UK/India relations: Foreign Secretary's press conference, 29 July 2010

Transcript of press conference given by Foreign Secretary William Hague in New Delhi on Thursday, 29 July 2010

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague (WH): Let me say a few things to begin with and then we’ll have some questions.

The visit is going very well from our point of view. I think relations are excellent between the British and Indian governments. I had a round of meetings yesterday before the Prime Minister arrived in Delhi with the foreign and defence and the home ministers, which gives a flavour of the discussions that we’ll have later today. Obviously, the plenary session of the talks is later on today, early this evening.

With the Foreign Minister, Mr Krishna, I think we have established very good relations. I had a meeting with him in Kabul last week and, as I say, quite a lengthy meeting yesterday. One of the things to note on that is that, of course, we are supporters of India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, but they are also likely to be one of the elected members of the Security Council in any case from January 2011 for the two years that follow. So we’re already looking at how we work together with them on the UN Security Council in the next couple of years.

I had a meeting with the Defence Minister as well, Mr Antony, and we talked about the Hawk sales agreement that, as you know, the Prime Minister signed yesterday. We also discussed other opportunities. There are other major opportunities for defence exports for the United Kingdom and for technology transfer. We discussed a joint exercise to be conducted by the RAF with seven Typhoon aircraft later this year with India and how we could work together more on counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. And the Defence Secretary, I’ll come onto this in a minute with the other ministers who are visiting soon, the Defence Secretary will be out here in October for defence talks in conjunction with that exercise.

I also visited the Home Affairs Minister yesterday, who visited the UK in March and you’ll see later on today the hockey stadium, one of the stadiums for the Commonwealth Games, where really for the Games overall, not just for that stadium, the Metropolitan Police are doing good work with India, sharing our expertise on really how to bring together intelligence and information for a major sporting event, to give security for a major sporting event, strategic incident management. And there’s a Metropolitan Police group here this week conducting some of those sessions with the Indian police and other authorities. And we discussed with him intensifying our work on counterterrorism and intelligence cooperation in the coming months.

So these are the sorts of issues that are likely to be discussed by the Prime Ministers in the plenary session later on.

There are two other points I wanted to make. One is that this visit, which clearly is the largest British delegation to India that we’ve seen since the independence of India, will be followed up. It is not just a one-off event. A string of ministers are coming in the coming months: Damian Green next month on migration issues, Liam Fox in October, Andrew Mitchell in November to look at DFID’s programme in India, Baroness Warsi will be here in September, David Willetts will be back again in November, and of course the Prince of Wales will be coming for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. The Earl of Wessex will also be coming. The Archbishop of Canterbury will pay an extensive visit to India in October, although, as you are aware, he’s not part of the government. So there’s a lot of follow-up to this visit that we have in line.

The other point I wanted to make is that the India visit I think is a good example of how, 13 weeks into the new government, we have reinvigorated foreign policy in a couple of ways: one way in setting out to extend British influence in what I’ve called the ‘networked world’. That includes our work here in India, but also my visit to China two weeks ago, to Japan two weeks ago, which I think British ministers have somewhat neglected in previous years, the Gulf states, where we’ve set up a number of task forces and working groups with the UAE, with Bahrain, with Oman. And so India is very much part of that reinvigoration of British energy in dealing with emerging powers and emerging markets and of the commercial emphasis that we are giving to our foreign-policy work.

In the Foreign Office, I’m really setting three key objectives of security and prosperity and of protecting British citizens abroad. So after we’ve talked I’m going to the High Commission to speak to our staff and link up with the staff in Mumbai and in Chennai and in Bangalore to explain that to them, to get their questions, so the whole Foreign Office is pointing in that direction.

So we’re pleased with the visit so far and with where we stand on foreign affairs and the energy that’s gone into foreign affairs from the Prime Minister 13 weeks into the new government.

And that’s probably enough from me, so you can ask your questions.

(Question): We understand that President Zardari may be visiting the Prime Minister in Chequers next week. Was this arranged yesterday, after the Prime Minister’s comments, or was it always long-standing?

(WH): No, I can confirm that that visit is expected next week, at the end of next week, so the Prime Minister will have talks with President Zardari. That has been arranged for some time. It’s a visit I certainly discussed with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Mr Qureshi, last week when I was in Kabul. So that’s been planned for some weeks.

