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Transcript of External Affairs Minister’s first formal interaction with the media (September 8, 2014)

September 08, 2014

Syed Akbaruddin, JS (XP): Ladies and Gentleman, we now begin the main course. Before I begin responding to all of you, I would like to reiterate the ground rules that all of you are very familiar with but for those who are new, let me reiterate for those. The external affairs minister will make some opening remarks, following which the floor will be opened for any questions that you may have. Given that there are more than 130 of you here and we will have exactly 30 minutes for this interaction, we will only be able to take a few questions, so please limit your questions. When you ask more than one question, the norm that we follow is we choose what question to respond to, so please choose your questions very carefully. Also, given that we have the entire world to cover what we will do is restrict questions to about 5 for each country. I think that is a fairly elaborate choice that you have because we have 30 minutes or so to cover the entire world.

External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj:

Namaskar friends,

We are here to present to you activities undertaken by our ministry in the last three months. You know that this three- month tenure has been full of challenges. But I am pleased that we have faced all challenges and we have moved forward with a fast speed.

Before I talk about the diplomatic initiatives we have undertaken in these three months, I would like to make a fundamental point: Diplomacy and foreign policy are not synonyms. Foreign policy means what you should do. Diplomacy is how you should do it. Every government has had the policy that we should have good relations with our neighbours; this is the core of any foreign policy. But diplomacy tell us how we should go about achieving this. How we should achieve this means, you calls your neighbours here, you go there to your neighbours. You encourage them, if they are in anguish and going through difficult times, you comfort and assure them. I am happy that we have done all of this.

My friends, this is the first ministry, which began its work immediately after the swearing-in ceremony. The Prime Minister took the initiative of inviting all the heads of states and governments of SAARC. I believe that while the prime minister’s invitation was significant, it was more significant that they accepted the invitation and came here. They all accepted the invitation as well as came here. That is why I said that our diplomacy began immediately after the swearing-in ceremony. As soon as the ceremony concluded, there was dinner hosted by the President with all the SAARC leaders. And the very next day, which is within a few hours, we had bilateral talks with all eight countries.

In the very first day of tenure in office, the prime minister and I held bilateral talks with heads of eight states. This is how we began our tenure.

After this, to push forward the policy of good relations with our neighbouring countries, when we prepared the itinerary for the prime minister, we decided that the maiden trip should be to Bhutan, where Prime Minister and I went together. After this, when I decided my first stand-alone visit as the minister of external affairs we decided on Bangladesh. After that I visited Nepal, and within a few days of my visit, the prime minister, too, visited Nepal. In a couple of days, I am going to Afghanistan. That means we will have visited four SAARC countries within three months.

Another big principle of our foreign policy has been Look East –- which was formulated during Atalji’s tenure. We used to say that the second pillar of our policy is Look East. How have we handled this policy? With our focus on the Look East policy, I visited Myanmar, Singapore, and Vietnam. Prime Minister visited Japan, the vice-President visited China, and the Prime Minister of Australia visited India.

Even before that, the foreign minister of Singapore had come here, the foreign minister China was here as well. The meaning of diplomacy, as I stated earlier, was you go there and you invite them here. We have done both. The foreign minister of Singapore had come here, the foreign minister of China was here, and Australia’s prime minister was here. I went to Singapore and Vietnam, while the Prime minister visited Japan.

The third pillar of our policy is the Gulf, the Gulf countries. 70 lakh of our citizens work there, we get over $40 billion in foreign exchange from there, and about 60% of our energy requirements come from there. In the Gulf, and it pleases me to share this, is that the first foreign minister to come to India with the message of the Sultan after the formation of the new government was from Oman. And I have just, last evening, returned from Bahrain. So we went there as well as invited them here. Oman’s foreign minister came here, bearing the message of the sultan, while I myself went to Bahrain.

After this we focused on Latin American countries. This time the BRICS meeting was in Brazil, and the prime minister was there. But he did not simply meet the leaders of China, Brazil, South Africa and Russia, but he also met the leadership of 11 Latin American countries.

Africa. There is a common perception that we have overlooked it, but from Africa Uganda’s foreign minister, who is also about to take charge president of the UNGA in 2014, was in India. We are also organising a very big Indo-Africa summit. So far we used to invite 17 countries, but this time we have decided that the leaders of all 54 African countries will be invited to the Indo-Africa summit. This is what we have decided on Africa.

