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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (June 02, 2016)

June 02, 2016

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Good evening friends. Welcome to the weekly press briefing. I will begin with a couple of announcements.

Prime Minister will visit Afghanistan on Saturday, June 4, where he will jointly inaugurate the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam, with the President of Afghanistan Dr. Ashraf Ghani in Herat Province in Western Afghanistan.

The completion of the dam project represents culmination of years of hard work by about 1500 Indian and Afghan engineers and other professionals in very difficult conditions. It also highlights India’s continued commitment to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development. As would be recalled, on December 25 last year, Prime Minister had jointly with President Ghani dedicated to the Afghan nation the new Parliament Building constructed under India-Afghanistan development cooperation.

The forthcoming meeting between Prime Minister and President Ghani will also provide an opportunity to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and how the two countries can cooperate further for promoting peace and stability in that country.

My second announcement pertains to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (the HCoC). India has joined the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation by notifying the HCoC Central Contact in Vienna through diplomatic channels. The HCoC is a voluntary, legally nonbinding, international confidence building and transparency measure that seeks to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles that are capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. India’s joining the code signals our readiness to further strengthen global nonproliferation objectives.

That concludes my announcements. The floor is now open to questions.

Question:
On June 1 and today, the concluding day of a conference in Islamabad, Pakistan on Kashmir, they are discussing the global dimensions of the Kashmir problem and India’s so-called suppression in Kashmir. What is the reaction of the Government of India? The President of Pakistan has also commented, just yesterday addressing the joint session he clearly has attacked India and said that India is creating problems in the talks process while Pakistan is ready for the comprehensive bilateral dialogue.

Official Spokesperson: Insofar as the first part of your question is concerned, we completely reject the insinuations by vested interests against India which has rightful sovereignty over the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir. We also stress that there are no global dimensions of the Kashmir issue except in the minds of those who seek to needlessly internationalise a bilateral matter. Pakistan needs to vacate its illegal occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir and address the suffering caused to millions in those parts.

Insofar as the second part of your question is concerned regarding the statement made by the President of Pakistan, I would say that Kashmir is not the main cause of tension. The main cause for the lack of peace and continued instability in our region is externally sponsored terrorism and Pakistan’s repeated interference in the internal affairs of India.

Question: Yesterday the visiting US Senator Ben Cardin said in a speech that although he was all for the federal system of governance the Indian federal system is challenging good governance. What is the Government’s position on that?

Official Spokesperson:
I understand this was the Senator’s first visit to India. I also understand that he has had a number of meetings in Delhi including with the Foreign Secretary. And we hope that as a result of those meetings he has developed a better understanding and appreciation of India.

Question:
The Nuclear Suppliers Group is meeting in South Korea later this month. What are India’s expectations from this meeting? Are we expecting that India will be admitted to the NSG?

Official Spokesperson:
All I would say is that India applied for membership of the NSG on the 12th of May 2016. Our application is under consideration by the NSG members. I am aware of course that there are some NSG meetings planned this month.

Question: What are the other projects we have in Afghanistan? Have we more or less finished our main projects or do we have something else in the pipeline, major ones I mean?

Official Spokesperson: As you know, our commitment of development partnership with Afghanistan is over USD 2 billion. The two big flagship projects were of course the Parliament Building and the Salma Dam, now rechristened as the India-Afghan Friendship Dam. But apart from that we have done the Zaranj-Delaram Road, we have done various small developmental projects. Even the India-Afghan Friendship Dam is going to irrigate an additional 44,000 hectares there. It is something which is really going to cause immense benefit to Afghanistan. And I think that is the real image that India has in Afghanistan, as a partner which has stood by Afghanistan through all its difficult times, as a partner which has contributed immensely to Afghanistan’s development, unlike some other partners who have contributed to instability and terrorism in Afghanistan.

Question: Just a follow-up to the question on NSG. India also aspires to become a member of other three export control regimes like Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group and MTCR. Has India formally applied to join all these groups?

