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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (East) during visit of Vice President to Costa Rica (March 08, 2019)

March 10, 2019

Under Secretary(Digital Diplomacy), Ms. Sneha Dubey: Namaskar, thank you everyone for being with us here today for a special media briefing on Vice President’s visit to Costa Rica. To brief us today we have Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East), Ambassador Shri Ravi Thapar and Jt. Secretary from Ministry of External Affairs, Shri G V Srinivas. Over to you Ma’am.

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Thank you Sneha. As Sneha said Vice President is currently in Costa Rica and the second leg of his visit to the Latin American and the Caribbean region. He had just come back after he had a meeting with the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada and that was a meeting which was a brief one to one, followed by delegation level talks and there was of course a media briefing there as well where the Vice President made a press statement, you would have seen that and you would have got the flavor of the way the discussions have gone. The discussions were very warm, they were in depth and there was discussions on how to take forward the relationship. Many new opportunities that exist for exploration between the two countries.

To give you the background this is the first ever high level visit to Costa Rica from India in the last 50 years since we established our diplomatic relations. Hon’ble Vice President Shri Venkaiah Naidu Ji arrived yesterday at San Jose and was received at the airport by the Foreign Minister.

Vice President arrived yesterday in Costa Rica. He was received at the airport by Foreign Minister and the minister in the President’s office. While welcoming Vice President, the Foreign Minister remarked that this is the first time ever that an Indian aircraft touched the soil of Costa Rica. So from that you can draw the inference that itself is in many-many ways a historic visit, it is a milestone and a new chapter in the relationship between India and Costa Rica.

Yesterday, Vice President had given the key note address at the India-Costa Rica Business Forum where Vice President spoke at length about the many opportunities that exist in India and there was the minister of foreign trade of Costa Rica, she spoke about the opportunities and the possibilities of collaboration between India and Costa Rica.

All in all from the two statements that were made, the keynote address by the Vice President and the speech of the Trade Minister and the Foreign Minister was also present there at the meeting, that there was a positive atmosphere, there was an eagerness to explore opportunities and to work together.

And the reason is not hard to see because Costa Rica is the leading economy in the Central American region, it has a strategic location and it has a long-long tradition of democracy, which is a growing economy, just like India is a growing economy with the focus on IT and a focus on growth, therefore we are natural partners. And from that natural partnership, possibilities of collaboration in many areas and this was discussed between the President and the Vice President. They spoke about how the economic partnership is growing and trade opportunities.

In particular Vice President mentioned pharmaceuticals which could be a very important area of collaboration between the two countries, agriculture was mentioned as also areas like agricultural equipment as area in which trade can go. Both sides spoke about inviting their respective businessmen to invest in each other’s countries. Costa Rican President mentioned that Costa Rica could be a hub for the Indian business persons who invest here, they could reach the other markets in the region given that Costa Rica has 15 free trade agreements with other countries.

Vice President invited the Costa Rican investments in India as well because it is a large market and there is a possibility of scaling up in India. Both sides agreed that they will encourage trade delegations and business to business contacts so that opportunities for joint ventures could be looked at.

Amongst the areas for cooperation specifically were mentioned the pharmaceutical sector including biotechnology, health sector, renewable energy including the hydel power, IT, digital economy, tourism in particular eco-tourism and transportation. These were discussed in details, if one can mention that India has already made available $30 million line of credit to Costa Rica per year and this was agreed that in some of these areas we could look at the possibility of India undertaking a project preparation facility to help their pre-feasibility studies for projects which could be undertaken through this line of credit.

Separately also there was discussion about how the two countries could engage under the format of SICA and we do have ministerial level dialogue, India-SICA dialogue that is a meeting the next round for which we are working on dates and there was a specific reference by the President of Costa Rica that we should work in this format as well.

The other areas which were discussed, I would come back to you, that the President while speaking about India, he spoke about his own personal great admiration about India and there was appreciation for India’s architecture, engineering skills and urban planning.

Costa Rica, they apprised of the work they were going to undertake in upgrading their transportation system and in that context they wanted to understand the transportation system in India. Vice President invited team from Costa Rica that could visit our urban planning and urban transport traininig institutions and see our practices and learn from our practices as they consider appropriate and implement them in Costa Rica.

The other issue that was spoken about and I would mention would be the pharmaceutical sector. We spoke about expeditious grant of approvals for some of our pharmaceutical products and Costa Rica agreed to look into that possibility.