America. We will be going to the UNGA, but you know President Obama has especially invited Prime Minister Modi. And on September 30, Prime Minister Modi and President Obama will have a meeting. What I wish to convey is that this is the proactive work which we at the ministry have undertaken in these three months. And along with these we have also given out some strong messages. When China’s foreign minister was here, he was told, "If we believe in one China policy, you should also believe in one India policy.”

When America’s Secretary of State John Kerry was here, he was told, "You call us your friends as well as spy on us? This is unacceptable to us!”

When Pakistan’s High Commissioner invited separatists, we told him: "either you talk to them, or you talk to us.”

From all of this one thing has emerged clearly: that the government is very strong. But a softer side to this government has also emerged, this government is very sensitive, and this was clear when we evacuated 1000 students from Ukraine, 1000 students have been evacuated. We evacuated 6593 citizens from Iraq; of which 5589 were provided air-tickets from the embassy. In Libya, 3183 were evacuated, of which 1188 were given air-ticket. This was the sensitive face of the government. From this a message has come across that if the government is strong, it is sensitive as well. So I have shown you three faces of the government – proactive face, strong face and sensitive face. If the government is strong, it is also sensitive.

These three facets of the government have emerged in the last three months. In the last three months, so many visits have taken place; in such a short span of time so many foreign guests and ministers have come to India, and we have gone to other countries. Wang Yi (China’s foreign minister) came to India. The foreign ministers of all the five P5 countries – America, China, Russia, Britain and France -- have come to India in the last three months. Five people have come from the US alone – Secretary Kerry, Secretary Pritzker, Secretary Hagel, Senator McCain and Deputy Secretary Burns. Foreign Minister (Laurent) Fabius came from France. Britain’s Hague came to India. From Russia, Deputy Prime Minister (Dmitry) Rogozin visited India. A multilateral summit like the BRICS Prime Minister attended... People from SAARC came and we went to some of these countries; people from ASEAN came to India and we visited them. I attended ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asia Summit and Asean-plus India meeting in Myanmar. There, I met foreign ministers of 27 countries. Out of these, 11 of them sought bilateral meetings with me and I held meetings with all 11 of them. In three months, in such a short span of time, the kind of work we have done some would not think is not humanly possible. This is the proactive face of the government. I spoke about three messages and three faces – this is the strong face of the government, and the way we rescued our people (in other countries), this is the sensitive face of the government.

Besides all this, there is the public interface of the ministry: passports. When I took over the ministry, there was a severe shortage of passport booklets. There was a shortage of 537,000 booklets. If the booklets were not there, how would the passports be issued! We immediately published 606000 booklets. There is now zero shortage. We have completely eliminated the shortage. Looking ahead, we calculated that we issue 1 crore passports in a year; so we decided to order the publication of 2 crore booklets so as to create a strategic reserve. Now, we have a strategic reserve for one year.

Before the next financial year, March 31 (2015), we plan to open passport centres in all the seven northeastern states. The Passport Seva Kendra in Shillong will open in a few days’ time. Third, we will hold passport camps in all districts of India. To begin with, we will cover 33 districts before October 31. Currently, there is one passport seva Kendra in every state, and people from various districts have to come to that one Passport Seva Kendra. To mitigate difficulties, we plan to hold passport camps in all the districts of India so that everyone can make a passport without going to the state Kendra.

Besides this, I also have another ministry to take care of: Ministry of Overseas Affairs. There, the most painful issue is the brining of dead bodies back home. First, people travel abroad to work and then some of them die, and there are difficulties in bringing back dead bodies. To solve this problem, we have created a website. The missions can also post information on this website about the person who has died, where he died and a time frame by when the dead body can be brought back. If some individual person knows about the deceased person, he, too, can post the relevant information on this website. Generally, people, MPs come to our office to ask about the status of dead bodies. This website provides all the updates so that people sitting at home can come to know about the status – when the dead body will come back, when was the body embalmed and when the body will be flown, which flight…. If someone dies, a family is in mourning. Besides, if he does not know about the status of the body, his anxiety and restlessness is compounded. To assuage his anxiety and restlessness, this website provides updates. So we try to reduce the suffering of the common man. This is also the evidence of the government’s sensitivity. What I want to convey is that I have provided an account of a strong proactive ministry. If you wish to ask any questions, I am ready to do so.