Official Spokesperson: On MTCR I can say that our application is on track. We expect that the process of India’s membership would be completed soon. And of course we remain in discussions on those other two – the Wassenaar Arrangement as well as the Australia Group as well.

Question: You said soon. Can you amplify?

Official Spokesperson:
Soon means soon.

Question:
Pakistan ke Rashtrapati ne apne statement mein ek aur baat kahi thi ki Cheen aur Pakistan ke saath jo economic corridor hai voh kisi bhi haal mein banke rahega.

Official Spokesperson: Us mein meri pratikriya main pehli bhi de chuka hun. Pakistan ke jis bhaag mein China-Pakistan economic corridor ka construction ya nirman kiya ja raha hai, voh bhaag Bharat ka ek abhinn ang hai jo Pakistan ke anadhikrit kabze mein hai. Aur hum logon ne yeh spasht kar diya hai Cheen ko bhi aur Pakistan ko bhi ki us par is tarah ka koi karya nahin hona chahiye.

Question: Sir, there are many hundred people stranded in Nepal who wish to visit Kailash Manasarovar. And though the Indian Embassy had asked them to evacuate, many more people have planned and booked their tickets for the Yatra? So, how would MEA plan to help them?

Official Spokesperson:
It is a good question because this is a developing situation which has been causing a lot of difficulties to the Yatris.

Our First Secretary from the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu visited Hilsa and Simikot and coordinated with the Nepalese authorities. More than 400 stranded Yatris have already been brought to Surkhet and Nepalganj. As of now there are no bottlenecks on this route. However, in view of the inclement weather which has been forecasted, our Mission in Kathmandu has issued a travel advisory to Indian Yatris to avoid the Nepal route. The Ministry of Tourism has also been requested to advise tour operators in India not to overbook and to correctly brief pilgrims on the facilities available. If you want, I can read out the travel advisory issued by our Embassy in Kathmandu.

"A large number of Indian citizens have been going under own private arrangement for Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via Nepalgunj-Simikot-Hilsa. It has been noticed that a number of them are facing logistical problems in Hilsa and Simikot primarily on account of bad weather which prevents regular evacuation from Hilsa to Simikot by helicopter and Simikot to Nepalgunj by fixed wing aircraft. The Embassy, in cooperation with the Government of Nepal and tour operators, is making all possible arrangements for timely evacuation of pilgrims from Hilsa to Simikot and from Simikot to Nepalgunj. However, inclement weather conditions are impeding regular air services, thereby causing difficulties for the stranded passengers at Hilsa and Simikot. Since weather conditions are expected to deteriorate in the weeks to come, Indian citizens are advised to avoid the Nepalgunj-Simikot-Hilsa route.”

Question:
Vikas, whenever the issue of Kashmir arises you say that Pakistan should vacate the territories which are illegally in its possession. What about the territories which are in illegal possession by China itself directly? You do not say that?

Official Spokesperson:
It is the same thing. Of course we say that. Why have so many rounds of the Special Representatives talks been held? It is because we have a boundary issue with China. And the purpose of the Special Representatives’ talks is to resolve that particular issue.

Question:
On the recent incident involving Africans, is the MEA going to take any further steps, are we going to take any confidence building measures that ...(inaudible)

Official Spokesperson: I think the confidence building measures have already been implemented. You saw the very heart warming, positive statement that External Affairs Minister issued after her meeting with the African diplomatic as well as student community. We have, I think, been successful in defusing the issue that was building up.

The Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (Retd) V.K. Singh also had a sensitisation camp in Chhattarpur where he met with the local residents. And now it has been decided, as EAM had mentioned in her statement, that MoS(VK) would be tasked with going to all the major metros where concentrations of African community resides. I can mention three such metros straightaway - Delhi, Bengaluru and Goa. But apart from these, other cities also where there are sizeable number of African residents. This would be worked out in consultation with the African diplomatic corps because they have to tell us the figures where they believe a large majority of their citizens are residing. And the idea is we fully involve the State Governments in this exercise. After all law and order is a State subject. So the plan is for MOS VK accompanied by Secretary (Economic Relations) Shri Amar Sinha to go to these cities with the Police Commissioners of those cities, meet the student community, the locals and do a full outreach programme where we hear their concerns, we try to put in place institutional mechanisms which can address those concerns.

In this context I would like to remind you that there was a very unfortunate incident in Bengaluru involving a Tanzanian national. And after that the police did conduct a sensitisation programme. Since then we have noted very positively that not a single such incident has been reported from Bengaluru. So I think once we do this sensitisation programme, this outreach programme, it will have a good impact. Secondly Foreign Secretary has met with the African students. They have outlined the kind of problems they are facing. And they were really more relating to not getting the right accommodation, the issues with their regularisation or extension of their visas with FRRO etc. So there also Foreign Secretary has assured them that we will try to put in place institutional mechanisms so that these problems do not recur in the future. So I do hope that as a result of the actions MEA has taken proactively and the actions we will take in partnership with other stakeholders including the police authorities, the State authorities, that our African brothers and sisters continue to feel safe, secure and welcome in India.

Question:
What is the exact position on India’s membership of the SCO? And are we going to be represented by our Prime Minister there?

Official Spokesperson: As I have repeatedly said, Prime Ministerial visits are announced as per a particular procedure. I have definitely not announced Prime Minister’s visit for the SCO summit. Our membership of the SCO is fully on track. As you know, the decision was taken at the last summit. We have to now complete the necessary procedural formalities.

Question: Prime Minister Modi will make a very high profile appearance before the Joint Session of the Congress in the United States. Could you give us a sense of what message he would be delivering and what themes he would strike? Would he be asking for anything at the Congress? Secondly, are there deliverables that you anticipate out of these series of meetings with the Obama Administration?

Official Spokesperson:
The detailed briefing on the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visits to five countries is going to be held tomorrow at 3 o’clock. So I would not want to pre-empt that. But I would make a general comment that this is the world’s largest democracy going to the world’s oldest democracy. And the US Congress is obviously the temple of that democracy. So when the Prime Minister addresses the combined House and the Senate from that particular podium, the message he would convey is that relations between the two largest democracies in the world need to strengthen, need to further diversify so that we are both fully equipped to handle the challenges of the 21st century. And I think this will be a message of partnership, of mutual respect and of accommodating each other’s concerns.

Question: And what about the deliverables? Could you comment on that as well?

Official Spokesperson: Deliverables, tomorrow 3 o’clock.

Question: Could you give us an update about the missing Indian boy who was found in Bangladesh?

Official Spokesperson:
As you know, an officer from the Indian Embassy in Dhaka was sent to Jessore, to the child rehabilitation centre where Sonu is kept. He has met him. Sonu is in good health. He was in good spirits. Now basically we have to find what is the best way and the quickest way of getting him back because, as you know, we have to also deal with the judicial set up in Bangladesh in order to get him back. We are committed to doing that and we are in very close coordination with the Bangladeshi authorities to find out what is the best way to get Sonu back.

Question: After the India Today expose on an accused person in Mauritius with links in the AgustaWestland case, their Financial Services Commission has actually suspended him from the agency and also gave him a notice of expelling him. Has the ED or the CBI in any way sought any assistance in trying to question this person? And on the Lalit Modi case, has the MEA finished its legal consultation? When are you approaching the UK authorities for extradition of Lalit Modi?

Official Spokesperson: On Lalit Modi I can give you the read-out which I have got from the concerned Division.

