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Transcripts of Blair-Manmohan press conference

The most important outcome has been the adoption of a joint action plan, The Indian PM said at the joint press meet.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2005 20:54 IST

Manmohan Singh

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I am very happy to be here with Prime Minister Tony Blair, the President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, the Secretary General and High Representative, Mr Javier Solana, EU External Relations Commissioner, Farero Waltner (phon), and EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson.

We have had an extremely good and productive discussion at the Sixth India-EU Summit today. The most important outcome has been the adoption of a joint action plan today which provides the necessary framework for our fast evolving multi-faceted relations. It will be our road map for identifying pathways to future cooperation. It is an ambitious and unique document, the first such detailed action plan that we have drawn up. It sets the signposts for the way ahead for our interaction with the European Union so that we may realise the full potential of our multi-dimensional cooperation. It builds on the common values and beliefs that India and the EU share as the world’s two largest democracies, the values that make us natural partners. That this action plan has been finalised in the presence of Prime Minister Tony Blair is a matter of added happiness and satisfaction for me because we in our country have had historic close and yet most cordial relations with the United Kingdom.

Our political declaration on the India-EU Strategic Partnership sums up the salient features of what we wish to achieve together. At the top of the agenda is intensified political dialogue and cooperation with a view to meeting common challenges and global threats, starting with terrorism. We have agreed that there is no place for terrorism in the civilised world and that we would work together towards fighting this. We have agreed on a detailed framework indicating how we would enhance our cooperation in this very important area. We also agreed that without credible and effective global institutions it would be impossible for us to meet evolving global challenges. We reiterated our shared belief in the central role that the United Nations needs to play in the … world. We would also establish a security dialogue on global and regional security issues, disarmament and non-proliferation.

We have made significant progress on the economic cooperation and the trade and investment side as well. In this context I am happy to announce that our government has today cleared the purchase of 43 Airbus aircraft for Indian Airlines. The value of this contract will be in the region of US$2.2 billion. Through this deal we hope to raise our bilateral economic partnership and our interaction in the civil aviation sectors to new heights.

We have also had constructive discussions on how to increase bilateral trade and investment flows. We look forward to working together with Europe in the newly constituted energy panel and its working groups.

We have also urged the EU to revisit and review technology export controlled regimes that create a restrictive environment for technology transfers to India. India’s impeccable record in this area of non-proliferation is well known and we hope that the EU will respond positively. The European Union has welcomed our participation in the international thermal nuclear experimental reactors. I would like to thank them for the most helpful role they have played in this regard. Today we have signed a framework agreement on India’s participation in the European Union’s global navigation satellite system, Galileo. This will set the stage for our cooperation in a vital area which we believe will be mutually beneficial for both sides.

The action plan also covers several other areas on which the two sides are committed to work – climate change, science and technology, research and development, enhanced parliamentary exchanges, greater people to people contacts, and dialogue related to migration and consular issues.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Union for the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship Programme that has allocated 33 million euros for students from India to study in the European Union. This is a very welcome step that will go a long way towards improving mutual understanding and trust between young persons and academic communities in India and in Europe. Nothing creates stronger and more enduring bonds than educational links. This initiative is of value today and its value will grow manyfold over time.

I would now like to invite Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Barroso to speak to us.

Tony Blair

Thank you Prime Minister, and first of all can I say on behalf of myself and all my colleagues how grateful we are, both for the warm welcome that you have given us, for the time that you have given us and for the immensely constructive and open discussion we had with you and your colleagues this morning.

There are just a few points that I would like to emphasise, following on the Prime Minister’s remarks. The first is obviously that the joint action plan that we have agreed today puts the relationship between the European Union and India on a new and a higher and a more intensive level. That is in my judgment long overdue, but it is important now that it happens, and it sets a framework for further action and discussion across a whole range of issues, from trade and security through to issues such as education, science and technology.

