Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson in Nay Pyi Taw on Hon. Prime Minister’s Ongoing Visit to Myanmar

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good evening friends and thank you very much for being here.

As you are aware, Prime Minister has had a very hectic day today. He began the day very early this morning. He had six bilateral meetings and the summit meeting with 10 ASEAN leaders.

The six bilateral meetings were: with Prime Minister of Malaysia, with Prime Minister of Thailand, followed by the Prime Minister of Singapore, the Sultan of Brunei, the President of the Republic of Korea, and then finally this evening Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called on him. These were the six meetings. In addition there was the 12th India-ASEAN Summit meeting where all the 10 leaders from the ASEAN countries were present.

All of these meetings were his first meetings. In essence they were meetings where Prime Minister was able to explain his views on how he sees India progressing and seek the cooperation of various countries and their leadership in the India story. He laid out his vision of an India which is open for business, an India which is ready to embrace the world, and an India which is willing to go beyond what it has done thus far in terms of being receptive to ideas and views.

We have circulated to you Prime Minister’s opening remarks at the ASEAN Summit meeting. We will also be circulating to you shortly his remarks during the course of that. That lays down a very very bold vision of how he sees India’s engagement with the ASEAN.

He has talked not only in terms of cultural affinity but specific projects that he would think that ASEAN and India can work on. One of these are solar projects because he thinks that there are several ASEAN countries where radiation levels in terms of solar energy are high, they can be used for promoting cooperation, research, collaboration in terms of solar which is a clean form of energy, which is a form of energy which is treated as renewable.

In addition with several countries he raised the issue of trying to tackle in a collaborative manner issues relating to terrorism, issues relating to drug trafficking and gun running. There was receptivity in several countries with this. For example, Prime Minister referred to India-Malaysia cooperation in the field of security, intelligence sharing as a model which can be built on by other countries. Again when he was talking on collaboration in security affairs and terrorism there was receptivity from Thailand.

In terms of our approach to the RCEP – because the ASEAN countries are all members of the RCEP and they are working in terms of a free trade agreement under the RCEP – Prime Minister mentioned that India is for a comprehensive, RCEP means Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and he underlined the word comprehensive. He felt it cannot be only restricted to trade in goods but also should cover services etc. We will circulate to you his specific remarks so that you can then focus on those. I am just trying to highlight those elements that you may like to look at in a little bit more of detail.

With the Prime Minister of Singapore, they had a very interesting discussion on exciting ideas for the future in terms of urban renewal. He said that whenever India thinks of urban rejuvenation, the Singapore model comes to mind. And the Singapore Prime Minister also mentioned the numerous visitors who are coming to Singapore recently whether it is from State Governments or from the Centre, and he said that this is a good way of moving ahead.

There was also a similar narrative with the Republic of Korea President who was very keen to link Korea’s proven industrial competence in terms of infrastructure and Indian needs in that regard.

Of course in all these things with various countries there were elements of defence cooperation that were also interspersed in these. I will not get into the details. But if any of you would like anything specific on anything, I will try and respond to that. But I am trying to give you a sort of a general broad brush picture.

Our Prime Minister’s day is not yet over. As you know, he will now be going for a gala dinner where he expects to meet not only the leaders of the 10 ASEAN countries but also those who are in the East Asia Summit. So, you are likely to have conversations between the Prime Minister and those he has not met as yet who are coming for the East Asia Summit which is tomorrow.

As regards the meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Prime Minister referred to her as a symbol of democracy. He said that whenever he sees any reference to her in the media, etc., he always recollects the enormous efforts and sacrifices she has made for democracy.

On her part, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was very effusive in her references to India. She said India was like her second home because it was the first country she travelled after going out from Burma then. There were also references to linkages between Gen. Aung San and Netaji. There were also some references to her mother who was an Ambassador in India.

In terms of what she wanted from India, her request was that it is important for countries like India to emphasise that stability and democracy can go hand in hand because there may be some who feel that these cannot move in parallel. She said that India both by precept and practice could emphasise, as a large country with a diverse, pluralistic population, that democracy can flourish and thrive in such an environment including a country which is a developing country.

