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Transcript (uncorrected) of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (October 12, 2017)

October 12, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namashkar and a very good afternoon to all of you. It is very good to see all you after some time. I have announcement to make before we move to the question and answer session and the announcement relates to India’s participation at the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group Meeting.

The meeting was participated by Secretary (West), Smt. Ruchi Ghanashyam. This meeting took place in Moscow yesterday. This was the first meeting of the group following the expansion of the SCO in June 2017 with India becoming its full member. We shared our perspective on the situation in Afghanistan including security challenges posted by terrorism imposed from beyond its borders, the need to strengthen Afghan national defence and security forces and need for an Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled national peace and reconciliation in an environment free of terror and violence, continued assistance for socio-economic development based on priorities of the people of Afghanistan and ensuring greater connectivity and regional integration for Afghanistan.

We also conveyed our readiness towards closely with SCO member states in efforts to bring peace, prosperity and stability in Afghanistan. The next meeting of the contact group will be held in Beijing in early 2018. So this concludes the announcement, now the floor is open to questions.

Question: In the Afghanistan meeting India has given a list of things that it would be doing since the world is expecting India to increase its engagement with Afghanistan but the Defence Minister has ruled out that there will be no security forces involved. So what are the things that we are going to do apart from the infrastructure and what all we are doing there. Is there anything new that we are looking at in engaging with Afghanistan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I have shared at this forum that there was a visit by the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan and also there was a visit by the CEO and after that we had shared that India will continue to focus on economic assistance. We had also identified more than 100 projects. We had also identified some big projects, I think, six projects which we have identified and we continue to assist Afghanistan. We had also agreed, if you remember last time, that we will now start training their police forces after the Afghan national army. Thank you.

Question: I just wanted to ask you that there is a difference between India and India’s views on Afghanistan and the talks with the Taliban and Russia and China. What do you have to say about the difference in perception? China and Russia both believe that we need to talk to the Taliban. India also says we need to talk but only after the red lines are drawn i.e. they believe in the unity of Afghanistan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think again that it has been shared here by my predecessors as well. I can state my position, I can’t talk on behalf of other countries. Our position is very clear and consistent which we have followed all throughout, we do not distinguish between good Taliban and bad Taliban. There are several forums for meetings on Afghanistan, we are members of some of them. We have also articulated earlier that we believe in an Afghan owned, Afghan controlled and Afghan led solution in Afghanistan.

Question: Agar Kulbhushan Jadhav ko lekar koi update ho jo aap share kar sakein, chaahe International court mein ya fir Pakistan ki taraf se jo kahaa gayaa thaa.

(If there is any update on Kulbhushan Jadhav, whether it is from International Court of Justice or what Pakistan has said in this regard?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Mere pass kuch hai Kulbhushan Jadhav par, ho sakta hai nayaa nahi ho par fir bhi main aapase share karungaa.

Jaisa aapko pataa hogaa ki humne apna written memorial submit kiyaa thaa 13 September ko International Court of Justice mein aur uske baad International Court of Justice ne Pakistan ko time diyaa hai 13 December 2017 tak apna written memorial submit karne ke liye. Agar aap ICJ ki website par jaayein to usmein likhaa huaa hai ki uske baad jab dono memorial submit ho jaayenge to International Court of Justice will decide on the next steps.

Rendering my answer to the above question in English.

As you are aware we have submitted a written memorial to the ICJ on 13th September 2017. ICJ has given time to Pakistan till December 13, 2017 to submit its own memorial. After the submission of the two memorials ICJ will decide on the next course of action.

Question: Recently there was a statement by the spokesperson of Chinese MOFA stating that the section of the Sikkim region in India and China is covered by an old historic convention and if India wants peace and tranquility on the borders India has to abide by it. Do we agree to that 1890 convention and what do you have to say about this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have seen relevant reports, the comments, negotiations for the settlement of the India-China boundary question are held at the level of special representatives of the two countries based on agreements and understanding reached between them from time to time. The most recent common understanding between the special representatives was reached in 2012. It is important that these understandings are scrupulously respected by both sides and that each side projects the position of the other side accurately.

