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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (April 20, 2017)

April 21, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you once again to all of you for coming today here. I have an opening announcement, it is about the working visit of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to India.

Prime Minister of Sri Lanka His Excellency Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe will be travelling to India on a working visit from the 25th to 29th of April, 2017. 26th will be the main day of his official engagements in New Delhi. Our Prime Minister will be hosting a luncheon meeting with H.E. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe on April 26, 2017.

External Affairs Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister for Road Transport Highways and Shipping will be calling on the visiting Sri Lankan dignitary.

After his official engagements in Delhi, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka will be making a private visit outside the Capital. The visit of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to India from April 25, 2017 is a part of our continuing engagement with the government of Sri Lanka at the highest level.

That concludes my one and only announcement for today. I am in your hands now.

Question: Of course it’s an internal matter as far as Pakistan is concerned but we are an important neighbor and we have an engagement. How does the MEA and the government see what has happened today in the Panama papers?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you very much for asking the question and also answering it.

Question: China has renamed six of Arunachal regions in its own language. How does India see this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Assigning invented names to the towns of your neighbor does not make illegal territorial claims legal. Arunachal Pradesh is and will always be an integral part of India.

Question: Officially any update on Kulbhushan Jadhav, any kind of world from the MOFA yet because we heard that yesterday the Deputy High Commissioner was summoned but there wasn’t any official confirmation from your side and also we heard that there was a meeting sought from Foreign Secretary, has that meeting happened and what are the fresh demands that India has made?

Question: Kulbhushan Jadhav ko lekar hi pehle bhi MEA do baar Pakistan ke adhikaariyon ko bulaa chukaa hai. Kya aisi koi possibility hai jis se ki Kulbhushan Jadhav ko bachaane ki koshish safal ho sakti hai?

Question: There are indications from Pakistan that it plans to share the Jadhav dossier with international community, it has asked its envoy stationed outside to share the dossier. What is the counter strategy? Are we looking to mobilize international opinion? More specifically United States’ National Security Advisor was here, did we take up this issue?

Question: There is a petition filed in High Court yesterday that MEA should be directed to file the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav in the International Court of Justice. Are we contemplating taking this case to International Court of Justice?

Question: Can you share some details of exactly what happened at the meeting yesterday when the MEA summoned the Pakistani Deputy High Commissioner and during that meeting did Pakistan give a clear cut response on our 14th request for consular access to Jadhav? Have they rejected it or not?

Question: Do you have any idea how many Pakistani spies are there in Indian jails and whether there had been any time that you had denied access to them?

Question: Yeh sawaal pichhali baar bhi poochha gaya thaa ki Kulbhushan Jadhav ke swaasthya ke baare mein, unki well-being ke baare mein hamaare paas aakhiri jaankaari kaun si hai? Unhen kahaan rakhaa gaya hai kyaa is baare mein Bharat jaanata hai?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you all very much for your questions. Without referring to specific colleagues, I would try and answer them.

First of all update on what happened, yes you are right, the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan was called yesterday to MEA. As Pakistan has claimed that there have been legal proceedings in Pakistan against Mr. Kulbhushan Jadhav. So indeed if there have been any proceedings against him then obviously we would like to see officially the details of those proceedings.

So this is what we have sought from the Government of Pakistan. And we would also like to know officially what is the future course of action in terms of the appeals process, what the options are and how they can be exercised. So officially we have sought that information also from the Government of Pakistan.

Aapne sawaal poochha unke swaasthya ke baare mein aur ve kahaan par hain, jaisa ki maine pichhali baar bhi aapse kahaa thaa ki humko is baare mein koi jaankaari nahin hai ki woh kahaan par hain aur abhi tak bhi is baare mein humko koi jaankaari nahin hai ki Kulbhushan Jadhav Ji Pakistan mein kahaan par hain.

Pakistan Sarkar ka kahnaa hai ki woh unki custody mein hain lekin unka swaasthya kaisa, unke haalaat kaise hain, ve kis tareeke se hain, ye hamaare like ek chintaa ka vishay hai aur humne is baare mein apni chintaa pehle bhi jaahir kari hai aur humane Pakistan Sarkar ko bhi apni chintaa se avgat karaaya hai ki hamein unke sambandh mein jaankaari dii jaaye. Na kewal jaankaari hi dii jaaye balki consular bhent karne ke liye bhi kahaa hai, jaisa ke aap jaante hain ab tak 14 baar aur yadi kal ka bhi milaa lein to ab tak 15 baar Pakistan Sarkar se maang kari hai.

Consular bhent karne ke pramukhtah do kaaran hain, ek to ye ki is baat se aashwast hona ki woh kis haalat mein hain, unka swaasthya kaisa hai, unko kis cheez ki aavashyakta hai, agar hai to aur ho sake to us aavashyakta ki poorti karna. Ye normal consular bhent prakriaya hai jo ki saare kaidi, machuaaron wagairah ke liye kii jaati hai.

