Question: Data localization has been quite a sticky point with the US, have there been any talks on this topic or we expect something to come up regarding this?
Question: What are going to be the major deliverables of this visit?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On H1B visa you are aware that we have remained engaged with the administration and the Congress on this issue of movement of Indian professionals. In our engagement we have highlighted the role, which is being played by Indian professionals in the partnership. We feel that Indian skilled professionals have contributed to the growth and development of the US economy and they have also helped the US in retaining the competitive edge and innovation. It is a matter which is very important to us and we do expect that the movement of Indian professionals is part of the agenda which could come up for discussion. There are different formats of talks and what exactly happens we will brief you on the day of the visit, but we do expect to come up because it is important topic to us.
On the first lady’s visit, this is being organised by the US Embassy... at this point of time I do not have any confirmation about any visit to a school.
On Howdy Modi program, whether who all are being invited, this is an event which is being organised by Donald Trump Naagrik Abhinandan Samiti. They are the ones who are taking a decision on who to be invited so this question should be addressed to them.
On the key deliverables, I think we have to understand this visit and see this visit in the context of a certain maturity which we have reached in the relationship and this is something which is missed time and again... There is a growing comfort level between the two countries. There is a good chemistry between the two leaders and also the visit is taking place in the context of regular meetings at high levels between the two countries.
We are aware that both leaders have personally invested in this relationship. Over the years we have seen how the canvas of the relationship has expanded to include newer areas of cooperation and if you can break it down you actually see that there has been huge support to the relationship. A bipartisan support in the Congress as well as from the executive branch and that is reflected in the kind of growth and expansion which we have seen in this relationship in the last few years.
If you look at the intensity of ministry level exchanges, I think that is unprecedented. India–US, the two-plus-two dialogue, which took place in December last year, very successful outcome rich meeting. Our defence relations have expanded significantly and you are familiar with the two agreements... like LEMOA and COMCASA. We have initiated a joint Tri-Services HADR Exercise named Tiger Triumph as an annual exercise. The US now is the largest trading partner in goods and services and this is growing at a very healthy pace. There is a growing cooperation in counter-terrorism; there is good exchange of views on Indo-Pacific where we have established a very promising partnership. When visits take place, we do expect all these aspects of the relationship to further strengthen, so when you say key deliverables, you know there is a huge canvas and we do expect that during the visit all these areas will be further strengthened. Of course, when a visit takes place the two leaders will meet, there will be an exchange of views on regional and global issues as well but overall we are looking at this visit to strengthen the strategic global partnership between India and the United States.
On data localisation, you see I can’t really say in what context it will really come up. There is quite a big agenda which the leaders will have in front of them. This will not be the first time that the discussion will take place. Our views are known and let’s hope that we will be able to share some details on some of the discussions which we have with the US side on the 25th.
Question: You mentioned about energy security, is there any specific thing likely to happen on the nuclear front because the nuclear deal is kind of stalemated somewhere ?
...Kumar: On the nuclear cooperation front Westinghouse and NPCIL they are in discussion to build six, 1,100 MW reactors at Kovvada, A(Andhra)P. Following resolution of Westinghouse’s bankruptcy issues, the two sides are in discussion regarding the division of responsibility of the work. NPCIL has visited the US reference plant to understand the Westinghouse’s modular construction methodology.
Question: If there (is) no trade deal..., when do you hope there will be one?
...Kumar: ...you are aware that we have been engaging with the US for quite some time now. We do hope to reach an understanding with an outcome that strikes the right balance for both sides and these are complex negotiations. We would not like to rush into a deal as... there are many decisions which actually could affect or impact lives of millions of people on the ground and some also with long-term economic consequences. So we don’t want to create any artificial deadline... if you look at the history of such trade negotiations and deals, they have taken their own time and... just creating an artificial deadline..., I don’t think it is a wise decision. I think it is counter-productive. So for us the interest of the people is paramount and when we approach a discussion and enter into such negotiations I think that is right at the top of our mind. At the same time the relationship which we see in terms of trade and services, ...investments, they have grown year-on-year. The trade itself has grown 10 per cent per annum over the last two years. We are also looking at a much more balanced trade with India importing civil aircrafts and securing energy supplies from the US. Around five MoUs are under discussion in the areas of intellectual property, homeland security. We are also looking at a joint statement, which will basically capture the essence of the partnership...
Edited excerpts from a briefing by Raveesh Kumar, spokesman, Ministry of External Affairs, February 20, in New Delhi