Remarks With Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I welcome you to this media interaction. As is usual, we will first have opening statements by the two dignitaries, following which they have agreed to respond to a couple of questions each. We now begin the program. May I request that External Affairs Minister of India Shrimati Sushma Swaraj to make her opening remarks.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: Thanks. We have just completed an excellent discussion on the main areas of our partnership: security; energy; trade and investment; science and technology; regional and border issues. The extent to which our cooperation is an impact on the wellbeing of our people, our economies, and our respective regional and global interests, makes us a truly defining partnership. And the extent to which revitalized India-U.S. ties contribute to peace, security, and prosperity of our neighborhood, the Asian region and beyond, makes our relationship truly strategic.
We recognized that today, both sides stand at an important turning point. Today, we can once again realize the latent potential of our partnership, which is based on common fundamental values and converging long-term strategic interests.
Secretary Kerry and Secretary Pritzker were generous in their assessment of what our new government will be able to do to realize the expectations of our people. They recognize that there’s much hard work ahead to realize the people’s mandate in an election of hope. My colleagues and I underlined that, for our part, we see great potential for the United States as a global partner. We underlined our interest in seeing a much more robust American presence in the Indian economy – as investors, as trade partners, in skill development, in defense, and in science and technology.
We also recognized that the regional and global aspect of our strategic partnership has great value for both sides, especially in the current situation of global and regional flux. We are delighted that there is a growing global dimension in our partnership. We agreed that the visit of Defense Secretary Hagel next Friday is an important opportunity to energize our defense partnership and begin the process of giving it a new strategic content.
We also recognized that the majority of our strategic relationship has given both sides the capacity to treat issues where we diverge as an opportunity for further conversation and dialogue. Towards this end, we discussed scheduling our long-pending commercial dialogue, our ministerial trade policy forum, and other bilateral dialogue mechanisms to address outstanding trade and economic issues that arise as a natural result of different perceptions.
Today, at the conclusion of this Fifth Strategic Dialogue, we can take satisfaction in the fact that within the few years since we raised our relationship to a strategic plane, our bilateral dialogue, as in all of the (inaudible), a new energy that our meeting today has imparted to partner departments and ministries should lead to determined efforts to ensure that the summit meeting in September between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama raises our partnership to a new level.
I want to thank our distinguished guests for their presence here in India. We appreciate the commitment to this partnership and the substantive contributions made on both sides today. While I’m pleased at the current effort to build on the momentum of our elections, we can be truly satisfied if we sustain this effort to ensure the best possible outcomes from the summit this September and through the rest of the year.
I now request Secretary Kerry to address you, after which we’ll take a few questions. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Minister Swaraj. I want to thank you, first of all, for your leadership and I particularly want to thank you for the important perspective you brought to the discussions here today, as well as your very, very generous welcome. Thank you very much.
And in fact, the minister was extremely generous in permitting me to make a number of must-do phone calls during our session, and I’m very grateful to her for her indulgence.
I also want to acknowledge and thank the many members of the United States delegation joining me here today. Secretary Penny Pritzker is as good a Commerce Secretary as you could ever find, and I’m blessed to have her not only as a friend but as a colleague in this endeavor. And I saw firsthand today how important her leadership is in all that we are trying to undertake – science and technology, trade, all of our commercial activity and our economic issues.
Before I begin to discuss what we’ve accomplished in the past few days – and it has been a few days, because a number of members of our delegation arrived here several days ago and began meetings in Mumbai and here in Delhi. So there have been a lot of conversations taking place leading up to today. But I particularly wanted to share on behalf of President Obama and the United States our condolences with the families and the loved ones of the dozens of men and women who lost their lives in the Pune mudslide. There are many who remain missing. I know the Indian Government is investing enormous resources and effort in order to engage in the recovery effort, and the United States certainly is prepared to do anything that we might be able to if indeed help is needed.
I have been coming to India for many years. I’ve come here many times. In fact, I remember traveling here at the end of the Cold War, and it was a moment when nerves were still raw and suspicions still lingered. But as a Senator, I began to see how the relationship could quickly change, and in fact did. When I began to travel to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, with the executives from companies and high-tech industries or in aerospace, it was very clear to me the breadth of the potential of the relationship between India and the United States, the potential of a real partnership. And I feel today, particularly after these two days of in-depth discussions, that the moment has never been more ripe to deliver on the incredible possibilities of the relationship between our nations.