I think I will wrap up this thing now. I am willing to answer any questions that you have. By virtue of my being required to go for another appointment, I will limit the questions to about ten minutes or so, if that is alright.

Question:Prime Minister has also given a gift to Suu Kyi.

Official Spokesperson: Yes, Prime Minister has. You are aware of Prime Minister’s great interest in giving personalised gifts. So, there is an official gift. In addition the Prime Minister had requested for a special copy of Gandhiji’s commentary on the Gita which also he has handed to her because he feels that nonviolence in terms of the emphasis that both Gandhiji and Aung San Suu Kyi have given to nonviolence, this would be an appropriate gift. So, he has given that gift at the end of his meeting.

Question:Did the progress on some of the ongoing projects like say the trilateral highway project come up in the meetings with the Thai Prime Minister and the Burmese side?

Official Spokesperson: I mentioned to you yesterday about Myanmar. Certainly this came up yesterday. Also it came up today because the Prime Minister mentioned that India is very keen on infrastructural connectivity between Thailand and India’s North-East, and one such project is the trilateral highway. Also there was reference to how theDaweiport is coming up. He felt that once this port comes up connectivity between Thailand and India would be further enhanced. So, yes, there were discussions on this.

Question:Did Prime Minister invite Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to come to India?

Official Spokesperson: Prime Minister did mention to her that she would always be welcome to India and he said that they would be willing to host her at an appropriate time. There have been, by my understanding, some invitations through various non-governmental organisations in this regard. And she said she is still considering these. But the invitation to Aung San Suu Kyi to come to India is always available. Nobody invites people to their second home. They are always welcome.

Question:Indian Government has…(Inaudible)… act East Policy.…(Inaudible)… So, why did we change and how does it impact on the…(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: Let me tell you what the Prime Minister or the Government means by ‘Act East’. There was a perception that we make statements, we are not following it up. So the feeling is that the Government will follow up on all projects and issues that are being worked on.

There is a great detail of intentions which have been put forth in Prime Minister’s statement. I am e-mailing it to everybody. You are also welcome to have it. It will give you the entire perspective on this matter rather than my trying to repeat the same thing right away. It is available. I have just sent it by e-mail. It should be available to you also.

Question:Any development related to the India-ASEAN export development? Suppose FTA is going to be implemented by 2016, they have to eliminate certain kinds of tariffs. Any development on these?

Official Spokesperson: There was a discussion and Prime Minister said that the FTA to be operational requires approval of all ASEAN countries. He urged Philippines, which is the last country to sign on this, to complete the process so that this can be implemented at the earliest. All the other countries have signed on to the FTA. The only country which is left in this is Philippines. And the Prime Minister in his statement, which I was referring to, also mentions this.

Question:You have said that tariff…(Inaudible)…and development. Because 50 per cent products…(Inaudible)… liberalise tariff …

Official Spokesperson: What are you talking of please? I do not understand. As regards the FTA, one is on goods and the other is in services. What you are talking about is the RCEP – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – which will have. But those discussions are still ongoing. I just told you what the Prime Minister said that India is ready for an RCEP to engage in it very vigorously. The next meeting of the RCEP officials is going to be held in New Delhi later during the year. And India is ready provided this sort of an agreement is comprehensive in nature. It should cover both goods as well as services. That is because we have certain benefits, we have certain advantages in services, and we would also like that to be included. It is normal in trade relations to have both goods and services together.

Question:When Prime Minister met President Thein Sein, was there discussion on Myanmar’s reform process, and how India can help in development including in the social and economic development and including the reform process in Myanmar?

Official Spokesperson: I answered this question yesterday because he met the President of Myanmar yesterday. But let me tell you, yes, the President of Myanmar was very warm in his references to India. He said that India is like a brother to Myanmar. Also he mentioned that they require a lot of skill development and assistance in terms of technical cooperation. That is because while India had moved ahead in terms of their economic development, Myanmar had difficulty previously because of the regime which had imposed a variety of restrictions on Myanmar’s international interactions.

