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Transcript of Special Virtual Media Briefing by Additional Secretary (Economic Relations) following Prime Minister’s participation at 47th G7 Summit (June 13, 2021)

June 13, 2021

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official spokesperson: Namaskar and a very Good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining in this special media briefing on the completion of the summit of G7 and guest countries that has just concluded in the United Kingdom, Cornwall. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi participated from New Delhi in a virtual format. To give us more details about this very important event we are privileged to have here today with us Shri P. Harish, Additional Secretary (Economic relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs. I would request Harish Sir to make opening remarks and give us an understanding of the discussions and the highlights of this meeting. We have received a few questions and we will try to address them thereafter. Over to you Sir.

Shri P. Harish, Additional Secretary (ER): Thank you, Arindam. Good evening, friends. As you're aware, Prime Minister Modi participated in the outreach sessions of the just concluded G7 summit over the past two days. He had been invited to the summit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The UK is currently holding the presidency of the G7. Along with Prime Minister Modi, Prime Ministers of Australia, South Africa and South Korea were also invited to the outreach sessions of the summit. The summit was held in Cornwall in the UK as Arindam just briefed you.

As you are aware, Prime Minister Modi did not travel to Cornwall for the meeting due to the prevailing pandemic situation in India and participated in a virtual format. The UK conveyed to us that while PM Johnson was disappointed at not being able to welcome Prime Minister in person at the summit, he was understanding and supportive of his decision. I can confirm that all possible arrangements had been made to ensure a seamless participation for our Prime Minister and his engagement with other leaders at the summit. Each leader at the summit had a personal screen in front carrying Prime Minister Modi's feed to ensure that it felt like it was actually in the room as the UK host had promised. The theme selected by the UK for this year summit is "Build Back Better”, in reference to the devastating impact of the pandemic over the past 18 months, and the need for policy driven, ambitious and targeted recovery measures. This theme runs across the various strands of work being done this year, pursued by the G7 and guest countries.

Prime Minister Modi spoke in three sessions over the past two days on various elements of building back better, stronger, together and greener. He spoke on health, climate change and open societies. And he indicated that we have both additional responsibilities and added advantages in responding to these challenges as open societies and democracies. The G7 and guest countries are important for India, we enjoy strong political, economic, and cultural engagement with each of the members. Three of the P5 countries of the UNSC are members of the G7 as you are aware. The UK's choice of inviting us as a guest country is well calibrated. Our shared values such as democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, unwavering commitment to a rules based international order, and inherently open and transparent systems, make us natural partners with the G7 as we synergize our strengths to better respond to global challenges. Our participation at the G7 summit this year, is an acknowledgement of the vital role, India as home to 1/6th of humanity and one of the largest economies, plays and must continue to play in global decision making and responding to global challenges.

The three broad tracks of discussions of the summit of the past two days focused on 1.Health, vaccines and recovery from COVID-19, 2. Environment and Climate Change 3. Open societies and open economies. The sessions took place in an informal setting and PM Johnson remarked that the sessions were intended as a fireside chat between the great democracies of the world. In addition to the leaders of the G7 and guest countries, the UK had also invited the UN Secretary General, the DGs of the WTO and the WHO, and the chairpersons of the IMF and the World Bank. Sir Patrick Vallance, the UKs Chief Scientific adviser, and Melinda Gates and Sir David Attenborough were invited to make special presentations on their work on the UK’s 100-day mission on developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, and on climate action, respectively.

Let me now try to give you a flavour of these discussions and the various outcomes for each of these. Friends, the inaugural outreach session took place yesterday and was titled "Building Back Stronger” focused on health. The focus of the session was strengthening the collective policy responses to the pandemic by addressing the immediate challenge of providing equitable and affordable access to vaccines to all parts of the world, while also simultaneously working on creating stronger and smarter systems to respond better to future pandemics. The G7 pledged to donate an additional 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines within the next year.

Prime Minister Modi thanked the G7 and guest countries for the support shown to India during the difficult second wave of the pandemic and urged caution and diligence even as things were getting better. Underscoring the need for genuine global solidarity and leadership Prime Minister gave the gathering the mantra of "One Earth One Health”, drawing on India's belief in Vasudev Kutumbakam and driving home the message that no one is safe until everyone is safe. PM’s message was very well received by the gathering. And in fact, Chancellor Merkel echoed his words in her intervention, calling it an important lesson for the world.

Prime Minister also highlighted India's ‘whole of government, a whole of society’ approach to the pandemic, with the efforts of governments at all levels, civil society and industry synergized for best results. Calling on the G7 to demonstrate leadership, PM sought their strong support for India and South Africa's proposal for a TRIPS waiver at the WTO. His call was strongly echoed by President Ramaphosa. Referring to his conversation with PM earlier, Prime Minister Morrison also expressed his strong support for the TRIPS waiver as the director general of the WTO and the UN Secretary General, who identified the TRIPS waiver as an important element of his "Global Vaccination Plan”, a roadmap to vaccinate the entire global population by doubling vaccine production. President Macron also highlighted the need to focus on ramping up production capacity in Africa, and called on India to lend its expertise as an important production hub globally.

