India’s G7 diploamcy: Modi meets Trump, Johnson, UN chief

(Excerpts of Media Briefing by India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit for G7 Summit in Biarritz, France)

Prime Minister has just concluded his meeting with the US President Donald Trump and this was his last bilateral engagement at Biarritz and Prime Minister will be shortly leaving for the return journey back to India. Let me begin with the meetings that were held yesterday. Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Mr. Boris Johnson. That was a very good talk they had. It was focused on bilateral relations. Prime Minister Johnson specifically spoke about the need to develop the partnership between the two countries and he understood that it is important for access to be given for talented to the United Kingdom and he said that he understood the value that talented Indians bring to the economy and society of Great Britain.

Prime Minister himself congratulated Prime Minister Johnson, said that it is a critical time when he is the Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time of Brexit. The Prime Minister said that he stands by Prime Minister Johnson, we stand by Great Britain and we are ready to work with them once Brexit is over.

The two prime ministers have agreed that a small team be setup to progress the economic agenda. And therefore the principal discussion which was held with Prime Minister Johnson was focused on how in the post Brexit scenario we can develop the partnership, we can strengthen economic and commercial relations and what Prime Minister Johnson said that come October 31, Britain would leave the European Union. So therefore the decision that we would setup the small team to see how we can progress that relationship thereafter.

There were some discussions that the two leaders had on G7. Both agreed on the importance of working together in Africa. Boris Johnson mentioned the issue of Climate Change and environment and Prime Minister conveyed to him that we are launching a national campaign against plastic waste in the oceans and against single use plastic, which was welcome by him.

There was a brief discussion on the situation in the Gulf and on the need to find a new pathway if the JCPOA is not acceptable and there was also some discussion on Afghanistan where the two leaders agreed that there was importance on gaining some clarity on what would happen if and when a deal is signed and announced between United States and various Afghan groups.

There was a brief meeting with the UN Secretary General. As you know Prime Minister will be going to the United Nations General Assembly next month and participating as one of the keynote speakers in the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit.

Mr. Gutteres mentioned that he is very enthusiastic about Prime Minister’s leadership on Climate Change. Prime Minister himself spoke of the initiative on single use plastic. He also took some time to explain his new initiative which is the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure which we hope to launch during Prime Minister’s visit to New York next month.One of the ideas which Prime Minister spoke in this regard was whether or not the world could come together to create a pool of trained volunteers in a global movement which would help countries recover after disaster. This was one of the ideas they spoke about.

The Secretary General also expressed concerns of course over India’s thermal power plants in the context of Climate Change and Prime Minister explained to him that India is moving towards renewable forms of energy, cleaner forms of energy.

In this regard Prime Minister referred to Nuclear Power and said that it is an investment intensive industry that therefore the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group is crucial to build investor confidence and the UNSG said that he understood India’s position in this regard and that he was willing to help out in this matter.

So broadly the discussions with UNSG focused on Prime Minister’s forthcoming participation in the UN Climate Summit as well as Prime Minister’s own initiatives that he intended to take during the Climate Change Summit including celebrating 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at which the UN Secretary General will also be present in a special function.

This morning Prime Minister had a brief meeting with the President of Senegal. Senegal is a country which is important to us. We have had substantial bilateral relations with them. This was a bilateral meeting at which we discussed how we would develop further cooperation with the West African states including in renewable energy. We have given 250 e-Rickshaws or solar powered rickshaws to Senegal.

The President mentioned this in particular and in fact told to the Prime Minister that subsequent to the trials and tests a very substantial order would soon be placed for these e-Rickshaws. Prime Minister of course assured him of support in this as well as other initiatives and there was also a brief discussion on the International Solar Alliance. The President of Senegal has told Prime Minister that in all multilateral issues and in all international forums Senegal stands shoulder to shoulder with India.

Just before we came here the meeting with President Trump has concluded. That was substantially long meeting, there was of course a press conference and all of you heard the press conference so I will not go into the details of that subsequent to that there was 40 minute meeting and it was principally focus on issues of trade and energy.The Prime Minister spoke on the importance of energy imports from United States. He referred to the fact that $4 billion worth of imports were already in the pipeline and that we expect to step it up. As you know the Prime Minister will be visiting the United States next month and in that context he is going to have a round table with the top CEOs of energy companies in Houston and in that the objective there is twofold.

One, to see how we can import more energy from the United States and the second is how we can invest in the energy sector in the United States. So rather how Indian companies can invest in the energy sector in the United States. This was very welcomed by President Trump. IN fact President Trump spoke very warmly of the fact that India had become a major importer of energy and he also indicated that he was willing to send top administration officials down to Houston for this purpose in an effort to ensure that the bilateral energy relationship is progressed.There was also thereafter some discussion on the trade issues. I won’t go into details, all of you are aware of what these trade issues are but as you know when Prime Minister met President Trump in Osaka, Prime Minister has clearly conveyed that now that Prime Minister has been reelected, that the election is behind him, that we are now in a forward looking position on trade issues and offered to send our Commerce and Industry minister, Shri Piyush Goyal to Washington.That has not been able to materialize perhaps because United States was involved in other negotiations but Prime Minister reiterated his offer and he suggested that this was something which we can have constructive approach to that both sides should look at it afresh and that we should move ahead.

So essentially the two leaders have agreed that preferably before Prime Minister’s visit to Washington there will be an interaction between the trade ministers at which we will discuss the whole range of trade issues.So essentially that was the gist of the discussion. It was a very warm meeting, very positive meeting. It followed the discussions that Prime Minister had with President Trump on the telephone the week before. This is the third, either meeting or the conversation, that the two leaders have had in about 100 days of the office that the Prime Minister has been in his second term.

So this was really the gist of the bilateral meetings, the G7 meetings are still on. Prime Minister is the keynote speaker at the moment on the digital initiative. He also spoke about India’s initiative on Climate Change and Global Warming.