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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson, Chief of Protocol and Director (East Asia) on the State visit of Emperor and Empress of Japan to India

November 28, 2013

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here this afternoon. As you are all aware, one of the biggest moments in terms of our diplomatic engagement this year will begin later during the week and that is the visit of the Emperor and Empress of Japan to India from the 30th November.

For many of us this is a first in many ways. It is a first in the sense that it is the first time that the Emperor and Empress of Japan are coming to India. It is also a first that India has hosted the same two dignitaries on a state visit after a lapse of fifty years. It has never happened before in the history of independent India.

As you are all aware of the importance that we place on this visit, I have requested our Chief of Protocol who is here with us, Ms. Ruchira Kamboj, to come along and explain to you the efforts that we have made to ensure the success of this visit. We also have with us, for many of you an old friend, Director (East Asia) Mr. Shambhu Kumaran who is right now handling the visit. He will respond to any questions that you may have on the visit other than the protocol aspects.

I will now ask the Chief of Protocol to brief you. Then if you have any questions for her on her briefing or for Director (East Asia), they will both be willing to answer. As usual, we will open the floor for any questions that you may have on other issues. With that I would request the Chief of Protocol to make her opening remarks.

Chief of Protocol (Ms Ruchira Kamboj):Thank you Akbar and good afternoon everybody. I am delighted to be here and to brief you on the programme elements of this most significant visit.

To begin from the very beginning, Their Majesties will arrive on the 30thof November. It is a six-day visit in all. So, it is a longish visit. They will be arriving on the 30th of November which is a Saturday. Then moving on to Sunday 1st December, there would be some private time where they will be taking a walk in Lodhi Garden.

On the 2ndof December, which is Monday the main day of engagement, there would be the ceremonial welcome for Their Majesties at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Thereafter, Their Majesties would pay their respects at Raj Ghat. After Raj Ghat they would proceed for a meeting with the Prime Minister at Hyderabad House.

Following that there are a couple of private engagements, a visit to the Jawaharlal Nehru University. And finally that day the main event, the most significant event, is the meeting with the President followed by the customary banquet, which is very traditional for a state visit, followed by the farewell tete-a-tete.

The next day, that is Tuesday 3rd December, there would be a visit to the India International Centre. This is quite significant also because Their Majesties had laid the foundation stone sixty years ago. Thereafter, their next two engagements are two calls on at the hotel, the first by the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the second by the Vice-President of India. Thereafter, that day there is some time where there will be some private engagements on their part.

And then we move on to Wednesday, 4th December. Fourth December is the day when they will emplane for Chennai. It is a two-city visit – Delhi and Chennai. So, on the 4th in the morning they will leave for Chennai. Their main engagement that day will be to visit the Kalakshetra Foundation.

The next day, Thursday 5th December, which is effectively their last day in India, they would be visiting the Children’s Park at the Guindy National Park in Chennai. Then of course there will be the main meeting, the meeting with the Governor followed by a lunch that will be hosted by the Governor in honour of Their Majesties.

After the lunch and some downtime, they will visit the Spastic Society of Tamil Nadu, and round up their visit with a couple of private engagements in the hotel where they will meet representatives of Japanese expatriates in Chennai. They would be emplaning for Tokyo on the night of 5th December. So, altogether it is a six-day visit.

Needless to add as I round up that this is a state visit and a visit I think on which the Ministry of External Affairs has worked extremely hard, and now we are much looking forward to welcoming Their Majesties to India.

Thank you.

Official Spokesperson: Before we open the floor for questions, since all of you represent media organisations we just like to tell you for example, if any of you are interested you can contact our colleagues, we have been able to dig out footage and photographs of their last visit and these are available with us. If any of you would like to know what were the places they visited, what were the photographs, these are all available. We are also showcasing them on our website. Some of you may have seen that on a day-to-day basis we put in different video footage and photograph because it is also a visit of nostalgia as far as India hosting the same dignitaries who have been here 50 years ago. We have never had that occasion.

With those words I now open the floor for questions that you may want to ask on anything.

Question:Who is going to the Palam airport to welcome the Emperor? Is Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh also going?

Chief of Protocol: We will have a complement of senior officials at the airport which is the standard norm for a state visit. There will be a Minister Accompanying who will also be at the airport. And for this particular visit the Minister Accompanying is the External Affairs Minister Mr. Salman Khurshid.

