Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Welcome to the weekly press briefing. I apologise for
this delayed start as I was waiting to get a readout on Foreign Secretary’s
ongoing visit to Bangladesh. I have just received information on that and let
me begin with it.
The Foreign Secretary of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar, paid a bilateral
visit to Bangladesh on 11-12 May 2016. The visit was part of regular
interaction between the two sides. Foreign Secretary called on Hon’ble Prime
Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Bangladesh
Mr. A.H. Mahmood Ali, MP on 11th May and met with Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary
Mr. M. Shahidul Haque on the 12th of May, that is today.
During the talks, both Foreign Secretaries reviewed progress on
decisions and understandings reached during the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister
of India, Shri Narendra Modi, to Bangladesh in June 2015. Both sides noted with
appreciation that there has been excellent implementation of decisions taken,
which are evident from the results in all sectors. Key developments include
progress on implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement; commencement of
supply of 100 MW power from Palatana, Tripura to eastern Bangladesh; supply of internet bandwidth from
Bangladesh to Tripura; launch of coastal shipping services from Chittagong
to Krishnapatnam; progress on energy cooperation; signing of the Dollar Credit
Line Agreement for execution of projects under the US$ 2 billion Line of
Both sides also took stock of decisions made during recent meetings of
various bilateral mechanisms in the areas of Security & Border Management,
Power, Shipping, Railways, Health, Blue Economy, Establishment of Indian SEZs
in Bangladesh etc.
Both Foreign Secretaries also shared their perspectives on regional and
international issues of mutual interest. Foreign Secretary Dr. Jaishankar
conveyed India’s strong support to Bangladesh in its fight against extremism
and terrorism, particularly in response to recent attacks against vulnerable
sections of society.
The visit was useful in preparing the ground for the next meeting of the
Joint Consultative Commission led by the two Foreign Ministers which is
scheduled to be held in Dhaka in the second half of 2016.
That concludes my only announcement. The floor is now open to questions.
Question: A controversy has broken out today over the
evacuation of Indians back to Libya, and the Kerala CM has attacked the PM and
the External Affairs Minister has in turn attacked the Kerala CM on
twitter. I just wanted to know what
exactly the position of the MEA on this is.Could you please elaborate?
Spokesperson: I will
brief you on the steps that the Government of India had taken for the release
of these Indian nationals from Libya.Our embassy in Libya, as you know, has been trying its best to assist
Indian nationals who had opted to stay behind in Libya despite our regular
advisories for them to exit during the evacuation carried out in August
Regarding the Indian nationals who
were in Zawiya, Libya, our embassy has constantly followed up the matter with
the hospital as well as with the Ministry of Health of Libya. As you know, our Embassy has been relocated
to Djerba in Tunisia. Our Ambassador to
Libya personally flew down to Tripoli on April 28 and met with the Chief of
Protocol on the first working day after that, that is on the 2nd of May, to
resolve the matter. It was thanks to the
Embassy’s intervention that their salaries were paid, and their exit visas were
issued, and they were able to safely return to India today by commercial
airlines. As External Affairs Minister had also tweeted, this is our pious duty
towards our citizens. I am not going to
get into the issue that you have mentioned because I do not think it serves any
Question:A short while
ago the Brazilian Senate has suspended Dilma Rousseff as the President and the
trial according to New York Times may take at least six months. How does that affect the BRICS summit in
Spokesperson: The BRICS
summit, as you know, is a summit the date for which was mutually decided in
consultation with all the concerned parties.We are aware of the internal political developments in Brazil. We wait to see how things pan out but the
decision was taken by the Brazilian Government.So, we expect those decisions to be continued.
Question:You must have
seen the CNN-News18’s news report exposing Pakistan’s lie and tracking Dawood Ibrahim’s
address in Pakistan. Have you taken note
of this first ever video evidence of Dawood’s presence in Pakistan? And what
steps the Government of India is taking to ensure that Dawood is brought back
Spokesperson: As you are
aware, Dawood Ibrahim is a UN-designated global terrorist and a fugitive from
Indian law. At several points of time,
his details have been shared by the Indian Government with the Government of
Pakistan which also includes his possible locations in Pakistan. The CNN-News18
report that you have referred to only corroborates the facts that were already
available with us. We will continue to
pursue this matter and we expect Pakistan to hand over this international
terrorist to us.
Question:Given the fact
that the UK has refused deportation of Vijay Mallya now, what will be the next
step? We believe there is also that approach
to INTERPOL seeking a red corner notice against him. For extradition, what are
the next steps going to be like?
