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Salman Khurshid welcomes UK Secretary of State

Posted on Nov 09, 10:06AM | IBNS

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Thursday welcomed the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of United Kingdom William Hague in India.

Khursid said, "I am delighted that we have with us a friend of India and a person that you are all familiar with, an outstanding friend of our country. For me, I am privileged to have someone from my old University join me here in these august surroundings. I am indeed delighted that I am welcoming His Excellency as the first serving Foreign Minister in our country after I took office. I look forward to a very very significant and a very wholesome relationship of our work together both for bilateral and for multilateral issues."

William Hague said, "Thank you very much indeed. I am delighted to return to India and I am very grateful to my new counterpart His Excellency Shri Salman Khurshid for the warm welcome he has extended to me today. And I am pleased to be among the first Foreign Ministers to have the chance to discuss with him the many pressing challenges that we face together."

"On our election in 2010, the British Government made clear that we would invest significantly in many ways in the UK-India relationship to build a stronger and wider and deeper partnership together. For us this is an essential pillar in our broader strategy to build far closer relations with the powers of the South and the East and the world. I have often said that I believe that 21stcentury more than any previous period will be shaped by India.

Since 2010 our partnership has truly become stronger, wider and deeper already, and we are on course to hit our target of doubling trade by 2015. British companies are leading the way, investing in India in key sectors such as energy, telecommunications and education. The largest single foreign investments into India are British by Vodafone and by BP. As the Minister has said, this is a two-way process. Indian companies have chosen to invest more in the United Kingdom than in the whole of the rest of the European Union combined with great success as Tata's investments in companies such as Jaguar and Land Rover have shown.

Beyond business, the finest minds in our two countries are increasingly working together for the benefit of both our nations and the world. Our joint Government-led research funding has now passed 100 million pounds compared to one million pounds three years ago. I am delighted that each year over 30,000 ambitious young Indians choose the United Kingdom for their higher education. And as home to four of the world's top ten Universities, I am confident that Britain offers these students the very best in their pursuit of knowledge.

I am also pleased with the progress we are making to strengthen our civil nuclear cooperation both commercially and through our research institutions. We have also agreed, as you have heard, a communique to steer our future cooperation on cyber security. This agreement confirms our shared commitment to the core principles of liberty, transparency, freedom of expression and the rule of law in cyberspace.

Our diplomatic networks play a vital role in creating opportunities for partnership. Since 2010 we have agreed to open two new Deputy High Commissions in Hyderabad and Chandigarh. The British diplomatic presence in India is now more extensive than that of any other nation, and we hope to develop this further over the coming years. And our recent decision to re-engage with the Government of Gujarat now offers us the chance to strengthen our ties across the breadth of India.

Our partnership is not limited to cooperation on British or Indian soil. We have worked increasingly closely together on matters of international security, not only cyber security as we mentioned but counter-terrorism and the security of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials. We have also worked closely together with India during her tenure on the United Nations Security Council, and we look forward to the time when India has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. We also support India's membership of the International export control regimes.

I know that we will discuss a range of other foreign policy issues later including Afghanistan and also other issues in India's neighbourhood on which we greatly value India's counsel and cooperation.

We will discuss, I am sure, the situation in Syria where the British Government, we are appalled by the regime's brutal repression. I welcome India's support over recent months for a stronger role for the UN in bringing an end to the violence in Syria. I think we are both committed to pursuing a peaceful political transition and working to support the work of the UN-Arab League Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in his efforts to achieve this.

So, ours is a genuine partnership of equals between the UK and India that we have done a lot to build up over the last two and a half years. But there are many more exciting opportunities, and we look forward to taking this on to the next stage and to being a partner of choice for India in many areas over the years to come."

When asked what has changed after twenty years UK lift their travel advisory to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Hague said, "What has changed is the situation on the ground. We take our travel advice very very seriously in the UK and we only change it if the facts have changed. Our travel advice is never political. It seeks to give genuine travel advice for the safety of travellers across the world."

"There has been an improvement in the situation. It is possible to say that people can travel to certain places that have been too difficult or dangerous for them to go to for a long time. That is obviously a good development. Our advice is always based on our understanding of the facts, and that is true in this case."

The Foreign Secretary on the issue of UK cutting development aid to India, said, "In the British Government this is the responsibility not of me but of my colleague Justine Greening the International Development Secretary. She has been here recently discussing these things. We are not discussing this today although I have discussed it with the Finance Minister earlier today."