Question: Recently the Pakistan Prime Minister has said in Washington that India really has no role in Afghanistan, any involvement by India will only complicate matters and the role of India in Afghan affairs is zero, he said. Would you like to comment on that? Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think this is the statement which was made by the Pakistani Prime Minister, of course we do not agree with his assessment. Our role in Afghanistan is very clear and I have even articulated earlier what, we believe, should happen in Afghanistan. We are looking at peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan which will be led by Afghanistan, controlled by Afghanistan and also owned by Afghanistan.

Question: President Trump has introduced a set of reform legislations in US Congress on immigration norm. How is India taking up this issue considering that on two levels, of course the H1B review is also happening, what are India’s expectations here or apprehensions? It could impact the extended families of the Green card holders and also the DECA, there are some 8000 Indian origin immigrants who could be impacted by it. At what level are you taking it up? If you could give us an assessment.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: If you have been following our tweets and posts, most recently this was taken up by the External Affairs Minister when she had a meeting with State Secretary Tillerson in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA. We took up the matter of H1B visa, we also took up the matter of DACA and we conveyed our position on this matter. This was earlier taken up during the visit of Prime Minister during his meeting with Trump as well.

Question: I would like to ask you on the issue of Iran nuclear deal. President Trump has indicated that he may want the US to retreat on the nuclear when he makes his statement tomorrow. What is India’s position on the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA and how does India intend to insulate projects such as the Chabahar port or the oil imports from Iran if the US retreats from the Iran nuclear deal?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have shared our position on Iran earlier. I do not want to comment specifically on what President Trump thinks about this issue. We have our own position and relationship with Iran which is very historical and civilizational. We do feel that it should be seen independent from our relationship from any other country.

Question: US Secretary of State is likely to visit India by the end of this month. Do you have any info on this and when is this 2+2 dialogue likely to happen between the two countries?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Taking the second question first, I have already indicated earlier that you see there four principals involved in this 2+2 dialogue. Getting the dates of all the principals is a process which is going on and we hope that this dialogue will materialize soon.

On the visit of the Secretary of State Tillerson, we have not yet confirmed the visit. I must tell you that the foreign offices of both sides are in touch with each other on the proposals for high level visits. There is a well-established procedure for announcement of high level visits. As and when we have some confirmation we will make announcements in due course.

Question: This is about Doklam. Since the disengagement there have been plenty of media statements about China widening the roads in that area and recently there has been report that India is pulling back its troops from the nearby area. Can you give us an update what is exactly happening there?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We had issued a press statement on the subject, I think it was issued on 6th October. As we had said then that there are no new developments at the face of site and its vicinity since the August 28th disengagement. The status quo prevails in this area and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect. I am not aware about any changes since the statement, but I can check it for you.

Question: I believe Myanmar government has invited international community to visit the troubled Rakhine province. So whether India would be a party to any international delegation and if so then at what level?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Are you referring to the visit by the Diplomatic Corps, I think I have something on that. What had happened was that the government of Myanmar had invited the Diplomatic Corps in Myanmar to visit the Rakhine state. Our Ambassador in Myanmar did participate in this trip which was organized by the government of Myanmar on 2nd October. 50 diplomats were taken to nearly half a dozen villages in the Northern districts of Maungdaw and Rathedaung.

Question: India EU summit was held last week and the German Ambassador has said that no headway was made on resumption of talks on an India-EU trade pact is concerned. So what are the hurdles and why is it not happening, there was no breakthrough, no headway made at this summit either?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I have not seen the statement which the German Ambassador has made but if you look at the joint statement which was issued, if you have gone through the press statement made by the Prime Minister, there were several takeaways from India-EU summit meeting which took place. Discussions took place on wide variety of issues and I think discussions were held in a very cordial and very friendly atmosphere.

On the specific issue of treaty itself, discussions did take place and we are looking at forward movement but I have not seen the statement made by the German Ambassador.