(Q and A)

Thank you very much, external affairs minister, we will now open the floor and since priority is neighbourhood we would start with questions regarding the neighbourhood.

Rajeev Sharma (First Post): Sushma ji, before I ask my one-liner question is an important correction, you said Look East policy was started by the Vajpayee government, actually it was started by Narasimha Rao government in 1991, now my one liner question..

External Affairs Minister: It was titled and articulated as Look East during Jaswant Singh’s time.

Rajeev Sharma: Would you list out your three most important achievements on the foreign policy front and the one most important work to do..

Sushma Swaraj: I think I have already enumerated that, three things I have already enumerated, focus on neighborhood, rescue operations that means caring government, the strong government, and proactive government, these are the three faces of the government, and I have listed all the achievements.

Dilip Tiwari (Zee News): Sushma ji, my question is you said you have given a strong message to Pakistan. You said that Pakistan’s high commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders have broken our trust, my question is during UNGA visit, is any interaction between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra modi possible because recently he had sent a box of mangoes also to prime minister and to you also.

External Affairs Minister: According to how situations build up, accordingly we will respond, we are not planning anything and visiting.

Manish Chand (India Writes Network): Madam Foreign Minister, Prime Minister Modi had a fairy successful visit to Japan recently, and now India is going to be hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month. What are India’s broad expectations from the forthcoming visit of the Chinese president?

External Affairs Minister: We have a very good relationship with China, but I must articulate that a relationship is better with cooperation and competition but when Prime Minister Modi met President Xi Jinping in Fortaleza, they had very good equation, very, very good equation, and I think the outcomes of this visit will be substantial and solid.

Raman (News 24): Since the conversation (with Pakistan) has started after the creation of a new government, ceasefire violations have increased, be it from Pakistan or China. To stop this, what actions the government is taking further.

External Affairs Minister: See actions, first of all, are talks only, telephonic conversations have taken place on DGMOs level and, if needed, the meeting will also take place on DGMOs level.

Maya Mirchandani (NDTV): The floods in Kashmir seem to have provided an opportunity for the prime minister to once again make an overture to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif…so following up from that, are you disappointed with Nawaz Sharif’s response and is that likely to impact the possibility of a meeting in New York later this month..

External Affairs Minister:
As regards the meeting in United Nations, I already told you that as the situation emerges we will respond, we are not going with any pre mindset.

Anitha Chowdary (News Nation): My question is related to the previous part of the last question, our prime minister offered help to Pakistan to help in rescue operations but the answer that came from that side was the use of very harsh language. What you have to say on that?

External Affairs Minister:
I think we should not do hair-splitting, but we should concentrate on their emotions. And as far as their feelings are concerned, floods on that side of border or this side of border, wherever there are floods, out of humanity, we are ready to help. If we consider their emotions, their emotion was right, it should be appreciated rather than getting into technical quibbles.

Rashmi Saxena (Hitavada): Sushma ji, you told us in the beginning that there is difference between foreign policy and diplomacy. And as we have been seeing, when you people were in the opposition you did have major differences with the ruling regime and some of their policies. So, would you say, specially if we talk about Bangladesh and we talk about even the nuclear deal with US, so is there going to be a change in how you take further these policies or is there going to be a major change in some of the policies also?

External Affairs Minister: There is no major change as such, you have spoken about treaties and agreements, be it civil or nuclear agreement, when an agreement is done it is done with the country, not with the government. So those agreements we get in inheritance. The policy is all about how best can we take the advantage of this agreement, and we are following the same policy.

Manas Banerjee: The talks were held in Dhaka very recently, and Bangladesh’s home secretary agreed to release Anup Chetia, the ULFA leader, and hand him over to India. So, do you have any idea when he will be handed over to India?

External Affairs Minister: We have not set the deadline, Mr. Banerjee, but this was the issue, which I raised with Bangladesh foreign minister when I visited Bangladesh. And I think, this was one of the deliverables they promised and now they are delivering it, I don’t know the deadline but I think it will happen soon.

Gautam Lahiri (Pratinidhi): As you said, that your first stand-alone visit was to Bangladesh and it was very well appreciated there. I agree that in this month very soon the JCC meeting will be held. So, how do you want to take forward those issues which you have talked in Dhaka, especially (as already has been mentioned) about two contentious or outstanding issues. Any plan on how you intend to take it forward?

