Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Good evening friends and welcome to this briefing by Foreign Secretary. As you know, the Prime Minister is in the final stages of his visit to the UAE. We just came from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. He has already met the Prime Minister and the Ruler of Dubai, and shortly from now he will be going to address the Indian community at the Dubai Cricket Stadium. We have issued a Joint Statement between India and the UAE. It is uploaded on our website. Foreign Secretary will just give you a broad overview of what all has happened since yesterday, and then he will be open to taking questions. The floor is yours, Sir.
Foreign Secretary (Dr. S. Jaishankar): Thank you. I think all of you are in a hurry to get to the stadium. So, I will keep this very brief. As you know, this is the first Prime Ministerial visit to the UAE after 34 years. The UAE is a very important partner for us because it is one of our largest trade partners, it is among really the top two, three. It is our sixth largest source of energy; it is a very significant source of investment; and of course it has Indian community of 2.6 million Indians. This is a country with whom we share the interests and values. We are two societies who really value pluralism and tolerance. We have a common commitment to economic progress and development. We have shared interests in maritime security. And we have concerns about radicalization and terrorism. One obviously important aspect of the visit is the recognition, appreciation of the contribution of the Indian community. I think you saw one acknowledgment of that yesterday in the decision by the Abu Dhabi authorities to allot land for construction of a temple there. Now very briefly, we had some talks yesterday. Today the talks with His Highness the Crown Prince was almost two and a half hours, it was stretched over both the one-on-one as well as lunch. And there were talks when we arrived in Dubai with His Highness the Vice President, Prime Minister and the Ruler of Dubai.
Yesterday evening there were discussions with the Abu Dhabi leadership largely on economic and investment issues. The outcomes are captured in a Joint Statement. I think the key there is the fact that India and UAE have announced a new and comprehensive strategic partnership. I would say if I were to really summarise the discussions, pick the common themes, the important part of it was (1) a very strong recognition of the changes under way in India, (2) the fact that the leadership saw new opportunities for cooperation in those changes, (3) those opportunities if exploited could really create a basis for a much more broad-based, substantive partnership between the two countries, and (4) a sense that till now the relationship has been led by the society, by the people and it is time for the Government to catch up and the Prime Minister’s visit in a sense is part of that catch-up. Obviously the talks focused on the investment opportunities, on security concerns, on working together.
We have just released the Joint Statement, so I do not know how many of you would have had a chance to see it, I suspect most of you sitting here would not. So, I will just highlight a few elements but I would urge you to loot at it in entirety. As I said, there is an announcement of a new and comprehensive strategic partnership, the fact that the Indian community is a major part of the UAE’s vibrant society, the two nations reject extremism and any link between religion and terrorism, that they condemn efforts including by States to use religion to justify, support and spawn terrorism against other countries, they coordinated their efforts to counter radicalization and misuse of religion, they denounce and oppose terrorism in all forms and manifestation, wherever committed and by whom ever, calling on states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they exist, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.
The two countries also agreed to enhance cooperation in counter terrorism operations, intelligence sharing. They will work together for the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which you are all aware is an initiative in the United Nations. They will control, regulate and share information on the flow of funds. When we move to the Defence and security side, they will cooperate on strengthening maritime security in the Gulf and Indian Ocean region. They will promote collaboration and interoperability for humanitarian assistance, evacuation in natural disasters and conflict situations. They will strengthen their defence relations including through more regular exercises, and they will cooperate in the manufacture of defence equipment in India. The two countries also call on all nations to fully respect and sincerely implement their commitment to resolve disputes bilaterally and peacefully without resorting to violence and terrorism. On the economic side there was a recognition that India is today a new frontier of investment and it was agreed that they would set up a UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund with a target of 75 billion dollars. These broadly are the highlights of the Joint Statement. I should also add that there was support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. The Prime Minister thanked His Highness the Crown Prince for his decision to allot land for the construction of Abu Dhabi’s first temple. With that summary, I would be open to taking questions. I understand you are under pressure, so I would request you to keep it to one question from a person.
Question: …(Inaudible)… We saw that trade between India and the United Arab Emirates went down by …(Inaudible)…
Foreign Secretary: That issue was mentioned in passing. But I think the thrust of the discussions was to really create a much more broad-based structure of trade. My expectation would be that once the trade basket diversifies, no single factor would make that much of a difference.