Question: If you could just give us an update about the voting on UNESCO chief? Certain candidates have also travelled to India last year.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I am afraid I do not have the details but I can share it with you once I have those details.

Question: Any further development on the Vijay Mallya issue? It also appears the US Secretary of State and the Defence Secretary will be in Pakistan? Is this something that comes in India’s efforts to isolate Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Of course not but I’ll come to a detailed answer later on. To give you the latest on Vijay Mallya I have something with me.

The extradition request in respect of Vijay Mallya was handed over to the UK High Commission in New Delhi on 9th February 2017, again I am taking you back. Mr. Mallya was arrested and perused before the Westminster Magistrate’s court in London on 18th April 2017 for extradition hearing and granted conditional bail. In the case management review held on 6th July 2017, the tentative date for extradition hearing was announced to be 4th December 2017.

Mallya’s bail was also extended until then on the same terms and conditions. Another case management review hearing was held on 14th September 2017 in which defence evidence was served to UK Crown Prosecution Service for response from Indian side. Indian authorities need to send replies to the defence evidence before 3rd November 2017.

In the hearing on 4th October 2017, UK Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of India filed supplemental affidavit in connection with money laundering charges and as you all know that Mr. Mallya was rearrested and granted bail thereafter till 4th December 2017 when extradition hearing is scheduled to commence. The pre-trial review on the case is scheduled for 20th November.

Coming to the second question of yours, of course we do not agree with this assessment that Tillerson visiting Pakistan and India together means anything. You have been following Secretary Tillerson’s comments on Pakistan. We feel that India-US bilateral relations are very comprehensive and stand on their own merits. We do not look at our relationships through the prism of any third country.

Question:
Could you give us a read out on Foreign Secretary’s visit to Seychelles and also could you confirm if the French President is coming to India in December?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I have something on Foreign Secretary’s visit to Seychelles. FS visit to Seychelles earlier this week was a scheduled visit as he has direct oversight on relations with Seychelles. He met the President, the Vice President, the leader of the opposition and other Cabinet members. The focus was on bilateral development cooperation and maritime cooperation.

As to your second question, again the answer would be the same that we have said several times that at this stage it is too early for me to confirm the visit. We will announce it at an appropriate time.

Question: May I draw your attention to the developments in Nepal where all three principal left parties have joined hands against the ruling NC. How does India view these developments?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Frankly it would not be appropriate for me to comment on Nepal’s internal matters. India has an abiding interest in peace, stability and economic prosperity of Nepal within the framework of a democratic and inclusive polity. As a close and friendly neighbor of Nepal, India will continue to extend all possible support to Nepal for peace, stability and accelerated economic development in accordance with the priorities of the people and the government of Nepal.

Question: Pakistan had last year asked India to hand over all the evidences in 26/11 case which included a genset, all those evidences that we used in trials for 26/11, also the weapons that were used by the militants. India has responded and possibly they had asked the judicial commission to come and inspect these evidences in India. I don’t know in between whether the judicial commission has come or not, which I would like to know from you, but the Pakistan government is indicating that they don’t have any evidence and they would like to conclude this case without any conviction. How would India react to this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Are you linking it to the recent developments regarding the release of

Question Contd.: Yes, and also the continuous news that are coming out that they don’t have evidences and the case is now going for closure.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Regarding the visit of the judicial commission I think I’ll have to check. I do not have any information with me at this point. On the other part whether, are you talking about the release by the court of

Question Contd.: Hafiz Saeed. No not about Hafiz Saeed but 26/11 particularly there are indications and they have been constantly saying that we don’t have any evidences now, India has not given us any evidence to proof that Pakistani citizens were involved.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have shared lot of evidence with them. The evidence which we have submitted, which some of you mentioned, has also been made public from time to time. The exact status of where we are on this position, I will have to check especially with regard to the visit of the judicial commission and maybe at a later stage I can share that with you.

If there are no other questions, thank you very much. Wish you all a very happy Diwali.

Thank you very much.

(Concludes)
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