"I think the Governments of the UK and India has agreed on the way forward on this issue and my colleague Justine Greening will make a statement about this in the very near future. So, I do not want to preempt or cut across what she is going to say. You would not have long to wait to hear how we intend to proceed. We have had, she has had in particular, good and thorough discussions with our Indian colleagues."

Khurshid asserted, "I can only add to you that if we did not discuss it, it did not merit discussion. We discussed a lot of trade, investment, cooperation, international, bilateral, multilateral. And I think that is how we see our relationship grow. Aid is the past and trade is the future. So, we are looking at the future. Every era, every moment in history has its own uniqueness and peculiarity and I think we should look at the immense potential that we have together. We are comforted in the knowledge that we seem to be working in the right direction and we certainly look forward to major things happening in the future."

Hague commenting on the situation in Syria said, "I am concerned that the longer the crisis in Syria goes on, the greater is the opportunity for extremist groups to gain a foothold or to increase their strength or to recruit foreign fighters into Syria. This is why it is so important, so urgent to achieve a resolution of this crisis. And this is the case that we make to our colleagues on the Security Council including to Russia and China who vetoed our last resolution attempting to address this in July."

"So, this is a danger. It is a serious danger. It is one of the reasons why it is important for opposition groups to work together as we are encouraging them to do. As you know, there is a meeting taking place in Doha. Our own Special Representative of the United Kingdom is at that meeting, is working with them. We want to see in the future a free and democratic Syria in which everybody will be able to discuss their differences, stand for election against each other. But in this terrible crisis in their country it is important that they come together with a common platform and a common ability to negotiate about the future. So, we strongly encourage them to do that. That is part of seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis."

"It remains of course a desperately urgent crisis. The humanitarian situation is deteriorating all the time. In the absence of a resolution of the crisis we will continue to step up our humanitarian assistance. We will give non-lethal support to the opposition and to opposition groups particularly in communications, equipment, water purification equipment, equipment that saves lives. And we will work with other countries on the day after Assad, what happens after Assad, because Syria will need a lot of help at that point. And we will be ready to provide some of that help."

The External Affairs Minister said, "I think that I need not add too much to that. Stakeholders and people who have taken greater interest in Syria have the support of all peace-loving people. We do want a resolution and a quick resolution because the situation is beginning to look alarming. We have an interest in peace and we will continue to support all efforts that are being made to bring a peaceful resolution."

"It is a very difficult situation and we do not want to make it more difficult by adding anything that would not be very helpful. So, I think at present it is best to go by the efforts that are being made by the UN and to support the UN efforts. And in a sensitive manner whatever one can communicate between stakeholders to ensure that we move forward in the direction is something that we will continue to do."

On India and UK dealing with the issue of radicalization of a certain section of their population and its consequent fall-out terrorism, Khurshid noted, "I would like to put on record our appreciation for the sensitive cooperation that we have seen from United Kingdom. At different levels we are constantly in touch. This is a common concern for both of us and certainly it is for all our partners in the rest of the world."

"Of course you have to remain one step ahead of unwholesome forces which I hope that we will be able to do. There are issues that each nation has to tackle for itself vis--vis its own population. And I think that there are many ways in which my own personal experience is that UK does that wonderfully well in terms of inter-community bonding and social factors that emerge because of changing circumstances."

"We do the same for ourselves. We are a much larger country and, therefore, the effort required is much greater. Their effort would be perhaps more limited in terms of numbers that are involved. But I think we are both sensitive about these issues and we are addressing them both internally as well as bilaterally where there is a bilateral concern. I would say that there is no reason for anyone to feel concerned unduly. Matters are being taken care of, being addressed and addressed with reasonable success."

The Secretary of State asserted, "This is a very important point. We have emphasized of course the tremendous economic opportunity and educational opportunities for our countries. But we have also been determined in recent years to intensify our cooperation on matters which helped maintain the security of the citizens of our countries."

"So, we have improved our cooperation on counter-terrorism in many different ways. We have discussed that this morning. We are also clear that we can continue to do more in that area. We hope there will be official level talks in the near future about this. Both our countries have terrible and tragic experience of terrorist attack."

"Both of us, therefore, have experience in the importance of counter-terrorism cooperation. Part of that of course is countering radicalization. Again there are lessons that we can share with each other. And that can be an important part of our discussions on these issues."