External Affairs Minister: Yes, 28th of this month the JCC meeting is taking place. As regards these two contentious issues regarding the land boundary agreement, the bill was already introduced in Rajya Sabha and it has been referred to the standing committee. A standing committee has been reconstituted now so political consultations are underway. As regards the Teesta, we are trying to develop our consensus and this is what I had told the Bangladesh leadership during my visit also.

Mukesh Kaushik (United News of India): What is your message for international terrorist group Al Qaeda which has declared to open its branch in India?

External Affairs Minister: See, as far as Al Qaeda is concerned, I don’t see it separately, I have this message for all terrorist groups that India’s policy is very clear. We are against all kinds of terrorism, those who are working in our country and those who are working globally. As far as Al Qaeda’s threat is concerned, the government has taken a serious note on this, and we will work on it with full awareness.

Venkat: You know about the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, specially I just want to bring it to your notice regarding Tamil Nadu fisherman issue. During your presentation, you mentioned about all nations but I think you have forgotten to mention about what kind of action you have taken with Sri Lanka regarding Tamil fisherman.

You’ve mentioned about all nations but I think you’ve forgotten to mention about, what kind of action you’ve taken with this, especially with Sri Lanka regarding Tamil’s fishermen - even you’re presentation didn’t said about the fishermen. Can you just give me for the last three months what kind of action has been take to find a solution for these Tamil Nadu fishermen?

External Affairs Minister: I didn’t forget first of all. The Sri Lankan President had also come for the SAARC ceremony and we had very candid discussion with him. The prime minister talked to him about the 13th amendment implementation also, and after that the foreign minister of Sri Lanka Mr. Peiris also came and had bilateral meeting with me. In both the meetings, we raised this issue of fishermen and Sri Lankan Tamils.

Dr. Awwad: You spoke of west Asia and India’s involvement. Now, taking into consideration the threat from the ISIS and the Al Qaeda for both the countries, what is your expectation and how will you address this issue, the security part of it thank you..

External Affairs Minister: As regard security part, I answered another question that we are against terrorism and extremisms in any way. As regards the Arab world, I already told in my introductory remarks that they are very important to us. We attach high importance to the Arab world because 7 million Indians are working there. More than 40 billion dollar foreign exchange is being given to India in form of remittances and our energy needs are also fulfilled by them. So we attach high importance to the Arab world.

Ranjit Kumar (Navbharat Times): Shushma-ji, right now you said that we will follow the instructions which we’ve got from our inheritance but the nuclear liability is coming in between...

Nuclear liability is a very big issue between India and other countries to implement nuclear agreements. So in this regard would you do any review and introduce any amendment?

External Affairs Minister: We have already included supplier’s liability, and based on our request they added that and we’ve explained them the reason for adding supplier’s liability. Because, at our place, scandals like the Bhopal tragedy took place. That’s why suppliers’ liability is already included into it; they have added that, based on our request.

Padmarao Sundarji: You met today with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Mr Steinmeier was recently noted as saying that his country intends to supply weapons to the Kurds, who are fighting against the ISIS movement and at the same time as my colleagues raised with you, we have the threat from the Al Qaeda. Between Germany and India, there exists a strategic relationship.

One core element is regional security… Did you discuss this aspect at all in your meeting today and did he offer any kind of assistance or help in countering terrorism threat in Pakistan as well as the threat from the Al-Qaeda?

External Affairs Minister: We didn’t discuss, but he told me about their decision and he said that with great pain and he said that they were constrained to take this decision to supply weapons to Kurdistan -- this is what he told me. I didn’t raise the issue, but he thought that it will be better if he tells me, so he told me about this that they have decided this; that they want to send weapons to Kurdistan but he said that we are very pained to take this decision. This is what he said. No, this issue was not discussed…only this much about sending weapons to Kurdistan but he said they were constrained to take this decision.

Ranjana Narayan (IANS): What is the situation of the Indians who are in Mosul, the workers who were kidnapped – what is the latest update on them?

External Affairs Minister: They are still in captivity; there’s no direct contact with them. But from indirect sources, we’ve got information and we are getting information time and again that they are safe and alive.

