there are some countries that play outside of that process. And we do not know specifically where he may head or what his intended destination may be.

With respect to his passport, you have to first of all have the notification of the indictment and then obviously after the indictment the process cuts in. I do not know precisely when the order was received, but I do know that apparently at the time, we are waiting actually for confirmation of that, we do not know whether he traveled under that passport or another passport. We just do not know all the details yet. So, I am waiting to get those details, and obviously I am a long way from there. I was in touch with the White House last night and with the State Department. We do have officials of the State Department, Will Burns has been in touch with the Russians directly and they are on notice with respect to our desires.

With respect to the China and Russia relationship and where this puts us, you know it would be deeply troubling obviously if they have adequate notice and notwithstanding that they make a decision willfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law. There is a surrender treaty with Hong Kong. And if there was adequate notice - I do not know yet what the communication status was, but if there was - it would be very disappointing if he was willfully allowed to board an aeroplane as a result. And there would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences.

With respect to Russia, likewise I again do not know fully yet the determinations or where they are heading. But I would urge them to live by the standards of the law because that is in the interest of everybody. In the last two years we have transferred seven prisoners to Russia that they wanted. So, I think reciprocity in the enforcement of the law is pretty important. And I suppose there is no small irony here! I mean I wonder if Mr. Snowden chose China and Russia as assistants in his flight from justice because they are such powerful bastions of internet freedom. And I wonder if while he was in either of those countries he raised the questions of internet freedom, since that seems to be what he champions.

But evidently, he places himself above the law having betrayed his country with respect to the violation of his oath. And I think there are very serious implications in that. So, we obviously hope countries will live by the standards of the law. When they do not, they invite other countries to break those standards. And I think it is a very serious question for all of us in our relationships.

External Affairs Minister:On immigration, of course as far as our industry is concerned, particularly the IT sector, they have expressed a deep concern but they are also in touch with their counterparts and public representatives in the US. We have got this to the Secretary’s notice, and I must acknowledge that he has promised to do whatever is possible for him at his end. This is a matter of legislation, of immigration being rationalized. This is not clearly an immigration issue because a lot of this has to do with work permits to go temporarily and work in a field that has been of tremendous significance and the growth of economic relationship between the US and ourselves in India.

We have a CEOs Forum meeting which will be hosted at the State Department on the 12th of July, and I am sure that when CEOs on both sides meet this is something that they will certainly want to discuss. As partners, we need to factor in concerns of both sides, the potential that the IT sector had unlocked and continues to provide to both sides in the growth of our relationship and find something that is win-win for both sides.

Question (Indian Media):I have a set of interlinked questions for both Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Mr. Khurshid, did you convey India’s concerns over the play of Taliban reconciliation process in Afghanistan? What were those concerns?

And Secretary Kerry, do you think the way the reconciliation is going on amounts to dilution of the red lines? And is the US planning to initiate talks with Haqqani Network?

External Affairs Minister:This is another issue that we discussed. I think to say did you express your concern may again not be the correct way of describing it because I think this is a matter which both sides take with urgency and as a matter of great significance. We need to be on the same page, we need to consult, and we need to share with each other, which is the attitude that we have because we have a dialogue with the United States of America besides as part of our strategic relationship. And we have a trilateral between Afghanistan, United States and ourselves.

Now this is a process and I think it is an experiment that is being done in order to find an alternative for sustainable peace in Afghanistan. One cannot disagree with that. The issues or dimensions or aspects which are of concern to us, I must say with gratitude that the Secretary himself earmarked and said that as we proceed, hopefully the matter will be able to proceed, but as they proceed, it will ensure that none of the concerns of India are overlooked or undermined. And I think that is a good way of our working closely together. I think it is very clear what the objective is. How far that objective is possible, only time will tell. But with caution and care being approached as an objective I think is something that nobody can have a problem with.

US Secretary of State: I agree completely with Minister Khurshid. I think he has articulated very clearly the principles that are guiding us here. We will consult very closely with India and with others in the region. Ambassador Dobbins, who is an experienced diplomat, who is the head of our Afghanistan-Pakistan efforts and who is leading this initiative, will be here in India on Wednesday in order to brief officials directly.

We are working very closely with President Karzai as is entirely appropriate and really required because we are talking about Afghanistan and he is the President of Afghanistan. So, this is an Afghan-led process and it is an Afghan-led process that will only negotiate under certain conditions. Thus far those conditions have not yet been met. So, there is no negotiation at this point. If the conditions are met, then there is a negotiation that will take place not with the United States but with the High Peace Council of Afghanistan.