Spokesperson: Let me just
recap what has happened on Mr. Vijay Mallya.The Ministry of External Affairs through our High Commission in London
sent a note verbale to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK on the
28th of April requesting for the UK’s assistance in facilitating the return of
Mr. Vijay Mallya to India, following the revocation of his diplomatic
passport. The UK Government informed us
vide note verbale dated the 5th of May that under the Immigration Act, 1971,
the UK does not require an individual to hold a valid passport in order to
remain in the UK if they have extant leave to remain as long as their passport
was valid when leave to remain or enter the UK was conferred. Such leave is granted to the individual and
therefore does not automatically expire upon the cancellation or expiry of the
passport in which it is endorsed. The FCO further stated that the UK Government
acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations against Mr. Mallya and is keen
to assist the Government of India. It
has also been suggested that Government of India could make a request of mutual
legal assistance or extradition. FCO has
said that the Crown Prosecution Services would be willing to discuss the key
issues to consider with our High Commission.So, we now await the advice of the Enforcement Directorate on the next
Prime Minister’s visit on the cards?
Spokesperson: You know
that we have a set policy of announcing such visits. Yes, Prime Minister had extended an
invitation to Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina to visit India, that invitation was
accepted in principle. Dates will be
worked out through diplomatic channels.As and when we have something to inform you about that, we will.
Question:Is it correct
that India is not sending any delegation to participate in the Buddhist
Conference that is going to be held in Nepal very soon? If not participating, the reason as reported
by Indian media is that India is pretty concerned with the growing Chinese
involvement in the Conference?
Spokesperson: This has
nothing to do with the kind of things you are mentioning. We have received an invitation and I can
assure you India will be represented at an appropriate level.
reports in Ekantipur that a senior diplomat from the Indian Embassy met with
Madhesi leaders and that there is a kind of a twitter spat that is going on
right now. Have you taken note of it,
and did this meeting really take place even before the Madhesi leaders could
meet the Nepali Government?
Spokesperson: I do not
have any information on this.
Ambassador to the United States of America who has written a book also said in
the book as well as in an interview to us that Pakistan’s policy on tactical
nuclear weapons continues and they are going to create such weapons and will be
handing them over to Brigadiers and Colonels in the field. Is that something
that the Ministry of External Affairs or the Indian Government has taken note
of, or what is the reaction and concerns that India has with regard to this
Spokesperson: While I
would not like to respond specifically to what Mr. Husain Haqqani has stated in
his book, there have been, as you know, international concerns about Pakistan’s
present nuclear policies. Tactical
nuclear weapons are at the heart of such concerns. We believe this is a failed concept from the Cold
check, was there ever any plan for the Prime Minister to visit Lumbini on the
21st or were those reports incorrect?
Spokesperson: There was
never any plan for Prime Minister to visit there. I mentioned this in my last interaction also
that there are no immediate plans for Prime Minister to visit Nepal.
Question:We had heard
that the Westland judgment was being translated from Italian to English by the
Indian Embassy in Rome and it was going to be sent here. Has that process ended? Has the judgment been
Spokesperson: No, that
process is ongoing.
Question:Could you please
give us a response on the fact and the reports that India is now out of the top
five donors to Nepal? Also, would you
announce Prime Minister’s visit to Iran please?
Spokesperson: As far as
Prime Minister’s visit to Iran is concerned, what I mentioned just now in
relation to the possible visit by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the same
holds true. As you know, we have a
standard procedure for announcing Prime Ministerial visits. These announcements are made in consultation
with the host Government. Yes, the Prime
Minister has received an invitation to visit Iran. Dates are being worked out through diplomatic
channels. As and when we are in a
position to make that announcement, we will do that.
With regard to your other question, I think
the comparison, these media reports that we have seen ‘India’s aid to Nepal is
lower than some other countries’, etc., is completely wrong. I have also seen these reports which say that
India’s aid to Nepal is pegged at around USD 22.27 million. This is a misleading figure which totally
distorts the picture.
Actual funds released to assist Nepal from MEA’s Aid to Nepal Budget are
in the range of Rs.300 crore to Rs.400 crore annually or over USD 50 to 70
million. The discrepancy could be
because a good part of our aid to Nepal is not necessarily routed through the
Nepalese Treasury. Major payments
include about 3,000 scholarships to Nepali students annually and training for over
700 Nepalese persons from security, economic and other organizations, accounting
for about Rs.75 crore.