We also spoke in great length, the two leaders also spoke in great length about environment. Costa Rica has of course undertaken its carbon neutral mission and stretching it further by 2085 to a de-carbonization mission. In that context the questions that they asked Vice President apprised them of your mission to have 30 percent of e-vehicles by 2030 and that was something which the Costa Rican side felt would be very important in achieving the emission norm of de-carbonization.

Also on ISA, you would be aware that Costa Rica has signed up to the framework agreement but ratification is pending and ratification is under way and hopefully it will also be concluded soon.

On space, again Vice President congratulated Costa Rica for having space vehicle and then offered India’s space capabilities for training as well as data sharing to Costa Rica. We do look forward to couple of Costa Rican scientists coming to India for training at ISRO.

The other issue which was discussed was capacity building. Vice President announced the doubling of ITEC slots for Costa Rica. In fact Costa Rica was very appreciative of the support that India is giving for capacity building to Costa Rica as well as the scholarships that have been given. So we would continue to work in that direction in terms of capacity building as well as building up on university to university collaboration. Vice President said that India would set up a chair in Indology in a university in Costa Rica which was welcomed.

There was also discussion about collaboration on biotechnology and in that context we have concluded today a letter of intent for collaboration. India has also been working with Costa Rica in the IT sector and we have established a center of excellence for IT in Costa Rica which again the President spoke about and appreciated India’s support in that context. Vice President conveyed India’s readiness to support e-governance efforts of Costa Rica, so will be working in that direction as well.

On terrorism, Vice President apprised the President of Costa Rica about the terrorist attack which took place in Pulwama, that attack had been condemned by Costa Rica.

In the morning today, it started with Vice President visiting the University for Peace where he was conferred the Doctor Honoris Causa for work of Vice President for his role in promoting the rule of law, democracy and sustainable development. Vice President accepted the degree as an honor for India and in his speech he spoke about India’s civilizational ethos which was based on peace. And in that context he mentioned that the challenges to peace today arise from terrorism, they arise from climate change and called upon the international community to work together to meet these challenges.

Vice President tomorrow would have a meeting with the President of Congress of Costa Rica and thereafter a meeting with Vice President Campbell Barr who will also host a lunch in his honor. Visit to Costa Rica would end with an interaction with the Indian community. Indian community is largely working community, they are working in the IT sector and some of them are doing business, all of them are doing very well and their role is appreciated by the leadership here.

If I can mention there was discussion on visa and easier visa facility for Indian nationals coming to Costa Rica. Vice President said that they are working on it and they should have easier and simpler visas especially for business persons because if you are looking for investments business visa should not be an impediment to investments and businesses between our two countries.

I think I have covered most of the things and I am open for questions.

Question: What was this discussion about SICA because twice it has been postponed once in 2017 and one in 2018 that is the information that I have, I could be wrong, but could you please share what exactly was the discussion and when do you plan to have this negotiation?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: The India-SICA Ministerial Meeting, the last meeting was held in New York. We are working on the dates for next meeting in fact there were a couple of dates which didn’t work so we are looking at dates. It’s very much active. We were hoping early but hopefully in a couple of months we should have the meeting.

Question: Were there any talks about opening an embassy in Costa Rica?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: No, there were no discussions on that.

Question: You have outlined everything that the two sides have talked about but there was no mention of the education. Is there any plan on having university to university exchanges or any kind of tie-ups or setting up of something?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: There is appreciation of scholarships that we give to the Costa Ricans. President himself have referred to it and appreciated it and we have also announced the setting up of a chair in Indology studies in a university of Costa Rica. Besides that there was discussion on how to make educational institutions. And since a large number of ideas were discussed, the discussions essentially laid down a roadmap. We would now be taking up further discussions and we are hoping to have a foreign office consultations to concretize some of the ideas and to see the implementation of the decisions which were taken.

And of course we do have the National Knowledge Network and that is a portal which we would be willingly share with Costa Rican universities.

Question: Jo Foreign Minister thi, unhone ye mention kiya ki Costa Rica mein hawaai sevaayein nahi thi aur pahli baar Indian airlines ka jahaaj yahan par dekhaa gaya. Kya Bharat ye sochata hai ki yahan par hawaai sewaayein aur badhaai jaayein kyonki agar dekha jaaye to community ka number bhi 250 ke aaspaas hai, aise mei kya ye viable rahega dono deshon ke beech hawaai sewaayein shuru karna, kya aisa kuch vichaar kiya jaa raha hai?