And one of the requirements or many of the requirements are that the Constitution of Afghanistan be respected, that they not affiliate or associate themselves, in fact disassociate themselves from Al Qaeda and from violence, and that the rights of women and the minority rights will be respected going forward. Now, that is not going to change. And if it is required to change, there obviously won’t be an agreement. But it is better to explore the possibilities of having a peaceful resolution and inclusion in a political process if it is possible.

Ultimately, that will be decided by the Afghan people through this negotiation or it will be decided at the ballot box in 2014 without the Taliban. And we will continue under any circumstances, the United States will continue, as President Obama has made clear, to support the Afghan Government, to support the Afghan military, to continue to equip and train it well beyond 2014, and to continue to have a level of a force on the ground that will continue to conduct antiterrorism and counterterrorism activity. So, the hope is that this could provide an avenue for the reduction in violence. But there is certainly a course that we are committed to, if it does not.

Question (US Media):I wanted to follow up a little bit on Afghanistan. Secretary Kerry, you mentioned yesterday during your speech a role for India in the election process in 2014. To both of you, I wanted to see what more if anything you think India could do. Could you perceive or foresee a security role for India post 2014?

And I also wanted to follow-up, particularly to the Foreign Minister on the issue of Iran. India has kept open dialogue with Iran and a much better relationship with Iran than the United States does. What was the nature of your discussion, if any, on Iran and your hopes or your considerations about President-elect Rohani?

US Secretary of State: With respect to the future of Afghanistan, India has invested two billion dollars in development and projects in Afghanistan. And India obviously has its own diplomatic relationships with Afghanistan, its own relationship with President Karzai. And so we certainly hope that India will, and I am confident will from the conversations we have, encourage President Karzai and Afghanistan to be as prepared for the elections as possible, to do anything if the Afghans ask for it and wanted, to be able to be helpful.

Obviously India is not going to interfere - no one should interfere in an election of another country - but if that country needs help in getting either polling or equipment or technical assistance or whatever it might be, any number of countries should be prepared to be helpful because this election must be accessible, accountable, transparent, free and fair. And the people in the country need to know and see that. And so whatever India can do in its relationship with President Karzai to encourage him to help to make sure all the preparations are in place, that the independent Election Commission has the tools and the rules that it needs so that the people of Afghanistan have no question whatsoever about those five qualities I mentioned - the transparency, the freedom, the fairness, the accessibility and accountability.

On Iran, we did discuss Iran of course and we completely understand the relationship that India has. We are appreciative that India has worked hard to reduce its dependency on Iranian oil. That has been an important step and India has been very cooperative in communicating to Iran and standing up publically and holding them accountable for nonproliferation requirements. India has stood up and enforced the IAEA and UN resolutions and requirements, and we appreciate that.

We also believe that hopefully India with its relationship could help urge the new Iranian leadership as well as the old leadership and the Supreme Leader to take advantage of this moment that they would recognize that, we would call on them to urge the Iranians not to miscalculate, not to miscalculate about American and international commitment, I might add all international commitment. China, Russia, the UN Security Council, the UN itself have all set certain requirements that need to be adhered to. And we would urge Iran to prove to the world that its peaceful nuclear programme as they say it is, is in fact peaceful.

They have been told by President Obama and other leaders that there is no problem with having a peaceful nuclear programme, but there is a problem if everybody sees that you are doing it in a way that they have legitimate reason to believe that it is not in fact peaceful. So, we would hope India would help us so that Iranians do not put the world in a position where they are forced to take additional steps with respect to Iran.

External Affairs Minister:I think you have got a pretty good picture there. I can only add that we have a valuable relationship with Iran, but we have not allowed our friendship with Iran to come in the way of our objective commitment to nonproliferation and our commitment to the IAEA provisions because of Iran being a signatory to the NPT. And we do speak about these things frankly on both sides with our friends in the US Administration as well as with people we interact with in the Iranian Government. They do have a new President now and we would want to judge and test as to what the new President’s intentions and inclinations are.

My reading from my visit to Iran I conveyed to Secretary Kerry. My assessment, which is only a provisional one, I conveyed to Secretary Kerry. But obviously it is something that is only in the process. We still obviously would want to see a peaceful settlement to the issue that has become a very burning issue. Such comfort is that we can give and ensure for movement forward, we would always willingly do. We can today only express our hope that the process that began, but with a process with which some people might well be getting impatient, is a process that is best taken forward quickly. And we sincerely hope that that is what will happen.

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


New Delhi

June 24, 2013


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