This relationship is a necessary one and it is right that it intensifies because of the common challenges that we face and the common interests that we have. If I can just highlight two of those. The first is on the issue of trade where we know that there is still an immense capacity for developing the trade relations between India and the European Union, and I think we all recognise the changes that respectively we have got to make to ensure that that happens. The purchase of the airbus, it has obviously been highly successful round the world, is a very welcome sign of those developing trade relations, but I know from experience not just in the UK but throughout the whole of Europe what tremendous possibilities and potential there is in developing these economic and trade relations between Europe and India and I hope that today’s announcement, and obviously the signing of the documents as well, gives a fresh impetus to this so that this joint action plan will not simply be at the level of strong ideas and strong rhetoric, but is translated into practical action in the time to come. And I think from the discussion we had this morning the will to do that, the political will to do that is very evident on both sides.

Secondly, as you rightly say Prime Minister, there was a very good and open exchange on the issue of terrorism. India sadly has long experience of this, as indeed has the UK over many years, and I think that coming together in order to fight this common threat at every single level is a completely correct preoccupation, both of India and the European Union, and one on which we can work on together. I also entirely agree with you that the way that we tackle both of these issues, the economy and trade and the threat of terrorism, is through developing effective multilateral institutions capable of doing it, both in respect of the United Nations obviously in the big political challenges that we face, and of course in the upcoming talks on the World Trade Round.

So I would like to thank you very much for the very constructive engagement that we have had this morning. I have got no doubt at all that this does mark a change, a significant change and turning point in the relations between India and the European Union, and I look forward, both wearing my UK hat but also as President of the European Union, to see the fruits of this be gathered in the months to come.

And again, thank you to you and your colleagues.

Barroso

Thank you. Let me begin by joining Prime Minister Blair, saying how grateful we are for the hospitality of Prime Minister Singh and all the Indian authorities. It was indeed a very successful summit. Apart from the concrete conclusions I can tell you that I found the exchange of views very informal, very substantive. It is good that we can discuss in this period very important issues, global issues, between India and the European Union.

I am sure that one of the reasons why this happens that way is because we share common values – democracy, pluralism, human rights and the rule of law. If the European Union and India share the same values, we should work closer when it comes about interests to make not only the values, but interests as common as possible, and that is exactly what happened now in this action plan. This action plan tries to translate in practical terms, in implementation terms, the goodwill that we know there exists between India and Europe to give concrete shape to the strategic partnership that now we have between the European Union and India.

Prime Minister Blair already highlighted the most important aspects, I will not repeat what he said. Let me just add one point. It is the cultural and academic chapter, we have the political chapter, the economic policy chapter, the trade and investment chapter, but it is I think also interesting to underline the cultural and academic chapter which builds upon the 2004 European Union-India Cultural Declaration. There will be the establishment of European Union study centres in India and vice versa, there will be, as Prime Minister Singh just mentioned, increased participation of India in the Erasmus Mundus programme, a programme for students from India going to Europe, there will be strengthened exchanges between civil society organisations and think tanks, and also a dialogue between the audio visual industries.

It was also important in concrete terms, the decision to go ahead with the participation of India in the Galileo Programme and also the support that the European Union gives to India as a member of the … where India can bring the knowledge it has in fusion technology also to this very important global project in that field of science and technology.

I believe those were the main aspects of a very successful summit, and once again on behalf of the European Commission, thank you Prime Minister Singh, thank you to all the Indian authorities for the commitment, engagement that you put in this very important summit.

QUESTION (Financial Times)

I would like to ask a question on the United Nations Summit that is taking place next week. I would like to ask President Barroso if he has offered a view of the Commission to the candidature of India for a permanent seat at the Security Council. Perhaps Mr Blair, as the Council President, could also offer a view. And to Prime Minister Singh, I would like to ask since there is strong opposition from the United States and China towards that proposal that India, together with Brazil, Germany and Japan have permanent seats on the UN Security Council, what would be the Indian reaction if that was refused?

Barroso

About the United Nations seat, the President of the Council, Prime Minister Blair can of course answer. You know that is not from a technical point of view, that is not the competence of the European Commission, that is an intergovernmental question. Anyway let me highlight from our perspective, the European Commission, that we should not reduce this very important summit of the United Nations to the Security Council reform. Security Council reform, it is a very important issue, but there are other issues, the Millennium Development Goals where by the way the European Union committed a very important effort, we announced recently, and we also made an announcement in Gleneagles, the doubling of our overseas development aid, there are also all matters related to climate change and there are many other issues that are important in this summit. But of course the Security Council reform, the specific one that has to do more with diplomacy and the role of individual member states, the truth is as you know that we don’t have a common position, our 25 member states do not have a common position on that matter, but maybe Prime Minister Blair wants to comment on this.