Ek aspect iska ye hai, doosaraa pahloo consular bhent ka ye hai ki chunki Kulbhushan Jadhav Ji ke khilaaf ek khaas kism ke aarop lagaaye gaye hain jo ki niraadhaar hain to is sambandh mein unka mantavya kya hai, unka nazariya kya hai, unka pahloo kya hai, us se bhi Sarkar ko avagat hona chahiye. Aur isliye bhi hamane Pakistan Sarkar se consular bhent ki maang ab tak 15 baar kari hai.

Jahan tak Jadhav Ji ke baare mein international community ko avgat karaane ka sawaal hai Pakistan ke dwaaraa, to us sambandh mein hamane pahle bhi is tarah ki reports dekhi hain.

We have seen these reports earlier also that they have tried to misinform the international community and presented, what they call, certain information to them. What they also at one point called evidence which you are very well aware that their senior dignitaries themselves have said that it was more of information rather than evidence in their parliament. So I would not like to comment on that in any detail at this stage.

Whether we discuss this matter with dignitaries visiting India or elsewhere, I don’t have information on that.

The question about the petition in Delhi High Court that MEA should move ICJ, if there is a petition, it would be sub-judice and hence it would obviously not be appropriate for me to comment on that. I would only say that government has said very clearly that we would all that we can so that justice is ensured for him.

Jo kuchh Sarkar se ban padegaa, sarkaar saare prayaas karegi aur kar rahi hai ki Kulbhushan Jadhav ji ko nyaay mile.

How many Pakistani spies are there in Indian jails, I am sorry I don’t have that information right now with me but I can ascertain this information. There are obviously a number of Pakistani civil prisoners, as we call them, who are lodged in Indian jails on various charges. In many cases they pertain to serious crimes against the state of India and I also don’t have the details whether all have been given consular access or not.

Offering consular access is one thing and availing of consular access is also there. In some cases we also have to see whether the country to whom we have offered the consular access have availed it or not. So those details are not with me, I will try and collect those details.

We await formal official response from the Government of Pakistan to the demands that we have made. As far as granting consular access is concerned, as I mentioned to you, this is a process in which the national which are held in the custody of our government, the concerned government is informed and then there is a process to it. Whether we have offered the consular access, they have availed it or not, these are functional details, procedural details which I don’t have right now but I can ascertain them for you.

Question: This is on NSA McMaster’s visit. Can you share details about it, especially what we spoke about Pakistan and did they share any details of the strike that took place in Nangarhar province recently, any details of about the Indians killed? Specifically about that statement about Pakistan to Tolo News where they said that Pakistan cannot be selective in its approach to terrorists?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I don’t have a detailed readout on the discussions but I am sure that you have seen the press release put out after the US National Security Advisor’s call on our Prime Minister which broadly mentions the areas that were covered. It also broadly mentions what both sides discussed in terms of enhancing their cooperation to fight terrorism and they discussed the security situation in the wider region, Afghanistan etc.

I don’t know if any specific actions or developments in Afghanistan were discussed or covered during his discussions. As far as comments which you referred to by the US National Security Advisor regarding Pakistan fighting terrorism in a less selective manner, we have noted those comments and I would say that basically they are similar to our long standing views that we have held on the need for Pakistan to effectively fight all forms of terrorism emanating from its soil that affects it’s neighboring countries. I would say that we have similarity of approach with the United States on this aspect.

Question: Was the issue of Ontario Assembly was raised with National Defence Minister of Canada? If yes, what was his response?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I do not have the details on what specific issues were discussed in the meetings which the Defence Minister of Canada had with the Indian authorities. His visit is still ongoing as you know, but as far as the specific issue that you have mentioned, as you are aware and as we have said it publicly, we have issued a statement that our views were made familiar to the Canadian authorities.

Question: When General McMaster had come, did he have an invite to the US from the President Trump for our Prime Minister? Were any dates for the visit discussed, any details on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: No, I am not aware of that.

Question: There are reports that Prime Minister Modi will also be visiting Sri Lanka next month. Can you tell us what is on agenda, what are we looking forward to in that visit?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I can say that the invitation has been received for him to visit Sri Lanka and the details are being worked out at this stage. When we have more details, we will share with you.

Question: On the H1B and Australian Visa you have said that full assessment is being made. How soon can we see that assessment and which all stakeholders you are consulting with?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: We are talking to all concerned people, we certainly speaking to industry and industry bodies because it is the IT industry and the Indian workers in them and it is a matter which concerns them most directly so we, obviously, are talking to them.

As far as when the impact or assessment will be there, I would like to remind you that what has happened in the United States is basically an executive order has been signed. Now it has to be acted upon and as a result of which it would perhaps be expected that there would be a legislation in the US Congress or some other sort of process concerning the H1B visas. So once that process takes place then we will have to make an assessment depending on the details, at that stage, of the changes made. Right now what we have is an executive order and it is an internal process in United States which will unfold on this matter in the coming days and weeks and we will keep a very close watch.

But since you have raised this matter it would be appropriate for me to recall a couple of aspects in this regards. One that we have already pointed out the contribution which the Indian professionals have made to the competitiveness of the US economy and the innovation within the US economy.