Alexander (Ria Novosti): Can you give a sense of your priorities in the next 1-2 years on how to exactly improve India-Russia relationship?

External Affairs Minister: : There is no question of improvement. I think we’ve has very good relations with Russia, outstanding relations with Russia.

Kandambini Sharma (NDTV India):
Within two days, you are planning to visit Afghanistan.

The situation is becoming worst over there; even NATO forces are withdrawing. So our strategy, is it going to change regarding Afghanistan?

External Affairs Minister: Our strategy was always focusing to cooperate with Afghanistan, to build it, so there’s no question of changing it. There’s just one thing, we’re just waiting for the results of the election. We have never declared our favourite candidate to anyone even if Abdullah Abdullah wins or Ashraf Gani wins; we will be working with any of the president. Our people are working in Afghanistan, putting their life in danger. To build and develop our friendship, we are friends since long time back; nothing would come in between and our relations with Afghanistan would continue forever.

Vijay Naik (Sakal): I just want to go back to this nuclear liability question. Now the PM is going to the US and he will have a meeting with the President of United States. Since 2005, there’s been no operationalization of the nuclear agreement. Do you think that there is necessity of consensus on this particular bill or do you think that the government has got sufficient majority to pass the bill in the parliament.

External Affairs Minister: We’ll not pass any bill. I think we will reiterate our stand before President Obama.

Stacy Hughes (Hong Kong Pheonix TV): Sorry, I don’t understand Hindi but I kept the sound to specific words because you mentioned about one-India policy. Can you tell more about the concept, about one India and how India is going to raise this issue?

Sushma Swaraj: When they raised with us the issue of Tibet and Taiwan, we appreciated their sensitivities. So we also want that they should understand and appreciate our sensitivities regarding Arunachal.

Reema Sharma : You have been to Dhaka and it was a great opportunity to talk about the illegal migration, and we were expecting that you will talk about this thing but you’ve not, what is the reason? And my next question is: Fake currencies from Bangladesh are supplied through north east to the entire country.

External Affairs Minister: It’s not the question of the fake currency but the issue of illegal immigration was discussed certainly with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Shankaran Nimesh (Focus News): In the beginning, you said how you invited the leaders of all South Asian countries. During the election campaign, you used to say that we’ll not have a word with Pakistan. Then, slowly you started your conversation; then you stopped in between. There is a flaw in your Pakistan policy. Will the Prime Minister carry some fruits, apples to the US (for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif)

External Affairs Minister: The first thing is there is no flaw; the government’s policy started after elections, when we invited SAARC leaders; so Pakistan was also invited for that and Pakistan Prime Minister came and we had a very open discussion. Our Prime Minister advised them to remove Wagah border limitations and to start trade from Wagah…because we have already had an agreement with them on that topic, but yet they are not able to start that. Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister, was willing to start foreign security level dialogue. Our prime minister agreed to it and he told him that our foreign secretary will have a word with your foreign secretary. According to his promise our foreign secretary, the place and the date was decided. Islamabad was decided as a place and the date was 25 August but before that I don’t know why their high commissioner had a word with separatists, why did they derail it, what they have achieved we are not aware of that. But there is no such flaw; we clearly told them that day if you have a word with them, then we’ll stop our conversation. If you won’t have a word with them, then we’ll continue talking to you but they continued their conversation, so we stopped it. So where is the flaw here? To expect from Pakistan not to intervene in our personal matters—it’s not a wrong thing. It’s correct but still they continued so we stopped our conversation.

Manish Jha (India TV): You said that one by one, the secretaries came from America to India. Previously, we used to see that as the government was established people used to visit America. So what do you think is your government’s strength? Is America looking at India as a big consumer market and taking advantage of this opportunity?

External Affairs Minister:
There are two things – the first is, India is the largest democracy. This is the first time after 30 years, a majority government is established. So it’s a stunning thing for democratic countries. And the second thing is, as I told you, that the government is strong so they do feel that there are many chances in India. They have rolled out such a big agenda; so we should meet them in that case, so they came. The third thing is the Prime Minister’s image is becoming popular in the world as a public leader -- you might have seen him at BRICS summit or in Japan or even in his visit to Bhutan he addressed their parliament, in Nepal he gave his speech in Constituent Assembly. So due to that image, people are very excited to come here. According to my three-month experience, I can say that just within such a short span of time, India’s reputation and global stature has increased throughout the world, and people are very excited to visit India. On the whole, people are very curious and excited to come to India.

