Public Diplomacy Public Diplomacy

Transcript of Prime Minister’s on-board briefing en route from St. Petersburg G20 Summit

September 07, 2013

Prime Minister of India (Dr. Manmohan Singh): Ladies and Gentlemen, the Group of 20 is on the international plane an essay in persuasion. In that context I believe we had a very successful G20 meeting.  The Leaders’ Declaration and the St. Petersburg Action Plan are in line with the position we had advocated in the meeting. You have seen the documents. So, I will not attempt to summarise their contents. But I would be happy to answer questions.

We also had a very useful BRICS meeting. The Leaders confirmed that agreement has been reached on the 100 billion dollar currency arrangement. There is also progress on the BRICS Bank which will lead to a concrete proposal by the next BRICS meeting.

On the sidelines of the Summit I had a brief discussion with the Prime Minister of Japan, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Japan, and we have agreed to raise the limit of the swap arrangement between our two countries from 15 billion dollars to 50 billion dollars. This is something by way of a second line of defence for our currency.

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Questions now.

Question: Sir, what are the important takeaways for India from the G20?

Prime Minister: As I said, G20 is at the international level an essay in persuasion about good practices. The Leaders’ Declaration and the Action Programme reflect our concerns that the world economy is not in good shape, that all countries who have influence in global affairs must work together to revive the growth process. In particular we have been arguing at Los Cabos that infrastructure development is a commodity which can contribute to revival of growth as well as acceleration of the development process. And that is reflected in the Action Programme and also in the statements that were made by the President of the World Bank that they are working on a world infrastructure financing facility. If that comes about, it will certainly help us greatly.

Question:Sir, what kind of a role do you see BRICS playing in the global economy and India’s contribution to it as well?

Prime Minister:  BRICS is an important factor in the world economy because China, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and India together command a significant proportion of the GDP and trade of the world and, therefore, whatever happens inside or to the development process in these countries has an influence all over the world. I mentioned that as concrete acts the BRICS countries have agreed to a 100 billion dollar currency reserve arrangement. There is also agreement to start a BRICS Bank with 50 billion dollars, and the concrete proposal is now being finalized and will be brought before the next Summit of the BRICS. 

Question: Sir, do you think that the Japanese swap enhancement to 50 billion dollars and the 100 billion BRICS Contingency Reserve Fund together will have a calming effect on the markets, on Indian currency? And now what should be done domestically also to take care of the current account deficit?

Prime Minister:  On the margins, certainly what we have agreed with Japan will help. But ultimately we have to get the fundamentals of our economy in robust health. The last week, Parliament has passed some important legislation, economic legislation. That will also help to revive confidence. And we have to work to ensure that the fiscal deficit does not exceed 4.8 per cent, and whatever we can to contain the current account deficit will be put in practice.

Question:Sir, this is a question on the point that you had raised on the unconventional monetary policies and how they should be tackled because of the impact. The final Declaration, clause 14, seems to suggest that Central Banks across the world in the advanced economies will continue to be dictated by domestic considerations including price stability. Was your point of view, therefore, a point that found resonance within the G20? What can we expect as far as the rollback of tapering is concerned?

Prime Minister:  There was widespread appreciation of the point that I made about the unintended consequences of unorthodox monetary policies being pursued by countries like the United States and the Eurozone. But I also pointed out in my own speech that I do not see immediate concrete action because Central Banks are the creation of their domestic legislation. Some value their independence; some also have a limited mandate. But overall there was general appreciation that when it comes to consultations on global economic policies, macroeconomic policies, for example in the mutual development process, the countries should be discussing how monetary policies are being shaped, what are the concerns, and how we can soften the impact on other countries. So, I would say that as a general idea there was widespread appreciation. In fact most developing countries’ leaders made the same point that I made. And I expect that as an essay in persuasion it was a good idea, and good ideas are scarce in the world. I do believe that sooner or later it will catch attention.

Question:Sir, I need to know how the Indian economy and markets are going to benefit from your forthcoming visits to the United States, ASEAN, Russia, and China?