(Question): Do you think the talks might be slightly more tense now than they were, as a result of the PM’s comments yesterday?

(WH): No. I went to Pakistan myself for three days last month and saw the President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. There’s always a lot to talk about with Pakistan and, of course, the work we do on terrorism and the importance of tackling all forms of terrorism and terrorist threat is always part of that. So I think it’s very important for us to keep up those discussions with Pakistan and it’s excellent the President is visiting the UK next week.

(Question): Given the sensitivities here, do you think the Prime Minister might have been a more careful in his words in response to the question yesterday when he said that democratic states who wanted to join the developed world should be careful, that Pakistan risked looking two ways, that it shouldn’t promote terrorism?

(WH): Well, the Prime Minister speaks the truth and we’re all united and clear and happy about what he said. So no, I think that’s fine.

(Question): Can I just ask you which elements of the authorities in Pakistan, because it was on the Today programme a few minutes later he said that there are authorities in Pakistan who mustn’t look both ways? Which elements, which authorities in Pakistan are not following the example of the Pakistan government, which is obviously doing a good job?

(WH): He wasn’t picking out specific authorities. The Prime Minister’s point, as I think he also made clear on the Today programme, was that it would be unacceptable for threats within Pakistan, talking about the country rather than the government, to be creating a terrorist threat elsewhere. So I think that was very clear.

(Question): Will you be making clear to the Indians that you don’t think any Pakistani authorities are involved in supporting terrorism?

(WH): Well, we’ll be discussing counterterrorism with the Indians, but I don’t think we’ll be going into details about the internal workings of Pakistan in our discussions with India today.

(Question): What representations have been made by Pakistan to us following the Prime Minister’s remark yesterday?

(WH): I haven’t received any representations as Foreign Secretary. I think there are some reported comments in the press.

(Question): Yes, other than the reported comments in the press have there been any formal representations to the Foreign Office?

(WH): Not that I’m aware of, no.

(Question): Is the British government wholly satisfied with the role the ISI is now playing? It was well documented in the past that they recruited and helped to create the Taliban. Are you 100% comfortable with precisely whom they’re dealing in terms of Afghanistan now?

(WH): Well, we work with them on counterterrorism, of course, and we work with the government of Pakistan. We can’t know everything that happens in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but we very much acknowledge that Pakistan has itself suffered some very serious terrorist incidents, that hundreds of soldiers in Pakistan have lost their lives prosecuting a war against terrorism and insurgency. So we simply make the point that it’s important to deal with all forms of terrorism and of course we look for good cooperation with intelligence services around the world, including in Pakistan.

(Question): Can you explain the different between talking about a government and a country? Do you think anybody in the Foreign Office sees that there might be somewhat of a clash between the Prime Minister’s fondness for speaking plainly and the inch-by-inch care with which diplomacy is carried out?

(WH): On the second point, I do not think there is a clash between those. The Prime Minister is a great diplomat and I see that in action every day when he is dealing with foreign leaders. He is a natural at it, so I do not think you should have any worries on that score.

There is a very major difference between governments and countries sometimes, because as we know it is acknowledged that there have been some terrorist incidents linked to Pakistan but not necessarily to the government of Pakistan. That is why we say in the case of Mumbai that it is very important that anyone associated with that terrorist attack is brought to justice. That is something being dealt with within Pakistan, but not the government of Pakistan, so there is a difference between the two.

(Question): Is David Cameron speaking for the government or the country, then?

(WH): The Prime Minister speaks for the government and the country, fortunately, since he is such a popular Prime Minister.

(Question): What is the difference between a state and a country? What is the difference between a state and a government?

(WH): I think we shall have to go to the dictionary for those.

(Question): Do you think the Prime Minister set out on this trip to offend two countries in two days?

(WH): No, and I do not think that is what has happened. The Prime Minister, on his visit to Turkey and India, has really strengthened the relations with both of those countries very, very effectively. Relations with all other countries concerned are also going well. No, I do not think so.

(Question): To follow up on that, the Prime Minister’s comments have obviously gone down well in India, as his comments on Gaza did in Turkey. Is there new approach of insulting the neighbour of every country you go to? Is there any limit to that?