Therefore, he felt that India could be a partner in terms of assistance in skills development he mentioned. Also he talked of greater connections in terms of tourism because he said that very high percentage of the Myanmar population is Buddhist and they have an affinity for visiting India in terms of tourist places. He has also invited the Prime Minister to visit Myanmar on a bilateral visit sometime next year where he can also go to places where there is an India connect, something like Bagan, and he also mentioned Mandalay apart from Nay Pyi Taw.

Question:On this Malaysian segment, there was some talk that PM may be interested to know about the Malaysian model of monitoring the implementation of projects at a centralised level. Anything on that?

Official Spokesperson: Yes, Prime Minister did mention that he was greatly impressed by the performance assessment mechanism that is in place in Malaysia. He said he had had discussions on this with some Malaysian officials who had worked on it. And he said that this is an excellent example of how monitoring of performance is done. But he said Malaysia is more than only governance reform. While this was governance reform, he also felt that Malaysia has been open for economic reforms and he felt that both Malaysia and India could work together in areas like housing. He said public housing was a major focus of the Indian Government with plans to go in large scale public housing by 2022. And he felt that Malaysian companies who had expertise in these would be welcome specifically in public housing projects.

Question:PMO ne tweet kiya ki South China Sea issue ko jis tarah se international law ko follow karna chahiye. Kya Pradhan Mantri ne ASEAN ke baithak mein is mudde ko uthaya tha?

Official Spokesperson:Ji. Aap joh keh rahe hain voh Pradhan Mantri ne do terms use kiye hain, main un donon ko padh deta hun.This is what he said: “In this world, maritime trade and passage and therefore maritime security have become even more important. We all have the responsibility that we all follow international law and norms on maritime issues, as we do in the realm of air passage. In future we will also need this in space. For peace and stability in the South China Sea, everyone should follow international norms and law. This includes the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We also hope that you will be able to successfully implement the guidelines to the 2002 Declaration on Conduct, and that the Code of Conduct on South China Sea can be concluded soon on the basis of consensus.” This was at the conclusion of the discussion because there were some ASEAN countries who had referred to these matters.

Question:You just mentioned I think at the conclusion of the meeting. In his opening remarks the Prime Minister referred to…(Inaudible)…… He said that the ASEAN and India are both – I am paraphrasing it slightly – interested in enhancing cooperation to ensure balance, peace and stability in India. He used the word balance. Could you help us understand what the context was…(Inaudible)… what the word balance?

Official Spokesperson: As India looks East or acts East, many of the ASEAN countries have a policy what they call as Look West. And the hope is that they would be from this approach of ASEAN looking towards the West and India looking towards the East or acting towards the East, a balance which would help both India and the ASEAN. That is because there are lot of similarities and needs that we have and that would help in terms of ASEAN’s stability as well as peace and security in the region.

And this is a forward-looking approach because at this stage ASEAN is not yet in the sphere of a common policy on these issues. They are taking the first step in this through the ASEAN community in 2015, and they will go down that. We welcome that approach of the ASEAN because we are for ASEAN centrality in any architecture that is coming up in this region.

Question:What are the bilaterals scheduled for tomorrow?

Official Spokesperson: Tomorrow Prime Minister will be meeting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Mr. Medvedev. He will also be meeting with the Premier of the People’s Republic of China Mr. Li Keqiang, with Prime Minister of Law People’s Democratic Republic, also the President of Indonesia. In addition of course he will be participating in the East Asia Summit and he will be making interventions there. Finally there will be of course a community reception in the evening tomorrow. That is the bilateral part of it before he leaves late in the night for Brisbane. So, we have a very busy schedule for you tomorrow also.

Question:Sir, timing ka schedule bata dijiye?

Official Spokesperson: Okay, let me quickly tell you that. Tomorrow morning 8:30 will be the meeting with Prime Minister Medvedev. Then he will participate in the East Asia Summit meeting. After the East Asia Summit meeting is over he will meet Premier Li Keqiang at 4:15 tomorrow. And I do not know the exact time but it is around this time that he will also meet the President of Indonesia. I will give you the exact time. Either it is prior to this or just after this. Following this he will also meet with the Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. That is at 5:15. So, I presume the meeting with the President of Indonesia will either be prior to these two meetings or just after these two meetings.

Thank you very much. We will meet tomorrow again and we will try and summarise to you at some stage all the meetings

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