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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (East) during State Visit of President to Bolivia (March 30, 2019)

April 01, 2019

Director (XPD): Good evening friends. It is a privilege to welcome you for the special briefing on President’s visit to Bolivia. To brief you we have Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh and Ambassador of India to Bolivia Mr. Subbarayudu and Jt. Secretary LAC, Mr. G V Srinivas and also we have Deputy Press Secretary to the President.

First I will ask Secretary (East) to brief you, then it will be followed by remarks by Deputy Secretary to the President and later we will have Q&A session. Ma’am the floor is yours.

Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Good evening. As you know President arrived yesterday from Zagrib, he arrived in Santa Cruz yesterday and this was the first ever high level visit between India and Bolivia, the first time President of India is visiting Bolivia and the first time ever, because there has not been any high level visit from Bolivia to India. So in that sense this visit is very-very historic in the bilateral relations between our two countries.

As Rashtrapati Ji arrived at the airport yesterday, he was given ceremonial welcome. President of Bolivia, Evo Morales was himself present at the airport to welcome Rashtrapati Ji.

On arrival itself there was a full ceremonial welcome along with a cultural program and Rashtrapati Ji was presented with Key to the city of Santa Cruz.

Today he began his official interaction with President of Bolivia, Evo Morales. It began with at tete-a-tete followed by delegation level talks and thereafter there was today’s program and thereafter President had gone to University of Gabriel Rene Moreno and just now he has just concluded addressing the Bolivia India Business Forum in which businessmen have come from India and are participating in the B2B interactions.

In the dialogue between President Evo Morales and Rashtrapati Ji, there were detailed discussions on the bilateral relations between the two countries. President Evo Morales described the visit of Rashtrapati Ji as historic and he mentioned specifically that Bolivia has great admiration for India for its ancient civilization as well as for the rapid growth that is being made by India as well as its strength in human resources and the IT sector.

He mentioned that as far as India is concerned Bolivia looks at India as a very strong partner and a friend. And this he said is happening at a time, he mentioned that this partnership with India is very-very important at a time when Bolivia itself is looking at developing itself whether it is health sector, whether it is IT sector, whether it is natural resources.

Bolivia, as you know, is a country which has got tremendous natural resources. It has got reserves of Lithium, it has got gas reserves and it has got other minerals as well and that is very important as far as cooperation with this country is concerned because we ourselves are looking at how to get into a phase where we do have 30 percent of vehicles which are electric vehicles which will naturally require inputs of Lithium for making the batteries as well as our Solar Energy Program for which Lithium becomes very important.

Let me go through the issues that were discussed. They were bilateral as well as multilateral issues of interest. In the bilateral arena the focus was on three issues. One was terrorism, the second was the UN Security Council reforms and the third was Climate Change.

In the terrorism aspect President of Bolivia strongly condemned the attack in Pulwama then denounced cross-border terrorism in very forceful terms. There was an assertion from both sides that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes a threat to humanity itself. Bolivia and India called for early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

As far as the UN Security Council reforms are concerned there was acknowledgment that the current membership of the UN Security Council is not reflective of the realities of the 21st century and in this context President Evo Morales expressed full understanding of India’s aspirations to be a full member of the Security Council. He also extended support for India’s membership as a known permanent member for which we are seeking elections for the term 2021-22.

On climate change both sides were emphatic that there needs to be a greater focus on the issue as well as looking at the renewable sources of energy. In this context President Morales himself personally signed the International Solar Alliance framework agreement and they now become the member of the ISA.

As far as the bilateral relations are concerned, the first issues that were discussed were the trade and economic issues. Trade between our two countries, as you would have just heard, at the Bolivia-India business forum, it is a growing trade and it stand at around $875 million in the last calendar year. But if you look at it from the point of view of Bolivia, India is the third largest market for Bolivia in terms of export and seventh largest trading partner for Bolivia.