Friends, today the Prime Minister spoke on two sessions on climate change and open societies. On climate change Prime Minister called for collective action, recognising that this challenge cannot be addressed in silos. He spoke of India's achievements on climate action, and shared that India is the only G20 country on track to meet its Paris commitments, which are two degree compatible. Appreciating the ambition demonstrated by the G7 on climate action, and announcing net zero targets Prime Minister highlighted the need for climate action to include all dimensions of mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, financing, and equity, climate justice and lifestyle change to provide the necessary space for developing countries to grow.

He called on the G7 to meet their unfulfilled promise of $100 billion annually in climate finance. He also highlighted India's leadership role in global initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, the ISA and the CDRI (Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure).

India has closely engaged with the UK G7 presidency, which is also simultaneously holding the co-presidency of the COP26 summit, which will be held in Glasgow later this year to come up with ambitious targets for ourselves in the run up to the COP26 meeting. Our achievements have been highlighted by the UK in the presidency statement that they have released today and which you will have access to shortly on the "road to COP26”. I encourage you all to study later this document in detail. But I can say that this includes our consistent approach to reduce emissions and our commitment to installing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 of India and UK having committed to providing climate resilient infrastructure through a new facility under the CDRI for small island developing states of endorsing the 30 by 30 targets which calls for protecting 30% of our land and 30% of our oceans by 2030, of committing to achieve domestic land degradation neutrality, and restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, and supporting efforts at gradual industrial decarbonisation, and endorsing the super efficiency equipment and appliance deployment initiative (SEAD) with a goal to double energy efficiency of key energy using products sold globally by 2030. As a climate responsible nation, we have shown leadership and innovation in addressing the threat of climate change. However, as a developing country, we have also brought this perspective to the G7, this is very much appreciated by all the other leaders. We have highlighted the importance of recognising our different trajectories and historical responsibilities in the making of this crisis. Our voice and view have been heard very well and appreciated in the G7 forum.

The third session pertained to open societies and open economies. PM was a lead speaker in this session, and highlighted India's civilizational commitment to democracy, to freedom of thought, and liberty. As the world's largest democracy, India is a natural ally for the G7 and guest countries to defend the shared values from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and infodemix and economic coercion. Highlighting the revolutionary impact of digital technologies and social inclusion and empowerment in India through applications such as Aadhar, the direct benefit transfer, and the Jan Dhan Aadhar mobile trinity.

The Prime Minister underscored the vulnerabilities inherent in open societies, and called on tech companies and social media platforms to ensure a safe cyber environment for the users. The Prime Minister views were appreciated by the leaders in the gathering. The leaders underlined their commitment to a free, open, inclusive and a rules based Indo Pacific and resolve to collaborate with partners in the region. He also made a strong pitch for the reform of the multilateral system based on the same principles of openness, democracy, transparency and inclusion. The Open Society statement, which will be made available shortly to you by the UK presidency of the G7 would be very useful, and I would recommend that you study it carefully.

Overall, to you dear friends, I would like to highlight some takeaways from this meeting:

1. India's participation at the summit testifies to a deepening and expanding engagement with the G7 and guest countries over the past many years.

2. Our participation reflects the understanding within the G7 that the resolution to the biggest global crisis of our time is not possible without India's engagement, involvement and support.

3. We will remain deeply engaged with the G7 and guest partners on all major issues, health governance, and access to vaccines, climate action and climate justice, diversification of supply chains and building economic resilience, to name just a few. I would like to highlight that the Prime Minister's participation in this summit, along with the previous engagement that he has had at Biarritz in 2019 have been very important interventions by us in this particular forum.

Thank you very much. And I'm now ready to take your questions.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official spokesperson: Thank you very much, Sir, for a very comprehensive as well as a detailed overview of what happened. We have a number of questions. I'll try to put them in some groups. Expectedly vaccines are a topical issue and we received a few questions. Let me begin with that. Sidhant from WION would like to know, "How many countries supported the provision of vaccine raw materials to India. Did France mention it?” Gautam Lahiri asks, "What was the response of the G7 on the proposal of India and South Africa for TRIPS related waiver on COVID related medicines?” While Maha from CNN News18 asks, "Is there any expectation of a financial package from G7 countries to boost vaccine manufacturing in India as it is catering to a number of countries under COVAX ? ”

Shri P. Harish, Additional Secretary (ER): Thank you Arindam. Sidhant, Gautam and Maha, I can confirm that there was widespread support in the deliberations for text based negotiations on the India South Africa proposal for the TRIPS waiver at the WTO. On the need to make finances available to different vaccine manufacturing hubs in the world, there was general agreement to increase this capacity in various regional production hubs and provide financing technology transfer and skilling in these regions.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official spokesperson: Sir moving on to a broader issue of how we look at the G7 Sidhant from WION has a query, "Are there any plans to expand G7, is it being discussed with India? How does India see G7 as a grouping, as a member of other groupings like BRICS, SCO etc.” He also wants to know, "How many countries mentioned India during the statements at the G7 in any terms?” Gautam Lahiri would like to know, "Whether India is satisfied with the outcome of the G7 summit.”