‘The Directorate of Enforcement sent a formal extradition request in respect of Mr. Lalit Modi to the Ministry of External Affairs. The extradition request was examined by the CPV Division in consultation with the Legal & Treaties Division of the Ministry. Keeping in mind the sensitivity of the case, the Directorate of Enforcement has been requested to intimate their concurrence on the options and suggestions made by the Ministry of External Affairs and to advise us how to proceed further in the matter. Now, we are awaiting the comments of the Enforcement Directorate.’

So, basically our legal experts have vetted the extradition request. They have made certain suggestions. Those suggestions have been forwarded to the Enforcement Directorate for them to concur with those. And once that happens then the extradition request will be forwarded to the British authorities.

On the other thing, all I know is the LRs which had been sent to various countries. I do not have a specific answer on the individual that you mentioned.

Question: On May 25th, five Tamil fishermen were arrested by Iranian Navy? What is the situation of the five of them? Totally how many Tamil fishermen have presence abroad?

Official Spokesperson: I do not have a break-up State-wise of people. But in Sri Lanka we have currently 11 Indian fishermen in their custody. Of course, we are impressing upon the Sri Lankan authorities for their expeditious release. I do not have any details on the fishermen in Iran. But I can get that information for you, next time.

Question:
My questions are related to missiles. Since you informed us that we have entered HCOC, does that effectively mean that we are going to shelve our Agni-V Plus programme? Secondly, A.Q. Khan of Pakistan has said that nuclear Pakistan can target India within five minutes. What is your response after that?

Official Spokesperson: Let me say that our national security interest would not be impacted in any manner whatsoever by India joining the voluntary Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. On your second question, I think the Pakistan High Commissioner himself has characterized such remarks as being foolish. So, I do not think I need to respond any further.

Question: I do not know whether you have already answered this previously. Recently an Indian Parliamentary delegation went to Bangladesh and it is reported in Bangladesh papers that they visited various areas, talked to various minority organizations’ people and also met Indian High Commissioner. And it is reported that they are very perturbed about the atrocities being perpetrated on the minorities especially Hindus in various parts of Bangladesh. Could you please throw some light on that, whether they have come back and reported back to MEA or not?

Official Spokesperson: On this issue we have been in touch with the Bangladeshi authorities. And the Bangladeshi authorities have assured us that they take the protection of minorities very seriously and all such cases are investigated very promptly and due process of law followed.

Question: I want to know, since the liberation of Taliban from Afghanistan, how much investment India has made there? And since so many attacks have been made on Indian construction projects there, has any extra effort been made to counter the possible danger from Afghan insurgents?

Official Spokesperson: Obviously, as you know, I have already mentioned this in response to an earlier question, that we have invested very heavily in Afghanistan. We have a very close developmental cooperation partnership with Afghanistan. Our total assistance to Afghanistan is in excess of USD 2 billion. We have done some flagship goodwill projects such as the Parliament Building, such as the Salma Dam now called the India-Afghan Friendship Dam, and we have helped with electricity projects, we have helped with road projects, we have helped with bridges projects. We do a lot of small development projects in Afghanistan. So, our entire effort in Afghanistan is to do projects which help the people of Afghanistan. And that is why I think India is consistently ranked by the Afghan people as the country which has stood by them and has been of greatest help to them. At the same time, doing all these projects, we have had to face a lot of challenges, not just geographical challenges but also security challenges because of the kind of situation you have in Afghanistan where repeated attempts are made to disturb the peace and stability of Afghanistan through cross-border terrorism, you know from where, and we have had to deal with that as well. In fact, we have lost personnel even from the Indian Diplomatic Service to terror attacks in Afghanistan. You know that very well, the kind of sacrifices that we have made. We do have ITBP personnel there guarding some of our facilities. But at the same time, our commitment to Afghanistan remains despite these challenges.

Question: Gorakhpur ke rehne wale ek Ranveer Yadav hain jis ki Saudi Arab mein 22 May death ho gayi hai. Uski 2 unmarried ladkiyan hain jo lagataar Indian Embassy ko vahan likh rahi hain ki mere father ki dead body ko wapas karaya jaaye. Ab tak nahin ho paya hai. Is par aap kuchh kehna chahenge?