So that itself gives the importance that is there as a trading partner for Bolivia and also for us because as far as trade is concerned, it is an area we are constantly looking at how to strengthen it and make it grow. We are looking at greater diversification of the basket of goods that we trade. Indian exports are largely pharmaceutical and also vehicles, automobile industrial parts. We are looking at diversification of the trade component in the two countries.

The two countries also looked at as to how we can explore and work together as Bolivia is launching towards industrialization of its mineral resources. I mentioned Lithium, as far as Lithium is concerned there were discussions on all the three aspects of Lithium. The exploration of Lithium, the assured supplies of Lithium Carbide to India and also the possibility of looking at joint ventures for Lithium battery production plants in India. We already had a delegation of Khanij which is joint venture of three mining public sector enterprises under the Ministry of Mining, they had visited Bolivia earlier this year and we hope to continue the conversation on working together in Lithium. We do hope that we do have conversation including at the level of NITI Aayog.

There was also an agreement which was signed, a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in geology and mineral resources and that should contribute in working together with Bolivia in the mineral resources. As far as the hydro carbon potential is concerned, I mentioned that they have reserves of gas. In that again, Bolivia invited India to look at exploration of gas and how they could work strategy in this regard. On our part we indicated that we do have companies both in the public and private sector who could be interested in looking at this sector.

The other aspects that we looked at, in the trading sector was the possibility of investments. Investments in diversified fields. At the India Business Forum meeting you would have noticed the interest that there is and both sides agreed that we would encourage their respective businesses to see how they can invest in each others countries.

Thereafter I would touch briefly on the fact that the President Evo Morales spoke in terms of moving away from a commodity based economy to an information and knowledge based economy. So in that context we discussed the space technology to begin with, so even if they are looking at natural resources they are hoping that they could have some resource mapping and space cooperation was an area which was discussed.

We already have had some discussions between ISRO and the Bolivian Space Agency, ABE, we indicated to the Bolivian side that we are ready to work with them for fabrication as well as launch of their space satellites. So this is something which would be ongoing, the discussions will go on, there was an MoU also which was signed in space cooperation.

The other thing which was discussed here was Information & Technology because as a knowledge partner Bolivia recognizes the experience, expertise of India in ICT and in the discussions Bolivia was looking forward to some sort of collaboration in capacity building. And in that context we have signed an MoU which looks at setting up a center of excellence in Information and Communication Technology here in Bolivia. So that will be a project which will be undertaken by India and we will be setting up this center.

Another economic issue, which is in this part of Latin America is a very ambitious project which is the Bi-Oceanic Integration Railway Corridor, the whole concept here is that there would be a railway line that would link a place in Brazil which will pass through Bolivia and it will end up at a port Elu in Peru.

There were discussions, the Bolivian side gave details of the project and the aspirations of that project. They indicated that they are looking at development partners amongst the development partners that they already have are countries in Europe, they mentioned Germany, Austria, Switzerland and UK who have come forward and expressed interest in this Bi-Oceanic project. Bolivia invited India to be a partner and we have given our expertise in railways and the fact that we have one of the largest railway networks in the world and we do have companies like IRCON who have experience in working overseas. There was a letter of intent which was concluded so that we can look how to work in this project, whether through consultancy or through exchange of experiences. So this has been something our entry into Latin American region in the big infrastructure sector. To begin with, the project itself is at a very initial stages of conception but India has entered this project at a very early stage.

So that were broadly the discussions on the economic and the trade side and then we had detailed discussions on capacity building. In that field, we agreed to increase the number of capacity building slots that we have under ITEC program, we doubled the slots for Bolivia and separately President offered a $100 million line of credit to Bolivia which they could determine which project that they would like to undertake under this $100 million LoC that we have offered.

There was one sector on which there was detailed discussions and that was the health sector. The President of Bolivia spoke in terms of India’s strong strength in the pharmaceutical sector and he spoke of his priorities and focus on the health sector here in Bolivia. So in that context there are possibilities of seeing how our two countries can collaborate in the health sector, whether through training, exchange of best practices, supply of medical equipment and devices and setting up some hospital management and capacity building including, President mentioned, they were planning to set up a pharmaceutical complex.