Shri P. Harish, Additional Secretary (ER): Thank you Arindam. I can say without hesitation that India's engagement with the G7 and guest countries stands on its own. This is a second G7 summit that as I've said that Prime Minister Modi has attended after Biarritz in France in 2019. This is also the first time that India has been engaged in the ministerial and working level tracks as a guest country. This is a significant engagement. Prime Minister Johnson referred to the four guest countries and the G7 as forming a democratic level. And many countries appreciated India's G7 engagement and Prime Minister's interventions in the sessions, which found a great resonance in the gathering. So I can say that our engagement was fruitful, it was productive. And we hope to take forward our engagement in various initiatives, including in the run up to COP26.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official spokesperson:
Sir following up on that Sidhant was asking, "Whether the issue of Chinese aggressiveness was raised by PM during the meet?”

Shri P. Harish, Additional Secretary (ER): The Prime Minister's participation as I have mentioned, in the three sessions over the past two days, were covered under three broad tracks, first on global health, vaccines and recovery from COVID-19. The second is on environment and climate change. And the third is on open societies and open economies. Prime Minister spoke on the need for open and democratic societies to work together and strengthen each other's hands to defend the values that they hold dear and to respond to the increasing challenges. The particular issue that Sidhant has asked was not raised at this meeting. But you know that there are other forums where such issues are also being discussed.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official spokesperson: Thank you sir. Let me now move on to an announcement that the G7 in this meeting talked about the infrastructure plan Build Back Better world. Ranjeet Kumar from Rakshat News would like to know, "Would India like to be a part of the infrastructure plan unveiled by G7 leaders to compete with China?” Dhairya from Sputnik asked, "If there has been any decision on India's part to join the blue dot network during the G7 plus guest meeting?” Padma Rao would like to know, "Does India welcome the President Biden led G7 infrastructure initiative. Has investment in India been discussed or will it be broached? In which areas would India welcome investment under this initiative?” And finally, Vijya Lakshmi from India TV asks, "President Joe Biden said he wanted the US backed Build back better world (B3W) which is mentioned planned to be higher quality alternative to a similar Chinese programme, is par bharat ka kya stand hai? kya ham iska samarthan karate hain? kya ham Cheen ke khilaf banae jaane vaalee kisee alliance ka hissa honge?” (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) What is India's stand on this? Do we support it? Will we be part of an alliance to be formed against China?”

Shri P. Harish, Additional Secretary (ER): "Main yeh kah sakta hoon ki Pradhan Mantri jee ne yah emphasize kiya hai ki democracies ko demonstrate karna chaahie, ki project implementation ke sphere mein ham deliver kar sakte hain. Desh ke andar hi nahin lekin doosre deshon mein bhee project implementation main ham dikha sakate hain ki ham project implementation kar sakte hain achchhe tareeke se aur is vishay par Pradhan Mantri jee ne hamara bharat ka experience ko refere kiya hai jo neighbouring countries mein hai aur jo Africa ke deshon mein hai aur jo hamare development partnership framework ke daayre mein aata hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) I can say that the Prime Minister has emphasized that democracies should demonstrate that we can deliver in the sphere of project implementation. Not only within the country but also in other countries, we can show that we can do project implementation in a good way and on this subject the Prime Minister has referred to our experience of India which is in neighbouring countries and in the African countries which comes under the purview of our development partnership framework.”

The prime minister also indicated that India stands ready to do more in this regard, keeping in view the ethos of transparency and inclusion. On the specifics of the B3W proposal put forth that was referred to by some of the questions, I can confirm that the relevant agencies of the Government of India would study them and would engage with them as appropriate at a later stage.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official spokesperson: Thank you sir. Let me take the last question. Maha from CNN News18 asks, "Did G7 plus guest countries discussed pushing for a fresh probe into the origin of the Coronavirus and what was India’s stand on this?”

Shri P. Harish, Additional Secretary (ER): Maha, I can say that the leaders of the G7 and guest countries had a very intense and detailed discussion on the need for reforming the Global Health Governance. I would like to emphasise in this regard that India has been actively engaged with the International Community at the levels of the G20, the G7 and the World Health Assembly on various aspects related to dealing with the current pandemic, learning lessons and preparing for future pandemics.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official spokesperson: Sir, before we conclude, I'd like to thank you very much for sparing time here and briefing all of us on the details of this meeting. You mentioned there are two documents that are coming out of this. I wanted to inform our viewers that these will be put up on our website very soon, which will be statement in open societies as well as a President statement on ‘Road to COP26’. We should shortly be able to put them out in the public domain. I would invite all of you to look at it. Thank you again very much for joining us today evening on the special media briefing on the G7 plus guest countries summit that took place in the United Kingdom. Good evening.

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