In addition, we have approximately 20 small development projects, we
have gifted over 600 buses and ambulances, more than 1,000 shallow tube wells
and iodized salt. All this totals
another Rs.50 crore. Add to this construction
of river training embankments for Rs.40 crore and payments for ongoing projects
such as integrated check posts, terai roads and rail links depending upon the
project progress. Four lines of credit
totaling USD 1.65 billion are available for utilization of which only USD 150
million has been disbursed since 2010.Its interest equalization, as you know, is borne by MEA. We look forward to their speedy
What is also not being counted is payment of pensions to ex-Gorkha
soldiers which is about Rs.1800 crore per year or USD 300 million. In addition, our Operation Maitri after the
earthquake in Nepal last year cost Rs.400 crore or approximately USD 70
million. So, at the very minimum, we are
spending USD 50 to 60 million to assist Nepal every year. India is fully committed to Nepal’s socioeconomic
development. There is no aid cut in the
case of Nepal.
Moreover, our initial allocations for foreign aid for Nepal and other
neighbouring countries are based on actual expenditure levels in the preceding
years and take into account absorption capacity of our valued partners. If there is sufficient expenditure and more
is required, funds are sought by MEA at the RE stage in the financial
year. So, more can and will be provided
if and when required. I hope this gives
you a truer picture of our developmental partnership with Nepal.
Question:Kerala CM Oommen
Chandy says Kerala Government is paying for the tickets of these 29 passengers?
Spokesperson: I have
already answered this question.
Question:Is there any
official word on withdrawal of the Nepal envoy Mr. Upadhyay to the MEA because
we all read this in media reports?
Spokesperson: As I said,
this is a matter internal to Nepal and its Ambassador and I think much print
has already been expended on this particular subject.
Question:This is on
Bangladesh. You have said that Foreign Secretary conveyed India’s strong support
to Bangladesh in its fight against extremism and terrorism, particularly in
response to recent attacks against the vulnerable sections. Have these groups been identified? Are these IS, Pakistan-backed terrorist groups
or local home grown groups?
has continued to maintain that this is not ISIS, these are local gangsters and
other such elements. And investigations
into some of them are also ongoing, as you know.
Question:You have just
read out information about supplies to Nepal and aid which is going to Nepal
but there was a blockade earlier. Is
that blockade is over and are we able to supply things to Nepal?
Spokesperson: As you
know, the blockade was not caused by us, the blockade was caused because of
political issues in Nepal, it was caused by a section of the Nepalese
population. That blockade has been
completely lifted. All supplies have been
resumed completely. There are zero bottlenecks, let us put it this way, from
the Indian side. Because I read some reports again that some LPG supplies are
not going through and I checked. There are zero bottlenecks on the Indian
side. Whatever Nepal has asked for on the
LPG side is being given to them.
Question:I would like to
ask you about the announcement of US President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in
Japan at the end of this month. How do you see this visit? And what do you
think of the impact of this visit on Obama’s initiative for nuclear-free world
and on India’s nuclear strategy?
Official Spokesperson: I happen to be the Spokesperson of the Ministry of
External Affairs. I think this should be directed to the US State Department.
Question: There is a report
that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is going to visit Japan this
month. Could you give us any information regarding this?
Official Spokesperson: No, the visit is
not happening this month.
Question: Sri Lankan
Government has laid foundation stone for constructing a new church on Kachchativu
Island without informing India. Further it is alleged that Sri Lankan Navy is
likely to install a naval detachment on Kachchativu Island.
Official Spokesperson: We have also seen
these reports, we have asked our High Commission in Sri Lanka to provide us
with more details.
Question: When is the next
Official Spokesperson: I am not aware but
I can give you the latest statistics if you want on Sri Lanka.
There are 34 Indian fishermen in Sri
Lankan custody and 96 Indian boats. We have zero Sri Lankan fishermen in our
custody and 13 Sri Lankan boats.
fishermen from Tamil Nadu are caught in Saudi Arabia. They went to work there
but their company refused to pay them proper salary and food. They are ready to
come home but the concerned company refused to give them their passport book.
What action is our Indian Government taking to bring them back?
Official Spokesperson: Our Mission is in
touch with them. As you know, there is a system there of exit visas and things
like that. Our Mission is working to secure their early repatriation.
Question: As far as Iran is
concerned, has there been any decision on the payment mechanism?
Official Spokesperson: I think the
negotiations on the payment mechanisms have been worked out. The issue is that
banking channels to accept payments in Euro have still not started functioning.
So, that is the only hold up.
I think this concludes the press
briefing. Thank you all.