Now that India’s new government has won an historic mandate to deliver change and reform, together we have a singular opportunity: to help India to meet its challenge; to boost two-way trade; to support South Asia’s connectivity; to develop cleaner energy; to deepen our security partnership in the Asia Pacific and beyond.
The United States and India can and should be indispensable partners in the 21st century. Of course, delivering on the potential of this moment is the key. The words are easy; it’s the actions we need to take that will really define the relationship in the days ahead. And I think it’s safe to say that I said to the foreign minister that we all have a lot of homework to do coming out of this meeting, many bilateral initiatives that will continue, but clearly, an importance to put specifics on the table for the trip of Prime Minister Modi to Washington in September to meet with President Obama.
I think we share a clear understanding of where we can begin. The new – in the new government’s plan for (in Hindi) – “together with all, development for all,” is a concept and a vision that is not unlike that expressed by President Obama and is one that we support wholeheartedly. Our private sector is very eager to be a catalyst for India’s development, and our government will enthusiastically support those kinds of development efforts. The opportunities are really clear, and they’re quite dramatic. American companies lead in key sectors that India wants to grow in: high-end manufacturing in infrastructure, in healthcare, and in information technology.
Still, we know we have a lot of work yet to do in breaking down barriers to trade and in encouraging the talent that we both have to be able to go to work. By limiting those obstacles, which we talked about over the course of these two days, whether they’re tariffs or price controls or preferential treatment for certain products in large, influential markets, we can build a more competitive market as well as build the bridges of opportunity that our young people in both of our countries want so much. When 10 million Indians enter the workforce each year, the Indian Government clearly understands this imperative.
Another topic that we spent a great deal of time discussing today was climate change. In past months, we have begun to find more common ground on this important global issue. There is no place where the challenges posed by climate change and the economic opportunities of renewable energy converge like they do in India today. We want to help India to be able to meet this challenge, to make the connections, and to be able to help supply clean electricity to the 400 million Indians who today live without power. I know this is a priority for the prime minister, and it’s a priority that we’re prepared to try to share.
This morning, I had the privilege of visiting IIT, the Indian Institute of Technology. And I met with some of the young doctorate candidates – doctoral candidates and master’s candidates who are doing fascinating research and development. This is one of India’s and the world’s premier institutions where students and researchers are – and their professors obviously are experimenting and working with the use of biomass and algae as sources of green energy, also new means of water treatment and cleaning water. It was really encouraging to see what is happening there, and I hope that we’ll be able to see Indian and American institutions coming together in a more formalized and productive way in order to be able to encourage that kind of joint research and innovation.
We also want to be clear: Climate change and energy shortages are not something that might happen way off in the future; it’s here with us now. Extreme weather, blackouts, scarce resources, all of these things endanger human health, prosperity, and they ultimately endanger security for all of us. Prime Minister Modi has stated clearly that he understands the urgency of this issue. He’s called for a saffron revolution, because the saffron color represents energy. He said that this revolution should focus on renewable energy sources such as solar energy in order to meet India’s growing energy demand. He is absolutely right. The United States could not agree with him more, and together, we believe that we can at last begin a new and constructive chapter in the United States-India climate change relationship.
Lastly, in this century, one that will continue to be defined by competing models of governance, India and the United States have a common responsibility. It is to prove that democracies can deliver the full expectations of their citizens. Our two nations believe that when every citizen, no matter their background, no matter their beliefs, can make their full contribution, that is when a nation is strongest and most secure, and that certainly applies to India and the United States. We are two confident nations. We are connected by core values. And we are optimistic nations should never lose sight of how much we can and must achieve. From women’s rights to minority rights, there is room to go further for both of us. We must also speak with a common voice that violence against women in any shape or form is a violence against our deepest values.
The United States and India are two nations that begin our founding documents with the exact same three words: We The People, We The People. By working together so that all people in our nations can pursue their aspirations, we believe we can come closer to achieving our founding dreams.