Smita Sharma (CNN-IBN): Prime Minister said in Ladakh that Pakistan has been defeated in its conventional warfare strategy, that’s why they are doing this proxy war. So this war is been done by their government or their Army? If the Army is setting the agenda, then do you feel India need to talk to their Army, is it not New Delhi’s work to strengthen the democracy there? We need to actually have a word with the ISI, which decides about the foreign policy from behind.

External Affairs Minister: Government directly talks to the elected government; they don’t talk with Army or organizations. That’s why whenever the Indian government will have a word, they will directly have with Pakistan government, not with Army or organisations.

Question: Mr. Modi mentioned expansion twice recently. What do you think of that?

External Affairs Minister: A) He never referred to a specific country. Its media’s own guess that they tied it up with that country. He never referred to any country; rather he spoke regarding the 18th century expansionism. He specifically spoke about 18th century.

Abhilash Handekar: You were Leader of Opposition from five years and you’ve raised many issues regarding Pakistan during the five years. How do you see the normalisation of relation with Pakistan in the near future, considering the trouble in Pakistan. And do you really think that there are certain measures which the government of India can take to normalize things across the borders, despite all the efforts that have been done in the last three months.

External Affairs Minister: The government had already taken an initiative which was very bold and unique, inviting all the SAARC leaders, including the Prime Minister of Pakistan. And as I told earlier, that Prime Minister Modi told Prime Minister Sharif that you start trade on the Wagah-Attari border -- that was another initiative. Then, the resumption of dialogue at the foreign secretary level was third initiative. Who derailed this initiative? It’s Pakistan.

Sushma Mishra: My question is focused on Prime Minister’s Japan and Nepal visit. In both these visits, we noticed that the Prime Minister gave a very good speech regarding culture and spiritualism. There was lot of enthusiasm and lot of roaming around was done, but the experts are commenting that the substantial outcomes of the visits like Japan’s Civil Nuclear Agreement was not discussed. They should have taken some steps regarding oil pipe line and power in Nepal, but nothing worked out. So, it’s just a lot good gestures; or shall we expect something more?

External Affairs Minister: It’s not the fact; there were many things which were discussed. In Nepal, the power trade agreement will work out within 45 days. PTA worked out within 45 days; it was initialled and PTA will conclude very soon. Regarding Japan, we were not successful in civil nuclear deal. Some of the agreements do take time, but they’ve removed six entities from foreign end users’ list. It’s a very great thing; other than this, till date we’ve heard about billion and million. This is the first time we’ve heard about trillion - such a big support Japan gave us. That’s a very big proof.

Maria (Italian news agency): My question is regarding the Italian Marines. Today, the Supreme Court asked the Centre opinion about the possibility to send one of the Marines to Italy. I know that the matter is still sub judice, but Italy recently is asking for diplomatic dialogue about the issue. I would like to ask what do you think about these possibilities..

External Affairs Minister: As regards Marines’ applications in the Supreme Court, we are not opposing that application on humanitarian grounds. If the court decides to give him this bail and they allow him to go to Italy, we’ll not oppose that. As regards diplomatic dialogues, because the case is already in the court, so it cannot be settled by the diplomatic dialogues. You have to go through the judicial process.

Balkrishna (Aaj Tak): You said that you rejected the conversation with Pakistan, then later on you got the answer from Pakistan that having a word with Hurriyat is not a new thing. But my question is, you’ll start the conversation only when they will agree that they won’t have a word with Hurriyat?

External Affairs Minister: There’s no full stop in diplomacy; its always comma or semicolon. So the person moves ahead after that, you will never find full stop in a diplomatic journey.

Venkat Narayan: You’re going to the US and the prime minister is going to address the UNGA and meeting the president of United States. For the last 20 years, we’ve been trying to become a permanent member on the Security Council, but we haven’t gotten anywhere. Now that we have a strong government, as you put it. Do you have any particular ideas in your mind how to push forward and what are the chances of our getting a permanent seat on the Security Council?

External Affairs Minister: The efforts are on. We will be meting the G4 countries, will be meeting, as you know that there is G4 group, Germany, Japan, Brazil and India. So we’ll be meeting on the sidelines of the UN and next year 2015 is the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, so we would like to see in 2015 the United Nation Security Council gets extended and India becomes the permanent member.