We have also, earlier on, referred to the contributions of these professionals as bridge-builders between the two economies i.e. the United States and India as well as between the two countries, the larger society of the two countries. Let me also put in perspective this whole matter. This is not an immigration issue as we have said earlier, it is basically a trade and services issue.

There is mutuality of interests involved over here. There are Indian companies, Indian workers in United States. There are also United States’ companies in the IT sector in India and I don’t need to name them and which dominate the world. The giants of the corporate world which basically have originated from United States are represented in India in large numbers. So there is a mutuality of interest over here and I can assure that the implications of the changes that will come about in the visa regimes will be part of our conversations on these matters with the concerned countries.

Question: Question on Vijay Mallya. He was arrested and later he got bail. The release said that both the governments are in touch with each other. Can you give more details on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Yes, the two governments are in touch on the matter of extradition proceedings against Mr. Vijay Mallya. Our High Commission in London has been following up the matter with the United Kingdom authorities. As far as I know the next date for hearing has been set for 17 May. So the two governments will remain in touch in this regard.

I must point out that what is going on right now in the United Kingdom is there internal process in response to the extradition request made by Indian government. So we will remain in touch in that regard.

Question: Is India sending any representative to OBOR (One Belt One Road) Summit in Beijing? If yes, at what level?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: All that I know at the moment is that there is an invitation and it is being under consideration.

Question: You said that the implications of the H1B visa review would be a part of your conversations with the US. Visas especially this sort of visas are a part of the people to people contact as well as the commercial and economic relations between the two sides. Do you think there would come a time when this type of issues will start impacting the broader relationship between India and United States, especially since it deals with the economic relations with countries?

Question: On the Australian visa issue, as the MEA issued a statement following the changes in Australian visa earlier this week saying that it would be considered in the light of trade negotiations. Can I ask you to elaborate on what that means and secondly, today Australia’s Trade Minister has said that he has received no communication of any concern from the Indian side. Can that be taken to mean there is none or are there plans to raise them?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I won’t like to speculate at this stage on what the impact would be because as I said there is an executive order to the best of my understanding and it needs to be translated into points of action. We will closely monitor that process and we will keep that matter on our radar. So let me not speculate on what the impact would be. As we have said earlier that the relationship between United States and India is very strong, it is looking up, the leadership in both the countries is committed to make it stronger. That is the context, the larger perspective in which we see the India-United States relationship. But on this specific issue, as I said, I won’t like to speculate unless we see the details.

On the changes in the Australian visa regime, we have said yesterday and also a day before that, we have issued two statements, basically pointing out that we understand that these changes means that one regime is being replaced by another visa policy. We also understand, because the Australian senior officials have told us, that the impact on the Indian IT professionals will be negligible because they fall in the high skill category.

At the same time as I had said earlier in response to a question that these are trade and services issues. I understand we have CECA under negotiation between Australia and India and obviously all trade and services matter would fall under the purview of CECA negotiations.

Whether there is an official communication of our concerns to Australian side so far, I don’t have information on that and I will need to check on that, but certainly our statements that we have issued from the government are in public domain.

Question: There are conflicting reports of Indians affected in Afghanistan in the US bombings. What is the official information that India has on this matter because yesterday there were reports that 13 Indians were killed and there were earlier reports that Indians have joined IS there, so what is the actual position?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: So far as you rightly said we have seen various versions of media reports and we have officially no information with us.

Question: My question is about China renaming places in Arunachal Pradesh. You have already told us what MEA feels about this. My question is, are we looking at it as a confrontation from China to India? Are we looking at it as repercussions of Dalai Lama’s visit and have we made any official communication to Beijing about what we think about this on this matter?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I do not want to speculate on the reasons behind these changes, you mentioned His Holiness Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, I won’t like to go into that speculation as to what is the reason behind this.

I have mentioned earlier today, right here, that naming the town doesn’t alter the reality that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and it will remain so.

Now what you have additionally asked whether we have conveyed anything to the government of China and does it has any repercussions for the boundary questions. In so far as I understand there is no communication from government of China also on renaming officially to us but this is my understanding at the moment. All that we have seen are the statements in the media.

As to the repercussions on the boundary question, let me say that there is an established bilateral mechanism to address the boundary question between China and India, that mechanism has made certain progress and we would expect that the boundary question will be addressed in an honorable and mutually acceptable manner.

Question: Can you share with us some details about visit of the High Representative of the European Union and if it means resuming of trade negotiations?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: The High Representative and the Vice President of the European Union Ms. Moghereni will be in Delhi in the early hours of tomorrow which is April 21, 2017. She will be here until April 23, 2017.

At the moment what I have is that she has a meeting scheduled with the External Affairs Minister tomorrow then there are of course the delegation level talks and other protocol events. There are certain events in which she is taking part but I don’t have all the details, I am aware of her meeting with EAM slated for tomorrow. When the two leaders meet I don’t want to prejudge or pre-empt or pronounce myself on what the leaders will discuss. I would leave it to the leaders to define their agenda and to discuss what they would eventually. After the meeting I would be in a position to inform you on the discussions held between the leaders.

So if you have exhausted all the questions, I think I have also exhausted myself. So with that I take your leave for today and see you next week, hopefully. Thank you.

(Concludes)

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