So we discussed that possibility and also the President mentioned high degree of Cancer in Bolivia and whether there could be exchange of information on that. We referred to the work that has been done in India in getting the Bhabhatron device which is very good and we said that in case it is suitable to Bolivia, India would be ready to offer Bhabhatron for Bolivia.

We also discussed Ayurveda and traditional systems of medicines. There is understanding here as they are also a society which has a traditional knowledge in healthcare. So there was an MoU which was signed on traditional medicines.

I would also refer to one other aspect which was discussed in term of capacity building which is the signing of an MoU on training of diplomats. This was signed between two countries and that is another area of collaboration which was agreed to.

Coming back to traditional knowledge, this year is being celebrated as the International year of indigenous languages. So President of Bolivia referred to this and the fact that both India and Bolivia have a rich tradition of indigenous languages and that in fact brings us to the fact that both are ancient civilizations with huge diversity and that diversity itself makes for complementarity.

So, in all I would say that eight Agreements were concluded. Bolivia signed up the International Solar Alliance, we offered a $100 million line of credit and most importantly on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, President offered two busts of Mahatma Gandhi and one will be installed in Labas and the other would be installed in Santa Cruz out here. And on Gandhi Ji, today when President went to the University of Gabriel Rene Moreno, there was a plaque which he unveiled as one of the auditorium in that university is to be named after Mahatma Gandhi.

As I was concluding I can say that Rashtrapati Ji’s visit was very-very important in giving that political impulse to this relationship. Rashtrapati Ji’s whole discussions laid the roadmap for future cooperation and the areas of cooperation, it forged better understanding and we do hope that in the follow up to this visit there would be a lot of delegations which will be travelling between India and Bolivia to take forward the agenda.

Rashtrapati Ji thanked the President of Bolivia Evo Morales for the very warm hospitality. He invited him to visit India which invitation has been accepted.

So tomorrow morning there would be an interaction with the Indian community here. It is a small community about not more than 60 people. At that function Friends of India will be joining because like in many other parts of the world Indian culture is very well known. Yoga and Ayurveda is very popular so you would have a group of friends of India joining in. After addressing the Indian community Rashtrapati Ji would leave for the next leg of his visit to Latin America which is Chile. I will conclude here.

Director (XPD): Thank you very much madam for this detailed account of this very historical visit. Now I request Mr. Nimish Rustagi, Deputy Press Secretary to the President to make his remarks.

Deputy Press Secretary to the President, Mr. Nimish Rustagi:I think this has been a very extensive briefing by Secretary East. I would only say that President has been delighted to visit here. It has been an extremely positive visit from the President. This is the 19th country that the President is visiting since taking over as the President of India.

As Ma’am said the President offered President Evo Morales to visit India which has been accepted by him which shows the warmth and the positivity of the interactions that took place.

During the visit President also was conferred the highest Civilian Award of Bolivia and this follows the highest award which was given by the Croatian government before this. That again shows the interactions between India and Bolivia who are at the most positive level possible. The President dedicated the award to the friendship between Bolivia and India. I think I have nothing more to add so I will stop here.

Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Rashtrapti Ji ka daura jo Bolivia mein tha unki aaj wo baatcheet hui President of Bolivia ke saath. Ye baatcheet ek bahut hi positive atmosphere mein hui aur jo outcomes hue hain wo bhi bahut forward looking hain. Kai sectors hain jispe baatcheet hui jismein hamara cooperation badh sakta hai, dono deshon ka cooperation badh sakta hai chaahe wo ICT ka sector ho, chaahe wo health ka sector ho, chaahe wo natural resources ka sector ho, space ho. To ye bahut saare sectors hui jismein baatcheet hui aur jismein cooperation ki sambhaavna hain aur saari in sambhaavanaon ko aagey le jaane ka kya roadmap hai uske baare mein bhi baatcheet hui. To aage aane wala jo samay hain usmein delegations ki baatcheet chalti rahegi official level taaki jo ye sab kuch tay hua hai uska implementation ho.