As far as the Prime Minister’s presence at the airport is concerned, which point you have raised, matters are still under finalisation. These aspects are being finalised. But yes there might be a possibility of this. But I should also hasten to add in that vein that if this happens, this will not be the first time. There have been a couple of visits, the most notable in the recent past being that of President Obama where the Prime Minister has gone to the airport to receive a distinguished visitor. So, let us wait and see.

Official Spokesperson: Just to add to what she said, all that we have said is indicative that we are placing the utmost importance on this visit, and the highest importance that India can extend. So, please be certain that every aspect of protocol and importance will be given at every level to ensure that this will be a memorable visit.

Question:Actually I would like to know whether there is any special thing about choosing Chennai for visit.

Chief of Protocol: As far as Chennai is concerned, before any visit there are lots of rounds of negotiations with the country’s Embassy based in New Delhi. Here I would like to tell you that it was the choice of the Japanese. The Japanese decided that they would like to take Their Majesties to Chennai for the second leg of the visit.

Question:This visit is also about the parameters of our relationship, the fact that there is a China angle here. Can you give us something about the way defence ties are progressing and what is it that we are looking at?

Director (East Asia) (Shri Shambhu S. Kumaran):I think one must bear in mind very clearly that this visit from the Japanese side is a visit that is very high in symbolism. And the practice in Japan is for the Emperor to be studiously away from political issues and contemporary issues, and we would respect the Japanese sentiments on this. The nature of the visit is that it is a highly symbolic visit. The Japanese Emperor is the symbol of the Japanese state and the people. Essentially the way in which the discussions would carry on would, therefore, focus on the extraordinary maturity of the relationship over the past several decades.

As you know, we celebrated last year the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. We have a very strong popular connectivity in terms of spirituality, culture, people-to-people exchanges. So, this visit to a certain degree is a manifestation of that aspect of the relationship rather than getting into the points that you had mentioned.

Question:This meeting between the representatives of the Japanese expatriates and the Emperor, is it a courtesy call or is it on the request of the representatives of the Japanese expatriates that this has been planned?

Chief of Protocol: This particular meeting that you are talking about has been organised completely by the Japanese side. This is their programme and they have led on this. So, this is not part of the programme that MEA has led on. This is their programme.

Official Spokesperson: And it is normal for Heads of Government or Heads of State when they go out to have this sort of thing. We also do that regularly.

Director (East Asia): If I may add, I think in terms of Chennai as you know there is a very large concentration of Japanese expatriates there. So, we suspect that it may also have been a factor in deciding to visit Chennai.

Question:I hear that Mr. Salman Khurshid has met or seen the Japanese Emperor when he came here in 1961. Is it true?

Official Spokesperson: I did ask the Minister this question and he did indicate that his grandfather was the Governor of Bihar at that stage. And the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess did visit Nalanda. He said that he was I think seven years old at that stage. He has very fond memories of that. And he has specifically requested that we collect as many photos of their visit to Patna. And we have been able to collect those photos and hand them over to the Minister who is very nostalgic and remembers this with great fondness.

Question:What is our understanding of why the Emperor has chosen to visit India now? I am asking this because the invitation from India to the Emperor had apparently been pending for more than ten years now, and such visits take place apparently only at the advice of the Japanese Cabinet. Could you provide us with some understanding?

Director (East Asia): Of course we are deeply honoured that he has chosen to visit us and it would be, I would say, impolitic for us to speak as to why he chose to visit us now. Our invitation, as you correctly pointed out, has been a longstanding one. We have invited him repeatedly. I think we are looking at this visit, as I mentioned earlier, as a reflection of the depth and maturity of the relationship and I do not think we want to read anything more into why now, why not earlier, etc.

Question:Sir, is there any proposal of Prime Minister of Japan’s visit to India in coming months?

Official Spokesperson: You know that both India and Japan have an annual dialogue. There was a dialogue earlier this year and it is normal that there would be one next year too.

Question:Does this visit have any bearing on the strategic partnership? And does it impact in any way on the nuclear negotiations?