For both India and the United States, investing in each other’s success is frankly one of our smartest long-term strategic bets. We have the capacity, we have the resources, we have the open and resilient societies that can help us compete and win in an interconnected world, and we have remarkable and talented citizens in both of our countries waiting to do so. In the weeks to come, we will take a series of concrete steps to pave the way for Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Washington in September, and hopefully – hopefully – to pave the way for a new chapter in the ties between our two great democracies.
And I am also prepared to answer a few questions.
MODERATOR: The first question will be from Mr. Ashish Singh, ABP News.
QUESTION: Greetings, Secretary Kerry and greetings (inaudible). My question is for both ministers. (In Hindi.)
And Secretary, I would also request you respond to the same question about the concerns raised in India or the (inaudible) – on the Indian political parties, specifically parties (in Hindi). Thank you.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: (Via interpreter) Yes, I raised this issue with Secretary John Kerry when the matter was published in Indian newspapers. I have also conveyed to him that this act on the part of U.S. authorities is completely unacceptable to us, since our two countries are friendly nations and we happen to share dialogue with each other.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we have a policy in the United States that with respect to intelligence matters, we do not discuss intelligence matters in public. But let me just say, very clearly, we value our relationship with India, our bilateral relationship in all the ways that I’ve just described. And we also value the sharing of information between each other regarding counterterrorism and other threats to both of our countries. We’ve had conversations, as the minister has stated, with government officials about these reports, and usually we try to have our intelligence communities work to resolve any questions or any differences that may exist.
But let me say this: President Obama has undertaken a unique and unprecedented review that he ordered of all of our intelligence and intelligence gathering and activities, and unlike any prior president, he has put out a memorandum clearly articulating in a speech – excuse me – he gave a speech in which he clearly articulated America’s approach going forward and the standards that we will apply. We will continue to work actively with India wherever we see a threat to our shared interests, and we fully respect and understand the feelings expressed by the minister.
MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Shaun Tandon of AFP.
QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to ask for further elaboration. You mentioned a growing role of India and the United States in the Asia- Pacific region. Can you be more specific about what you meant by that? Could you, for example, see Indian activity more in the South China Sea disputes?
And if I could touch on another global issue, Secretary Kerry, Gaza. The United States has authorized further ammunition for the Israeli forces. You’ve also called for an immediate ceasefire. I was wondering if you thought that this was consistent and whether you thought that a ceasefire is still possible at this point, particularly with all the personal attacks that have been leveled against you.
And if I could ask the external affairs minister on this same issue: When the BJP was last in power, India moved a little bit more closely – a little bit closer to Israel. I was wondering if you see that same momentum now between India and Israel, or whether the Gaza conflict affects that. Thanks.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: Your first question – strategic partnership has definite definition. If you have partnership in the area of trade, defense, and space, then that partnership is called strategic partnership. So is there no ambiguity about that.
As regards Gaza, India’s policy is very specific: We fully support the cause of Palestinians, but we have good relations with Israel.
SECRETARY KERRY: I just reaffirm what the minister just said. We have a very strong strategic partnership. It is evidenced by the fact that the United States supports India’s hopes to be able to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. That’s something we support, and we wouldn’t support that if we didn’t believe in the breadth of India’s capacity and reach, and in its values. And I talked about those values. We cooperate significantly on many different issues in the region: counterterrorism, Afghanistan, nonproliferation. India has been a significant, responsible steward of nuclear power, and those are things which we respect and, obviously, work with very closely.
So there are a great deal of interests that tie us together, and we all acknowledge that there have been ups and downs in the relationship for some period of years. But much more ups and much more involvement over the past 10 to 15 years. And that’s why I said we see this as such a ripe moment.
Prime Minister Modi has clearly made it a prime objective to deal with the question of jobs, the question of reform, providing efficiency to decisions and other kinds of things. He wants the market to be more accessible. They’re considering different things that they need to share with you, but we’re impressed by the breadth of their thoughts about the economic changes that are possible, and we certainly want to see those implemented. And we’ll wait to see. The proof is always in the pudding, obviously.
With respect to Gaza, we’ve never stopped working towards the notion that a ceasefire at some point is essential. And even today, I’ve been on the telephone on the plane flying over here. We’ve been continuing discussions. And yes, the United States remains hopeful that it is achievable. And sooner is better because of the needs to get to the table and begin the negotiation that could ultimately, hopefully, resolve issues. There’s no promise in that, I want to make that clear. No promise in that. But I think everybody would feel better if there was a bona fide effort to try to see that happen.