Ye jo visit hua hai, pehli baar Bharat ke Rashtrapati is desh mein aaye hain. Hamare jo diplomatic sambandh hain wo 1981 mein establish kiye gaye they, utne saalon ke baad pahli baar ek high level visit hua hai ye hi apne aap mein bahut hi ek historic moment thaa aur bahut hi historic visit thaa.

Iski mahatvataa ko dekhate hue Bolivia ne Rashtrapati Ji ko highest civilian award diya hai aur ye award isliye diya hai kyonki Bharat unke liye ek mitra desh hai, aur Bharat ek bahut hi important desh hai unke liye aur Rashtrapati Ji ki jo yah yatra hai isne dono deshon ke sambandhon ko bahut mazboot kiya hai.

(Today during the visit of Rashtrapati Ji to Bolivia he had discussions with the President of Bolivia. The discussions were held in a very positive atmosphere and the outcomes are also very forward looking. There are many sectors where both nations can enhance our cooperation whether it is the ICT sector, health sector, natural resources or space. So these are many sectors on which we had discussions and where there are possibilities of cooperation and what is the roadmap for the possibilities of cooperation in these sectors. So in the coming future delegation level talks will continue at the official level so that all that has been agreed can be implemented on.

This is the first time that Indian President has visited Bolivia. Our diplomatic relations were established in 1981 and this is the first high level visit after so many years, this itself is a historic moment and a historic visit.

Recognizing its importance Bolivia has conferred Rashtrapati Ji with the highest civilian award and it has been conferred because India is a friend country for them and India is also a very important country for them. This visit of Rashtrapati Ji has strengthened the relations of both the countries.)

Director (XPD) : Thank you Ma’am. Now I would like our Ambassador of India to Bolivia to make his remarks.

Ambassador of India to Bolivia, Mr. Mandarapa Subbarayudu:I think Secretary has given very detailed account of the visit. This is special visit in the relationship. President Morales himself received Hon’ble Rashtrapati Ji and he has been with our President at various events. There was very warm and strong affection towards India. There were statements made by President expressing his country’s historical closeness and spiritual bond with India. So something that we were able to achieve during the visit.

As Secretary mentioned there are many positives, several agreements have been signed. They joined the International Solar Alliance. Energy has become an important sector, hydrocarbons, they were ready to collaborate with us. They essentially want to make India partner of their country. This is an important achievement.

Question: Croatia mein bhi Rashtrapati Ji ne Mahatma Gandhi ka ek bust diya, yahan par bhi do bust dene ki baat hui hai. Ye bahut achchi baat hai kyonki unki jo speeches hain usmein bhi kaafi baar unhone naam liya hai lekin Croatia mein as well as Bolivia mein, Mahatma Gandhi ko yahan hamne dekha hai ki yahan par jo universities hain unmein kaafi unka sammaan hai to jo bilateral talks hain, ya baaki jo delegation level talks hain ya fir jo other forums hain usmein Mahatma Gandhi ko kitna mahatva diya gaya aur yahan ke logon ka khastaur par jo Latin American desh hain unmein unka kitna samman hai?

(Rashtrapati Ji gifted a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Croatia, here too we are giving two busts. It is a very good thing because he has talked about Mahatma Gandhi in his speeches also both in Croatia as well as in Bolivia. We have seen that the Universities here have a lot of respect for Mahatma Gandhi. So what importance has been accorded to Mahatma Gandhi in the bilateral talks or delegation level talks and how the people of Latin American countries regard Mahatma Gandhi?)

Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Aapne bilkul theek kaha ki Rashtrapati Ji jab Croatia gaye they aur ab yahan hain, dono mein baatcheet hui ki, we will be giving a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, taaki wo install ho jaye in deshon mein.

Is baat ka mahatva ye hai ki is saal to 150th saalgirah hai Mahatma Gandhi Ji ke janm kii aur ismein ek ehsaas saari duniya mein ho raha hai, pehle bhi tha par ye jo anniversary ka samay hai, unke baare mei kaafi baatcheet hoti hai. President Morales ne khud kaha ki, what an important personality Mahatma Gandhi Ji was and how much he is admired here.