(The Foreign Minister of Costa Rica mentioned that it has hardly any flight services and it is the first time that an Indian aircraft is seen in Costa Rica. Does India believes that flight services here should be increased because if we look at the community here it is about 250 only, so in such a scenario will the flight services be viable, is it being given a thought?)

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Dekhiye 250 nahi 600 Bharatiya yahan par hain. Jahan tak hawaai udaan kii baat hai, ye jo nirnay hote hain jyadatar to jaise aap kah rahi hain ki itna number nahi hai kyonki ye commercially viable bhi hona chaahiye parantu ye baat jaroor hai ki ye dekh sakte hain ki coach-sharing ki possibility ho sakti hai kya. To abhi tak to utna hai par baat-cheet aage chalti rahegi aur connectivity chaahe wo air connectivity ho, digital connectivity ho, uske upar baat chalti rahegi.

(It is not 250, the number of Indian community members here is 600. As far as flight services is concerned, these decisions are mainly based on commercial viability and as you said the numbers are also very low but we can definitely look into the idea of coach-sharing. So right now it is at that but discussions are ongoing and connectivity, whether it is air connectivity or digital connectivity, discussions are going on.)

Question Contd.: Doosara mera sawaal hai ki Bharat kis kshetra mein dekh raha hai ki yahan par nivesh kiya jaa sake, kis tarah ki industry ko lagaane ke baare mein vichaar kiya jaa raha hai?

(What are the areas which India is looking for investments here, what kind of industries are being thought about to be set up here?)

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Jo industries ki baat hui thi, e-vehicles ki possibility hai kyonki India apna jo mission kiya hai hamara jo focus hai e-vehicles ke upar, us par investment ho sakti hai, ek to uske upar aaj kaafi baat hui thi.

(As far as industries is concerned, e-vehicles is a possibility because we have a mission in India where we have focus on e-vehicles. So it could be one thing as a lot of discussions today were focused on that.)

We are also looking at investment in areas of IT, we are looking at investments in pharmaceuticals as it was discussed that India has a huge strength in pharmaceuticals so that if a joint venture is forged then we can locate it here. Any other possibility which are market driven. The idea is for the business people to interact with each other.

Hopefully there will be more delegations, trade delegations between the two countries so that they can explore the business opportunities.

Ambassador Shri Ravi Thapar: Kyonki ye climate change aur green country hai, is karke inka emphasis aur focus bahut hai to maintain this purity. Pure Vita – Pure Life. So public transportation system is receiving very wide focus and they are in holding India in high esteem.

Wo soch rahe hain ki hum logon ne apni transportation problem ko bahut achhe se solve kiya hai aur Hon’ble Vice President Ji ne bataya ki India is the second largest railway network in the world. So inki do priorities hain jo First Lady khud dekh rahi hain about railways, ek to Urban transportation within the cities and then cross-country railways also.

So depending on the interest of the Costa Ricans, jaise Secretary sahiba ne bataya ki pahle expert teams aayengi aur assessment hogi, so depending on the interest by the Costa Ricans India would be willing to lend technology and expertise and it could be under the line of credit.

(Because they care for climate change and it’s a green country that is why they have strong focus on maintaining its purity. Pure Vita – Pure Life. So public transportation system is receiving very wide focus and they are in holding India in high esteem.

They believe that we have solved our transport problem quite effectively. Hon’ble Vice President told them that India is the second largest railway in the world. They have two priorities which the First Lady herself is overseeing, first is the urban transportation within the cities and second is cross-country railways also.

So depending on the interest of Costa Ricans, as Madam Secretary just told, that first the expert teams will visit and an assessment will be made. So depending on the interest by the Costa Ricans India would be willing to lend technology and expertise and it could be under the line of credit.)

Question: Can you just elaborate on the terrorism aspect that was discussed. Will Costa Rica like Paraguay will they be raising this issue in international fora?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: The discussions were not specifically on terrorism but it was on the terrorist attack in India and they condemned the terrorist attack.

Under Secretary(Digital Diplomacy), Ms. Sneha Dubey:Since there are no more questions we will be concluding this briefing. Thank you everyone for joining.

(Concludes)

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