Director (East Asia): Subhojit, I am just trying to draw up the framework for this visit here and I am trying to bring to your attention that the Japanese Emperor’s visits, which are very rare, are essentially manifestations of goodwill and popular sentiment towards another country, a friendly country. We do not want to, as you are suggesting, look at this in a very narrow prism in terms of day-to-day, or shall we say immediate, or medium term diplomatic issues. The way in which we are looking at this relationship is as a symbol of the goodwill of the Emperor and the Japanese people towards India. And as I said, we are very honoured to be able to accept this goodwill gesture from the Japanese side.

Question:Any agreement of importance likely to be signed during the visit, of any historic importance?

Director (East Asia): No agreements envisaged during the visit.

Official Spokesperson: I think all of you would do best to you ask your Japanese colleagues here about the role that the Emperor plays in Japanese society and government. I think with that background information many of your questions will be answered because there are specific norms that these visits follow and the role of the Japanese Emperor, and those norms are being abided by during this visit too.

Official Spokesperson: Since there are no more questions on the visit, now the floor is open for questions on anything else.

Question:India has given the dossiers on 26/11 to Pakistan. But the lawyer for the seven accused has said that the evidence is a sham and is insufficient evidence for the court.

Official Spokesperson: Ranjana, if your question is that should I respond to some nondescript individuals, my answer is that I will not do so. But if your question is a little bit more substantive and do you think that India would just allow this somebody to wish away what is a deeply felt national sentiment that the perpetrators of 26/11 should be brought to book, my answer is that we will never allow that wish list to ever happen. Not now, not later, not ever.

Now if your question is about the quality of evidence that we have provided, my understanding is that when we have had discussions with our Pakistani counterparts including the recent visit of Mr. Sartaj Aziz to Delhi, we were assured repeatedly that all that they wanted was provided to them from information that they had asked us for.

Having said that, I would also like to emphasise that it is our firmly held belief that 99 per cent of that evidence on the 26/11 case is available in Pakistan because this conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan; the people who undertook this were nationals of Pakistan; the training for this attack was undertaken in Pakistan; the financing for this attack was through banking or other channels which are in Pakistan. Therefore, it devolves on the Government of Pakistan to ensure that evidence is provided from what is available with them given the expanse of the evidence and the entire range of activities that were undertaken there prior to this attack. I hope I have answered all aspects of your question.

Question:Bangladesh is facing poll violence now. Assam and West Bengal share a 4,000 km border with Bangladesh. Are you worried that this poll violence may impact India?

Official Spokesperson: Bangladesh is a democratic country which periodically goes to the polls. We have had our engagement with Bangladesh when they have had previous polls. We respect their decisions to choose freely and democratically their governments. Therefore, we wish them all the best in that endeavour, and we do not see this as anything antithetical to our security or our safety.

Question:Regarding the Italian marines, I saw in Hindustan Times today a report about NIA seeking death penalty for the marines. Can you confirm the news? Also can you explain what is the position of the MEA regarding this issue?

Official Spokesperson: Maria, you know that from this platform we do not comment on issues of an inter-Ministerial or inter-agency nature. Therefore, I do not have anything to say on reporting on this. But if you would like to know the Government of India’s position on this, I think you should refer to the statement made on the floor of Parliament on 22ndMarch, 2013 by the External Affairs Minister. It is available on our website. I could read out portions of that but it is available. It explains clearly what is the Government of India’s position. If your argument is that there may be some developments where x, y, z may have felt something at this stage, I can assure you the Government of India intends to abide by those statements that were made on the floor of the House in Parliament, and any decision that we take will be a considered one taking into account the policy framework that has been articulated in that statement to Parliament.

Question:Akbar, this is a question for you and Shambhu. As you know, the eagle has over flown the dragon land. I am referring to the over-flight of two unarmed B2 bombers over China’s so-called ADIZ. What are your comments on that? And there are also reports that China is mulling over a similar India-specific ADIZ.

Official Spokesperson: Rajiv, I think I will answer that question. There is no need for two people to answer that. All I can say is that we are aware of newspaper reports and other reports on this issue. And once we have a statement to make, you will be the first to know about that.

Question:Is President Karzai visiting India next month on the invite of the Government of India? What will be on the agenda when he comes?

Official Spokesperson: I can confirm that President Karzai will be visiting India, and this is in connection with an invitation he has received from an educational organisation. This is going to be during the second week of December.