Aap kah rahe hain ki logon ke level par kya soch hai, aap university gaye they, aapne dekha tha ki yahan university mein ek hall unke naam par rakha jaa raha hai aur wahan saare youth they, aur un youth mein chaahe aap kisi se bhi pooch lena wahan har ek kahte they ki hum Mahatma Gandhi Ji ko jaante hain aur unki jo peace aur non-violence ki philosophy hai uske baare mein poori duniya mein jaankaari hai aur unka relevance sab maante hain.

(As you rightly said that Rashtrapati Ji has given bust of Mahatma Gandhi both in Croatia and here in Bolivia so that these can be installed in both the countries.

The importance of this is that this is the 150th anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi and there is a recognition of Mahatma Gandhi, it was there earlier also but during the anniversary year a lot of discussions are happening over Mahatma Gandhi. President Morales himself said, what an important personality Mahatma Gandhi Ji was and how much he is admired here.

You want to know about the perception of people about Mahatma Gandhi here. You have been to the university and you had seen that a hall was being named after Mahatma Gandhi and all of them present were youth of Bolivia. If you ask any of the youth there they are aware of Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of peace and non-violence is known world over and all of them accept its relevance.)

Question: Bharat ab Latin American deshon ki taraf ab kaafi jyada dhyaan de raha hai hamare videsh neeti mein. To Bolivia mein jo aaj itni achhi baatcheet hui, itni positive baatcheet hui, iska baki jo Latin American countries hain usmein iska kitna achha sandesh jaayega, aapko kya lagta hai aur kya response hamein milne wala hai?

(India is now giving a lot of importance to Latin America in its foreign policy. And the considerable positive discussions that we had in Bolivia, what message do you think this will convey to the other Latin American countries, what kind of response do you think we will be getting after this visit?)

Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Aapne bilkul theek kaha. Abhi agar aap pichhale teen mahine mein dekho, February ke mahine mein President of Argentina India aaye they aur usmein bhi jo outcome tha, jo talks thi, jo discussions they bahut positive they. Uske baad Up Rashtrapati Ji Paraguay aur Costa Rica gaye they aur wahan Paraguay aur Costa Rica mein bahut areas of cooperation identify hue aur wo forward movement mein hain.

Yahan Rashtrapati Ji aaye hain aur yahan bhi dekh rahe hain aap ki baatcheet kitni gahraai mein hoti hai aur kitni diversified fields mein hoti hai. To ye baat bilkul sach hai ki jo hamare rishte hain Latin American region se wo badh rahe hain aur uske upar jyada focus aa raha hai.

(As very rightly said by you if you look at the last three months, President of Argentina visited India in February and the talks and discussions during his visit and the outcomes were very positive. After that Vice President visited Paraguay and Costa Rica and many areas of cooperation were identified which are under forward movement.

Rashtrapati Ji is visiting Bolivia and you have witnessed the depth and the diversified fields of the discussions between both the countries. So it is absolutely true that our relations with Latin American region are moving ahead and there is a greater focus on that.)

Question: The President said that 30 companies are accompanying his delegation and you said that the feeling is very upbeat, so who is going to coordinate all this since we don’t have a mission here as of now?

Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: We have Ambassador here, of course he is based in Peru and he is concurrently accredited to Bolivia. So there would be a follow up by Ambassador completely. We did have a discussion regarding opening up a mission in Bolivia and it was conveyed to Bolivia that India is considering to open a mission here in Bolivia quite soon. So it will take its process but it was conveyed to Bolivia that we are thinking of opening a mission here quite soon.

Question Contd.: Can you give us specific timeline?

Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Time will be difficult because you know it is a process which has to be completed. It is a commitment which has been made and it will be a commitment that will be fulfilled.

Director (XPD): Since there are no other questions this press briefing comes is concluded.

(Concludes)
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