(WH): No, you will know the Prime Minister is very consistent wherever he is. He does not shrink from giving sometimes tough messages to people. He does not shrink from doing that to their faces, as well as wherever he is around the world. I do not think you will find any inconsistency in his approach.

(Question): From the talks you have had so far, have you heard any representations about the immigration camp the coalition was talking about?

(WH): Not from the ministers concerned, I do not think, but certainly newspaper editors, business people and so on bring up the subject. That is true and there is a consultation. Damian Green, the minister responsible for it, will be here next month to take account of these representations. It is very important for business people and students to be able to visit the United Kingdom, so the representations made during our consultations will all be taken into account. I think we will find a way through that successfully.

(Question): Briefly, can you tell us what the Prime Minister is expecting to sign later with Prime Minister Singh?

(WH): The Cultural Memorandum of Understanding is probably what you are talking about. We can give you the details of that.

(Question): To follow up on Damian coming up next month, is that a formal consultation on immigration?

(WH): The formal consultation involves sending in submissions to the Home Office in the consultation. If you like, it is an informal part of the consultation, but certainly you will be able to listen to all these representations and views.

(Question): Do you really think that the largest delegation since the Raj has enhanced relations or, when you look at the number of Indian students going to the UK and US, do you fear we lost out and India is really just looking to the US?

(WH): No, the number of students going to the UK has increased recently. There is no doubt that this has made a huge impact and coming so early in the life of the new government and in such strength and so well accompanied, as you know, by so many figures from the business and sporting world has made a huge impact on the Indian leader and, indeed, on the Indian government. They have really noticed it and are extremely enthusiastic about it. That is the feedback that I received from the members of the Indian cabinet that I met yesterday. It has certainly made an impact.

(Question): On the Home Affairs minister and the business of GCHQ in March, what more can you say about the formal and deepening intelligence relationship?

(WH): Not much, for obvious reasons, but there is an intelligence relationship. There is much satisfaction with that on the part of India. It will continue and be intensified. That is all I can say.

(Question): A tiny bit more on that, as the Secretary responsible for GCHQ, as part of growing important security relationships with places like India, would you sanction GCHQ to carry out any work for other independent nation states such as India?

(WH): Carry out work for other nation states? GCHQ works closely with many other countries, of course. Our relationship with the US on intelligence is well known. We cooperate with a wide range of other countries.

(Question): That does not mean saying, ‘Can you listen to this person for us? Can you listen to that person for us?’

(WH): I cannot go into detail about what cooperation means.

(Question): Yesterday, you talked about building a special relationship with India, but I have not heard you or the Prime Minister use that phrase until you arrived in the country.

(WH): I have used it on a television interview I gave yesterday. We use several words - also an ‘enhanced’ relationship that we talked about in the Queen’s Speech; an ‘intensified’ relationship I am talking about at other times. It adds up to being pretty special, I think, what we are doing here. What you will see today adds up to being pretty special, so we are not afraid of that word.

(Question): By making India a priority, do you accept that you have made the relative standing of our relations with Pakistan and China a bit less important, because we are focusing so much on India, and that there is a price to that?

(WH): It is not a zero-sum game. I went to China to conduct the strategic dialogue with China two weeks ago. The Prime Minister will visit China before too long, so we are continuing the close dialogue with China.

Overall, I feel the Labour government did quite a good job of relations with China, so there it is strong continuity in our policy. We are building on what has been achieved in recent times, as did the previous Conservative government for that matter. With India, there is a greater need for a reinvigoration of the relationship and new approaches, and that is reflected in the importance we have given this visit and the fact the Prime Minister has led such a visit early on. What is required is different to India and China, but it is not a zero-sum game.

In Pakistan, Andrew Mitchell visited in early June. I visited last month. Baroness Warsi has been there also. A strong partnership with the government of Pakistan dealing with its problems is also a key element of our approach to this region. That requires energy across the board. It requires us to do all of that, as well as to intensify the relationship with Japan, so it is an ambitious agenda in Asia for the coalition government, but we are delivering on all of those aspects and have applied ourselves to all of those aspects in the first three months of the government.

I should speak to the staff, so have a good day.

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Published 29 July 2010