Shubha Singh: My question is about Fiji Islands, elections are going to take place over there on 17th. India was one of the co-leaders of the international observers groups. Till date, the Indian government has not signed international observers group’s agreement. So, will our government send international observes to Fiji?

External Affairs Minister: Definitely, we are going to send. We have even prepared the panel and 4 members are going from India.

Shrikant Bhatiya: You have recently come back from the Gulf nation. Some months back when some labourers were working there, they faced many problems. They are facing over there, you have even solved many of them. When they are sent from here, who sends them? Is there involvement of the government there because when they are working there or when they face any problem regarding that during working they are expelled from the country. Is there a need for making touch laws against agents who send them, and is there a need to put prohibition on such agencies who supply staff to the overseas countries?

External Affairs Minister: Definitely, they need to bridle it and make tough rules, 1983’s law is not capable. That’s why we are trying to bring a completely new law, amending that law. We are not thinking on that and I’ll try to bring that very soon in the next session of parliament

Kalyani Shankar: There’s a lot hype about Mr. Modi’s visit to America. What are your expectations from the visit and what is going to be on the agenda or bilateral talks with Obama. The third one is about there have been some kind of souring of relationship after the Deyvani Khobragade case. So, do you expect the differences to narrow down during this visit?

External Affairs Minister: Your first question I’ll answer because Akbar gave me that liberty to choose one of them; even if you ask three questions I have to choose one of them. Your first question covers all the things; yes we will try to realise the full potential between the two countries. That means, we’ll talk about infrastructure, we’ll talk about manufacturing we’ll talk about defence corporation, we’ll talk about security corporation or the wide range of issues we will talk with Obama.

Question: About your US visit, you just listed a few things that are at the top of the agenda. One of the long-pending things has been the visa issue, and very recently President Obama decided not to press for the immigration laws change and wait… Do you see a window of opportunity because many of Indian IT companies are stuck with visa problems.

External Affairs Minister:
I raised this issue with Secretary Kerry and we’ve raised this issue with President Obama also. This is an issue which tops our agenda.

Steven (Raj TV): A few months back, Jesuit priest Alexis Prem Kumar was kidnapped by Afgan militants. Initially, the government showed a lot of interest in rescuing him, but these days there was not much news about him. What was the last action taken by India?

External Affairs Minister: Efforts are on. We are trying our best to get him released and I can tell you that he’s alive and safe and we are trying our best to get him released.

Sheela Bhatt (redif.com): Prime Minister is visiting America; now a lot of things are being talked about it and you are also saying that your government is very strong and sensitive.. What will be the fundamental difference in the attitude of the Indian government under Narendra Modi and under your leadership? A different approach to the India-US relations, compared to UPA.

Sushma Swaraj: This time a strong government will be talking to Obama; that will make all the difference.

Victor (Financial Times): How does India see the possible independence of Scotland and the break-up of the United Kingdom.

External Affairs Minister: Break-up of United Kingdom?

Question: The possible break up of United Kingdom.

External Affairs Minister: I don’t think there’s any possibility of that. It is for Scotland to decide, I have nothing to say on this.

Vinita (The Pioneer): What is happening to 26-11 trials? India is a bit disappointed because we are just receiving the dates from them, and when we talk to Pakistan they ask us about the details of Samjhauta Express, so this will just be a ping pong or can we see some movement?

External Affairs Minister: Both the cases are different and when we talk about Mumbai’s terrorist attack, we’ve told them every time to show some progress in 26-11 trial but we cannot see any progress..what you’re saying that we are disappointed - yes, we are disappointed.

Santosh Thakur (Dainik Bhaskar): You said that we talk about Act East, instead of Look East. But there are no direct flights with these countries, be it Vietnam or Hanoi. So then, how will our relationship increase with these countries and sister city, will our nation be involved in any programs in this country so that we move towards sister city.

External Affairs Minister: You are very correct. There are lot of disparities in connectivity and we’ve mostly focused on this topic in ASEAN, like we get many flights from Singapore but there are no flights from Vietnam and none from Hanoi, so we have decided to find out which are the countries we are not connected with. At least one flight should be started and improved. And connectivity is the basic principle; country-wise, we have decided to develop the connectivity.

For the video of this media interaction, please click here:

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