Blair

As President Barroso has just said, there isn’t a common European Union position. Obviously the UK’s position has been strongly supportive of India. But I would just make one comment. In addition to saying that President Barroso is absolutely right that all the focus shouldn’t simply be on this issue, there are really important matters, not least the issues of terrorism that we need to discuss next week at the summit, and also the Millennium Development Goals and tackling global poverty and so on. However, it seems to me very clear that if we want effective multilateral institutions then those effective multilateral institutions have got to take account of the world as it is today and not the world as it was. And that is why it is important I think, however long it takes, and maybe it is not possible to reach a consensus at the moment, that there is a reform of the Security Council at some stage because plainly it does not correspond to the modern realities.

Singh

I was asked a question about the opposition to India’s membership of the Security Council. It is a fact that some countries are not in favour of the G4 resolution that we sponsored, but I have also been assured that the opposition to the G4 resolution does not necessarily imply opposition to India’s claims and India’s place on the expanded Security Council. So we haven’t given up and I sincerely hope that we can still sort out this issue.

QUESTION (CNBC)
This is a question to Prime Minister Singh. Could you elaborate on the extent of Indian participation in Galileo. Would we put in some equity, and if so how much?

Singh
I will ask the State Secretary.

Indian Official

At the moment we have a … day framework agreement which enables us to discuss the details of the participation. The amount of the equity will be decided based on the extent of our participation, and we have projected that the strength of India in such areas and this dialogue will continue. At the end of that only will we be arriving at these figures.

QUESTION (Tom Bradby, ITN)

Prime Minister, to some extent this trip has been a bit of a window into the future. Can you just explain to us a little more what role you think India plays or should play economically and strategically in the future, particularly in relation to China. And don’t China’s arguments for why it isn’t moving faster towards democracy look lame the moment you land here and realise this is a functioning democracy of a billion people and has been for more than 50 years.

Blair

Well I think the extraordinary thing about India is that with all the problems of development and progress that it faces, it is a democracy, it abides by the rule of law, its people decide their government and that is a tremendous example to the whole of the world. But the reasons why, and I think you are right in saying in a sense the visit both to China and to India is a window into the future, the world is changing very very fast, but in respect of India there is no doubt at all that as the economy of India continues to grow, and as India necessarily plays an ever increasing role on the world stage, then the right relationship, not just between the UK and India but between Europe and India, is vital. And when we were going through all the major issues that we faced in the discussion earlier, there is none of those issues, not counter terrorism, not world trade, not the ability to tackle issues to do with climate change, none of those questions can satisfactorily be resolved or confronted without the active participation and engagement of India. And therefore what is happening in a world that is increasingly inter-dependent, where the force of globalisation is just creating change at an immensely rapid rate, is that a country like India is as I say not just emerging economically, but emerging politically, and the rest of the world has got to enter into the right and the equal partnership with India for mutual benefit, and that is what is happening. And the fact that India also as a country with these problems of development, with this huge population here, is able to be a proper functioning democracy is a tremendous thing. One of the Ministers was saying to us earlier, and forgive me if I am wrong about this, but 60% of the population is under the age of 25, it kind of made us Europeans reflect a little bit on the changing nature of the world that we face. And if you take some of the major, there are more engineering graduates now being produced in India than I think in virtually the whole of the European Union. So this is change that is going to affect the lives of all our citizens, not just in Britain but in the whole of Europe, and so to come here and to have a good and strong engagement and work out how we can meet these challenges together, this is an essential part of safeguarding the interests of our own citizens today.

QUESTION (India TV)
Both India and the European Union seem to be concerned about terrorism. India has concerns about infiltration from the Pakistani side, the UK government too has expressed concerns about the role of Pakistan, especially some of the British citizens who had gone to Pakistan. At the present moment do you see any role for the international community as a whole in addressing this problem which exists and which apparently has roots in Pakistan?

