Media Center

Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (May 12, 2016)

May 12, 2016

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 Credit.

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?

Official 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 2014.

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 useful purpose.

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 October?

Official 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 to India?

Official 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?

Official 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 steps.

Question:Is Bangladesh Prime Minister’s visit on the cards?

Official 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?

Official 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.

Question:There are 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?

Official Spokesperson: I do not have any information on this.

Question:Former Pakistan 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 policy?

1.Official 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 War days.

Question:Just wanted check, was there ever any plan for the Prime Minister to visit Lumbini on the 21st or were those reports incorrect?

Official 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 translated?

Official 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?

Official 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 utilization.

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?

Official 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?

Official 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?

Official Spokesperson: Bangladesh 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?

Official 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 fishermen’s meet?

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.

Question: Sixty-three 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.


Write a Comment Write a Comment

Post A Comment

  • Name *
    E-mail *
  • Write Your Comment *
  • Verification Code * Verification Code