Official Spokespeson: Dekhiye, achcha hoga agar is tarah ke prashn aap mujhse pehle se pooch lein kyonki Saudi Arab mein aapko pata hai ki 2.96 million Bhartiya nagrik vahan karyarat hain. Har ek ke baare mein toh mein information nahin rakh sakta hoon. Lekin agar aap pehle se poochhein to mein apne mission se vahan se sampark karke aapke liye phir answer taiyaar rakh sakta hoon aise cases mein.

Question: …(Inaudible)… Paanch mahinon se ECNR clearance ruka hua hai. Jo workers ja rahe hain, 300 visa ab tak cancel ho chuke hain, work permit ke jo visa aaye hain.

Official Spokesperson: Mujhe poochchna padega Protectorate of Immmigrants se. Jaisa ki aap log jaante hain ki pehle yeh Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) handle karti thi. MOIA ka merger ho gaya hai Videsh Mantralaya ke saath. Protectorate of Immigrants ki post ab Videsh Mantralaya mein hi hai. Protectorate of Immmigrants se poochhunga iske baare mein, agar yeh satya hai jo aap keh rahe hain.

Question: Three IITians were detained in Italy without any charge. Do you have any details regarding them?

Official Spokesperson:
Yes. I received a number of queries in this regard. So, I asked for a full report from our Embassy in Rome and I have got that now. Our Mission in Rome has reported that they received a distress call on the 30th of May from one Ms. Apoorva who informed that her brother Mr. Akshit Goel along with two of his friends, all Indian nationals, had been illegally detained by the Italian police in the town of Ventimiglia in North Italy. All the three Indian nationals were visiting Italy for tourism purposes and were carrying valid passports with valid Schengen visas. Our Embassy assured the family of all possible help and immediately contacted Italian police authorities in Ventimiglia as well as the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Rome. The Embassy was also able to establish contact with Mr. Akshit. He told our Mission that he and his friends had been detained by the Italian police at the Ventimiglia railway station during a checking for illegal immigrants. Later, they were flown along with other detainees to Bari, a town almost 1,000 kilometres away in the south of Italy. Our Embassy immediately contacted the police authorities in Ventimiglia and Bari as well as the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Rome and apprised them of the problem. After checking, it was found that the Italian authorities had made a mistake and they promised to release the three detained Indian nationals. Finally, at around 9:30 pm on the 30th of May, they were released from police custody. The Embassy coordinated with the authorities to ensure proper arrangements and safe transportation of Indian nationals from Bari to the premises of the Indian Embassy in Rome. The three reached the Mission on the 31st of May at around 9 am. All the three Indian nationals were lodged at the Embassy premises and provided adequate care. The Embassy made arrangements for their onward journey to Nice in France on the same day where they are enrolled for an internship programme at a French university. Their families were informed of their safe release and the Embassy assured them of all necessary assistance in getting them back safely to the university in France. According to our report, they did reach Nice on the morning of the 1st of June. The Embassy has strongly raised this issue with the Italian authorities and is in touch with them to ensure that adequate steps are taken to ensure that such unfortunate incidents involving Indian nationals do not recur in the future.

Question:
Was it an instance of racial profiling and was an apology extended by the Italian officials to the three students?

Official Spokesperson:
The fact of the matter is they have admitted that it was a mistake; their documents were actually in order and that is why we have been able to secure their expeditious release.

Question: Sir, mera savaal bhi Arab se hi related hai. Lagaatar aisi ghatnaayein ho rahi hain ki jo majdoor Bharat se vahan Arab mein hain alag-alag companies mein ghatnaayein saamne aa rahi hain. Wahaan par unke saath durvyavhaar ki sthiti, unko paisa na diya jaana, unko phir captive rakhna, is tarah ki ghatnaayein lagaatar aa rahi hain. Previous days mein bhi wahan par 500 majdooron ko captive kiya gaya tha. Toh kis tarah se aap log Arab ke saath coordinate kar rahe hain ki is tarah ki ghatnaaon ki repetition na ho?