Foreign Secretary: There was a fairly detailed discussion about the investment possibilities. But there was, at this time, a sort of a headlines agreement on the Infrastructure Investment Fund. It was not that in the course of a visit you nail that down so specifically, but certainly there was a lot of interest in railways, in roads, in construction of different kinds, on the energy side both renewable and fossil, in ports. So, there was a very broad interest in the possibilities and a lot of enthusiasm about areas where both new opportunities have come up and much more practical terms of collaboration have been outlined.
Question: Is India-UAE Infrastructure Investment Fund launched, or is it yet to be launched?
Foreign Secretary: What was agreed to was that the Fund would be set up with a target of 75 billion dollars. We have just completed discussions.
Foreign Secretary: Many of the legacy issues naturally came up for discussion. Obviously some of them are sub judice, some of them are not. So, I cannot sort of respond to a particular query. But in terms of mindset that you spoke about, if I were to describe the mindset, to me the mindset is that there is a completely different sense of the investment opportunities in India, a sense of the changes that are under way which have created those opportunities. Certainly in response to the legacy issues the Prime Minister mentioned that our Commerce Minister would be visiting UAE to discuss some of those issues. But the mindset was a very enthusiastic and a positive mindset.
Question: …(Inaudible)… context and the sense of urgency that we see on the both the sides to come together to fight terrorism?
Foreign Secretary: I think obviously the growth of terrorism and the fact radicalisation and misuse of religion has contributed to it is something which the Governments of the two countries share, and we both see manifestations of it around us. Clearly that is one source of concern because in the broader region it is a big factor in the instability. But the view was, as I highlighted from the Joint Statement, that while fighting, while combating, countering the non-governmental forces which are promoting, advocating and supporting terrorism, in the case when you have governments which are involved in some way, steps should also be taken to dismantle the infrastructure and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.
Question: Could you please elaborate or reconfirm that the UAE has actually promised India its support for the UN Security Council seat? Is it officially confirmed that the UAE supports India’s bid?
Foreign Secretary: Yes, indeed. It is in the Joint Statement.
Question: This is about the Joint Statement where we talk about working together to control, regulate and share information on flows of funds that could have a bearing on radicalisation …(Inaudible)… concerned individuals and organisations. In this context, was the issue of Dawood and his properties here raised?
Foreign Secretary: I think there was a larger discussion on trends which are obviously negative, what are seen as sources of instability for both countries and for the region. High-level visits are used for policy level discussions. So, I think you have to keep that in mind.
Question: …(Inaudible)…and do you think this particular relationship between the UAE and India is going to flourish especially with the visit of Indian Prime Minister?
Foreign Secretary: Why something did not happen is very hard to explain other than the fact that it did not happen. Clearly there was a sense of a new beginning, and when you do read the Joint Statement you will see that it captures that.
Question: I have a very specific question. …(Inaudible)… A lot of our aircraft are being taken to other countries for repair works and all. …(Inaudible)… India can see a lot of job opportunities if aircraft from other places can come to our country for repairs.
Foreign Secretary: I thank you for that input but I do not think it is relevant to this visit.
Foreign Secretary: It was not a matter which came up for discussion.
Question: …(Inaudible)… the statement about how UAE is going to help in strategic petroleum reserves …(Inaudible)…
Foreign Secretary: There have been discussions for some time on that subject. I think the intent was now to move forward in that area. Obviously the UAE has experience with a number of other countries in that regard.
Foreign Secretary: Businessmen make business commitments mostly to other businessmen. When you have a Prime Ministerial visit what it does is, it conveys a policy direction. Businesses respond to that policy direction, they either reflect their enthusiasm or show their unhappiness. So, if you saw the business meeting which was televised. I believe most of it, you could see the sentiment in the room. And the sentiment in the room, like the sentiment which the Joint Statement seeks to capture, was a very positive business sentiment. But how to translate positive business sentiment into commitments, that depends on people’s business plans. So, that is not something you will typically see happen during the course of a high-level visit.
Official Spokesperson: Foreign Secretary made it clear that it will be one question each because we all have to go to the next event. I think we have exhausted all the questions. Thank you.
Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much.