As you are aware, the last time he visited India he was invited by the Lovely University in Punjab. On this occasion, this is another educational institution that has invited him. And let me assure you, whenever President Karzai comes to India as an honoured guest, he always does meet all important sections of Indian society including our leadership. So, he will be received by the Prime Minister of India during his next visit to India in the second week of December.

Question: Which is the organisation which has invited him?

Official Spokesperson:I think it would be best if that university or that group of educational institutions makes this public because this is an invitation from them. I have confirmed to you that the Prime Minister will meet him during his visit here. Now it is only proper for that educational organisation to make public the nature of their invitation.

But as far as we in Government are concerned, every time President Karzai, who is a great friend of India, visits India - and he is always welcome to do so – he will be received with appropriate honour that we extend to friends of India.

Question:Is the institution in Delhi?

Official Spokesperson: I can play this game with you a little bit more and I will answer that its headquarters are not in Delhi.

Question:Regarding Central African Republic which is descending to chaos and the UN is seeking troops, as one of the major contributors in the peacekeeping operations, is India planning to contribute?

Official Spokesperson: We will let you know once we take a decision on that.

Question:Back to Their Majesties visit again.

Official Spokesperson: Welcome.

Question:Her Majesty the Empress was supposed to be visiting India in 1998 to take part in an international conference but for obvious reasons the Japanese Government allowed her not to go to India. But anyway she took part not directly but through sending a video message of keynote speech to that conference. How does the present day Government of India take her decision back then?

Director (East Asia): As you rightly said, the Empress had addressed the Congress of the International Board on Books for Young People. And we are aware of her great interest in children’s literature. We have also been told that she has a great interest in the Panchatantra. And I think we are going to let it rest at that.

Question:My question is about the Chinese Air Defence ...

Official Spokesperson: I think I have answered that question.

Question:Yes, but India’s flights are also going to fly over that area. For example, the Japanese Government has said that their companies do not need to reply to that. What is India’s reaction on that?

Official Spokesperson: I have just answered that question. You will now be the second person to be informed of it since Rajiv is the first. He has taken over that slot.

Question:If you are having a briefing on WTO Ministerial at Bali, then it is okay. Otherwise I wanted to ask about the peace clause. What is India’s stand on the two-year, four-year thing? And what are the other issues besides this food thing that India puts upfront at the Ministerial?

Official Spokesperson: Sandip, my understanding is that the Ministry of Commerce will have a separate detailed briefing on all these aspects. So, let us wait for that.

Question:Following the interim arrangement between Iran and P5+1, what is the kind of opportunity it opens up for India in terms of oil trade, and also Indian investments in Chabahar and the land routes to Central Asia. The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister was here for foreign office consultations. Was this process taken forward?

Official Spokesperson: Yes, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ibrahim Rahimpour was in Delhi. He did meet the Foreign Secretary. He did provide a detailed briefing on their assessment of the situation as it would evolve following the interim agreement between Iran and the E3+3. At this stage, he also indicated that things need to be watched as go forward because, as you are aware, the document of that interim agreement is now publicly available, there are a series of steps that are likely to be unveiled as we go along.

As far as India is concerned, we have always held that we would like to engage Iran economically and any issues that Iran has with other parts of the world should not impede our legitimate economic interactions with Iran. Therefore, energy is a major area of cooperation between India and Iran and we intend to pursue that.

Similarly, we have, as you are all aware, a very keen interest in the Chabahar port. Thatper se does not get affected directly by any sanctions that are currently in place because those sanctions, even of a unilateral nature, do not have an impact directly on port-related activities. So, we intend to pursue that also actively. In addition, we are also in touch with Iran with other possibilities to strengthen our energy cooperation and that will be unveiled as time goes ahead because I think it is not prudent to tell in advance of decision making on matters of that nature, the outcomes. But you can be certain that there are activities which we are considering.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much for being very patient and for coming here this afternoon.

Director (East Asia): I just wanted to also inform you that former Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Yoshiro Mori will also be a part of the Emperor’s Delegation. As many of you who have been following India-Japan relations are aware, he is one of the key personalities who has played a very transformational role in India-Japan relations. I just wanted to mention that. He is what they call the Head of the official suite as part of the delegation. That is just a point of fact.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much.


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