MS. PSAKI: The next question is from Lara Jakes of AP.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, a moment ago you spoke about barriers to trade. I’m wondering if you can update us on whether there was an agreement with India for keeping food subsidies as part of the WTO trade deal.
I also wanted to ask you whether the U.S. has asked India to follow the spirit of the sanctions against Russia, given India’s years of purchasing Russian arms.
And Madam Minister, has there been any shift in that long-time Indian policy, especially now with the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17? Thank you.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: You asked three questions in a row. To your first question, consultations are underway in Geneva. Let us wait for the final outcome.
To your second question, there is no change in our policy because we think that the foreign policy is in continuity. Foreign policy does not change with a change in government.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we obviously – I think there’s a meeting – I’m not sure when. Have they already met in Geneva?
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: They’ve met. They’ve already --
SECRETARY KERRY: They already did.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: They’re meeting.
SECRETARY KERRY: They already did. They already met. They’re meeting now. I thought so. Right around now.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: That’s what (inaudible).
SECRETARY KERRY: Our feeling is obviously that the agreement that was reached in Bali is an agreement that importantly can provide for food security for India. We do not dismiss the concerns India has about large numbers of poor people who require some sort of food assurance and subsistence level, but we believe there’s a way to provide for that that keeps faith with the WTO Bali agreement. And so we are obviously encouraging our friends in India to try to find a path here where there is a compromise that meets both needs. And we think that’s achievable and we hope it’s achievable.
With respect to the issue of the sanctions, the focus of our meetings here today is bilateral fundamentally, and the ways the U.S. and India can grow the relationship with respect to trade, clean energy cooperation, counterterrorism, science, technology and so forth. Now, we would obviously welcome India joining in with us with respect to that, but it’s up to them. It’s India’s choice. India has its relationships. We’d support and welcome them in dealing with the challenge that Russia is presenting, but it’s really up to India. It’s not something that entered into the bilateral relationship in the context of today’s discussion.
MODERATOR: Last question. Rajeev Sharma from the Firstpost.
QUESTION: Thank you. My question is to both Minister Swaraj and Mr. Kerry. (Inaudible), what is India’s view on Senate bill 744, whether this issue was discussed with Mr. Kerry by you? And what is his assurance, if any?
And question to Mr. Kerry is: Don’t you think that this 744 is a rather protectionist measure? And even American companies are seeing it as a protectionist measure. Is there a mood to amend it or dilute it? Thank you.
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: Let me first answer. Yes, I raised the issue with Secretary Kerry about the bill number 744. And our minister of commerce, Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman, also raised this issue in the plenary session. I told Secretary Kerry that we are not against the bill per se. Immigration is your internal matter. But we are certainly concerned with the provisions which will affect the Indian IT industry if the bill is passed in the present form. And I also told Secretary Kerry that it will give a very negative signal, and that too at a time when India is opening up its economy for the foreign players. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: So I’m going to confess something to you that I probably shouldn’t confess to you, but when I was in the United States Senate for 29 years, I never identified a bill by its number. (Laughter.) It was the immigration bill or it was the something bill. So thank God the minister knew that that was the number to that. (Laughter.)
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER SWARAJ: Yes, that was the number.
SECRETARY KERRY: We did talk about the immigration bill, and it’s a critical priority for President Obama. And we are very aware of the need to make sure that there are more people able to travel, more people able to become part of the commerce that we just talked about – all of these areas, including education and so forth.
But the way it left the Senate leaves that in need of some amending. The House has not taken it up yet, and it really appears as if they won’t, certainly, before the election, which is in three months. The Administration – President Obama – would support some changes that will deal with some of the issues that you’ve just raised and other issues, but at the moment, it does not appear as if this bill – not “appear” – it will not move in the next several months. One has to hope that after the election is over, there may be the possibility of rebuilding support for it.
It’s a critical bill for us in many, many ways, way beyond those that you just articulated. And President Obama would really like to see it done as a matter of fairness, as a matter of morality, as a matter of commercial and business interests, as a matter of family interests. There are many compelling reasons for why this needs to pass, and I’m confident that at some point in time, we will get appropriate immigration reform.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. With that, we come to the end of this event.