Prime Minister:  I have important visits lined up later this month to the United States, then next month to Russia, and there are also visits planned to ASEAN and then to China. All these countries are important trading partners and, therefore, whatever we may do in these meetings, they create a climate conducive to accelerating the processes of cooperation. I, therefore, sincerely hope that my discussions in Washington, in Russia, in China, in Brunei, would certainly help to create at the margin a better environment for cooperation between us and these countries in matters relating to trade, in matters relating to investment. And certainly, I think, the visit to the United States, if we do the right things before going there, they will have an influence on the climate for capital flows from the United States to our country.

Question:Sir, exactly three weeks from now you will be in New York for the UNGA. The possibility of a meeting with your Pakistan counterpart has been a matter of intense speculation. What do you think are the prospects of such a meeting taking place, especially since there is a view in India that you should avoid meeting Mr. Sharif?

Prime Minister:  I have always maintained that we can choose our friends but we have no choice with regard to our neighbours. Therefore, under normal conditions I would be happy to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom I respect, who has said the right things about how relations between our two countries should evolve. But there are certain harsh realities on the ground. If the terror acts do not stop, if those who voice terrorist thoughts move about freely, if there is no significant progress in bringing the culprits of the Mumbai massacre to book, that I have to factor in before arriving at a final decision.

Question:Sir, my question relates to the recent killing of a woman writer in Afghanistan. Do you think that this killing once again proves that Taliban is again raising its head particularly by killing a woman writer? And how is it that Afghanistan forces have not been able to contain these forces? I want your reaction on both these issues.

Prime Minister:  I was very sad when I heard about the attack and killing of Sushmita Banerjee. It is a very sad development. She was living in Afghanistan for a long number of years. She was engaged in important social work. So, I feel very sad that such a noble person should have been the victim of the Taliban’s wrath. Obviously, Afghanistan still is plagued by the Taliban menace. The Government and people of Afghanistan ultimately will have to make up their minds whether the Taliban philosophy, particularly with regard to the role of women in societies, is the theme which should decide their approach to life.

Question:Prime Minister, you have charged the chief Opposition of obstructing Parliament and thereby hurting the Indian economy. But do you believe that you yourself have sufficiently answered the many questions that the Opposition has raised about your Government and about you in person?

Prime Minister:  I have tried to answer all questions that have been raised. I have no desire to hide anything from Parliament, whether it is the coal matter or other matters. I have been as forthright as I can. I made a long statement on the coal sector in the previous session of Parliament. I was not allowed to read that statement, but I did issue that statement. It is a public document. So, I am an open book.

Question:Sir, I want to put a political question. Will you go in for an alliance with Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee in the forthcoming Parliamentary Election 2014?

Prime Minister:  In politics there are no permanent enemies and permanent friends. In many ways a week in politics is sometimes an unusually long period of time. So, I do not rule out alliances. Mamata Banerjee was a very respectable member of the Congress party at one time. As the leader of the Trinamool also we were very happy to have her in our Government. We would very much like that like-minded, secular-minded persons should work again to give our country, polity, a thrust in favour of secular elements.

Question:Mr. Prime Minister, coming back to domestic issues, you were saying that on the coal issue before you left for Russia you had said in Parliament that you command respect. While you did command that respect, your personal image has taken a beating because you are on the last leg of your tenure in the second term. Does this mean that you still look politically to continue for a third term because many in the Congress party would like to see Rahul Gandhi lead the campaign? And the other issue is that since you say you are an open book, why do not you go ahead and say you are ready for any questioning, like you did in the case of 2G issue?

Prime Minister:  I have not prevented anybody from looking at my conduct.

          And as far as your first question is concerned, I have always maintained that Mr. Rahul Gandhi would be an ideal choice for the Prime Minister’s position after the 2014 election. I would be very happy to work for the Congress party under the leadership of Mr. Rahul Gandhi.

Question:Sir, is the Government going to consider a separate Vidarbha or a division of Maharashtra along with Telangana issue?

Prime Minister:  There is no such proposal under consideration.

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


On-board AI-1

September 7, 2013


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