Official Spokesperson:
Dekhiye, vahan par asli samasya yeh hai ki unka ek kafaala system hai. Kafaala system ke antargat sponsor ke paas sab kuchh power hai. Voh passport rakh leta hai, jab tak sponsor permission nahin deta hai tab tak exit visa nahin lag sakta hai. Exit visa nahin lagega toh aap Saudi Arabia chhod kar nahin ja sakte hain, ya Kuwait ya koi bhi aur us tarah ka desh ho. Doosri samasya yeh hai ki jo hamaare workers hain ve kabhi kabhi unregistered agents ke maadhyam se jaa rahe hain. Jaise ki abhi abhi hamaare paas ek case aaya hai ki us mein kuchh workers ko kaha gaya tha hum aapko drivers ke roop mein vahan lagayenge, aur jab vahan pahunche toh unko camel riders bana diya gaya. Ab voh humse keh rahe hain ki humein toh jhansa diya gaya. Hum logon ko galat information ki basis par vahan bula liya gaya, ab hum phans gaye hain. Unko bhi nikaalne ki hum log koshish kar rahe hain. Voh desert area mein hain. Ek toh humaara unke saath working group hai, Consular Working Group hai uske tahat hum ye mudde humesha uthaate hain. Jahan jahan par specific cases hamaare knowledge mein aate hain vahan phir hum sponsor ke saath touch mein hote hain aur koi ek via media dhoondhte hain. After all, yeh humein unke legal system ke tahat hi karna hai, apne legal system ke tahat toh hum nahin kar sakte. Toh hum poori koshish yahi karte hain ki jahan tak ho sake, aur jahan par waakai utpeedan vagairah ki baat hai, vahan par hum bahut seriously lete hain aur turant hum unke Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior wagairah tak apni baat rakhte hain. Aapne dekha bhi hoga kai kayi aise workers hain jinke byora aap jaante hain jinko hum chhuda ke vaapas bhi laaye hain. Toh ye kuchh samasyaayein hain. Mein maanta hoon. Hum log unko brush under the carpet nahin kar sakte hain. But we are trying to do our best to deal because maine kaha 2.96 million Indian workers Saudi Arabia mein hain. Poore Gulf mein le lein to saadhe saat million se bhi zyada workers humaare hain vahan. Samasya gambhir isliye hai kyon ki numbers bhi bahut zyada hain.

Question:
Pichhle dinon Dilli mein Pakistan ke Bharat mein High Commissioner ek karyakram mein shirkat kar rahe the aur unhone kaha ki Afghanistan ek bahut nazuk daur se guzar raha hai aur vahan ke aantarik maamlon mein hum saare mulqon ko dakhal zyada nahin dena chahiye? Ab jab Bharat ke Pradhan Mantri Afghanistan ki yatra kar rahe hain, aapko lagta hai ki baar-baar Bharat ke Pradhan Mantri vahan ja rahe hain aapsi sambandhon ko majboot karne ki drishti se, aise mein unka bayaan jo aaya hai voh shaayad Bharat ke Pradhan Mantri ki is yatra ko dhyan mein rakhte hue aaya hai?

Official Spokesperson:
Yeh to phir unse hi poochchein aap.

Question:
Is the signing of HCOC going to aid India in its membership for MTCR?

Official Spokesperson: This is also another effort to sort of show that we respect global non-proliferation norms and we want to be a part of those particular norms. But it is different from the MTCR. As I said, this was a voluntary thing which is open to many nations to join and we have joined that. Parallelly we are also on track for MTCR membership. As I mentioned in my earlier reply, we have applied for it, our application has been well received and the process is currently on.

Okay. I think today has been a lengthy day but we have finally managed to get through all the questions. Thank you all.

(Concluded)

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