Blair

Obviously there are issues that India and Pakistan have got to resolve together, but let me just make one thing very clear. I think the mood in the whole of the international community has changed dramatically on this subject in the past few years. There is absolutely no justification or excuse for terrorism, for innocent people being killed in cold blood, or for anybody giving support or succour of whatever nature to people carrying out such acts of terrorism. The way to resolve difficult issues today is through patient discussion and negotiation, it is not through terrorism. Indeed I cannot think of a single issue anywhere in the world where terrorism does not make the situation worse rather than better, where it creates hatred and division, where it produces despair amongst people, where it stops people being able to have the dialogue necessary to resolve problems. So I don’t think that there is any doubt or question in anyone’s mind. And I think that again here India has obviously had to suffer the consequences of terrorism, but also as we were talking about earlier in our discussion, India is a country in which people from different faiths cooperate and live together. And so there is a message there for the wider world. And out of next week’s UN summit, one thing I hope that will come is the reiteration of a very very strong statement from the whole of the international community that we not merely condemn terrorism and condemn those that incite terrorism, but that we expect the condemnation and the resolutions of the United Nations to be carried through, and carried through by everybody. And I welcome very much the changes that have been made in recent days, and the statements that have been made by Pakistan. There is no question however in my mind that the international community now, in a way that I don’t think was the case a few years ago, speaks as one and speaks with not just determination but a certain degree of passion as a result of the experiences we have all had.

QUESTION (Nick Robinson, BBC)
Prime Minister, just building on your last answer if I may. Britain has tabled, as I understand it, a resolution for next week’s UN gathering on this issue of incitement for terror. This morning you signed up to the principles of Mahatma Ghandi. Is that what underlies your thinking, and how would such a resolution work in practice, given the age old tension between those who say they are supporting freedom fighters and those who say they are supporting terrorism?

Blair

Well I think you are right in saying that there are difficult questions that arise here, but the problem with terrorism is not just the people that commit the act of terrorism, it is those who support it, those that incite it, those that encourage it. And I think we have got to take a very strong stand on behalf of the international community and say we condemn this and we condemn it utterly. Because when people say that they are doing this in the name of a cause or a grievance, when you actually look at it, what they are doing is killing innocent people, usually completely at random, and what is the impact of that terrorism? The impact of that terrorism is not to resolve anything, it is to put people against each other, to sow seeds of hatred, to divide people of different races or religions or nations, and possibly this is long overdue, but it is time we sent out a clear unified message from the international community and said that is no longer legitimate, not merely in terms of committing acts of terrorism but in terms of supporting or inciting it, that that is not something that can have any hiding place in respectable opinion. And I think that is a necessary thing to say.

QUESTION
My question is how would this joint action plan for countering terrorism be implemented?

Blair

Well I think that some of the suggestions that we were talking about this morning are to do with things like for example making sure there is the proper intelligence cooperation, making sure that Europol, and I think it is the Central Bureau of Investigation here, cooperate properly together. It is to do with issues like money laundering and how terrorism is financed. In other words I think there are areas of practical cooperation that we can take forward here and the proposals from the Indian side are actually rightly ambitious in this regard. But these terrorists, they cross frontiers very easily, they do get access to funds as well as weapons and it is important that we are tackling every single aspect of this. And so I think that cooperation is important, but there is another area of cooperation as well, which is also to talk about how we defeat the ideas and ideology of these people, how we take the message of peaceful co-existence and harmony and religions working together, how we take that message out collectively and into the local community and say look there is a different and better way.

Singh

I agree with the Prime Minister. I think we have to tackle this problem at several levels. It is a struggle for the minds of the people and whatever we can do I think to promote respect for tolerance, respect for diversity that … justifies recourse to terrorism, directed particularly against innocent men and women and children, plus also cooperation between the European Union countries and India in the intelligence gathering, in the intelligence sharing, and also ensuring that the means of financing terrorism are effectively I think checked. These are various approaches which are listed in the joint action plan.

Barroso

I agree with what has been said.

(Courtesy: British High Commission)