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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (October 27, 2017)

October 27, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon, Namashkar. Good to see you all after festive season. I have three announcements to make. I’ll start with the announcement which relates to my division.

From today we are starting a series called "Ask the Spokesperson” which is on twitter I’ll be going live. We have actually asked people to submit their questions and today is the first session immediately after this briefing at Shastri Bhawan. The idea is to explain to the common people the nuances of the foreign policy. We have got quite a few questions and we will be answering live Periscope. That was one.

The second relates to the state visit of His Excellency Mr. Paolo Gentiloni Prime Minister of Italy to India and I’ll just read out a couple of paras and then we will be uploading it on our website from you can easily download.

Prime Minister Mr. Paolo Gentiloni Accompanied by Mrs. Emanuela Mauro will be on a state visit to India on Monday 30th October, 2017 at the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The last visit of the Italian Prime Minister to India was in February 2007. Coming after a gap of more than a decade, this visit is aimed at strengthening the bilateral political and economic relations between the two countries. A 15 member Italian CEO delegation will be accompanying the official delegation. Interaction between the CEOs of the two countries is also being planned. Over 600 Italian companies are active in India covering various sectors such fashion, garments, textile and textile machinery, automotive, automotive components, infrastructure, chemicals, energy, confectionary, insurance etc.

A number of Indian companies are also present in Italy mainly in IT, electronics, engineering, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and railway sector. There are two or three more paragraphs but we are putting it up on our website from where you can download it.

And the third and finals announcement relates to the state visit of Their Majesties King and Queen of Belgians to India. Their Majesties King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium will pay a state visit to India from 5th November to 11th November 2017 at the invitation of Hon’ble President of India. This visit of His Majesty King Philippe would be the first state visit to India following his accession to the throne in 2013. The visit will further strengthen the historical strong ties between the two countries. Belgium was among the first European countries to establish a diplomatic mission in India after Independence.

India is Belgium’s second largest export destination and third largest trade partner outside EU. In 2016-17 our bilateral trade amounted to 13.28 billion dollars of which exports from India to Belgium accounted for 5.65 billion dollars while imports from Belgium accounted for 6.62 billion dollars.

There are four more paragraphs, again we are putting this up on our website from where you can download. Now the floor is open to questions.

Question: May I know from you what the government is doing to secure the safe release of Hamid Nihal Ansari who is languishing in the Pakistani jail. Have we again sought consular access to him? His lawyers tell us that he has sought remission and the next hearing will be on November 1.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We are in touch with our High Commission in Pakistan and we are also in touch through our High Commission with the Pakistani authorities. We expect an update very soon and we will be sharing that with you.

Question: China has again urged India to join OBOR – One Belt One Road initiative and China is also very clear that they are not going to change their stand on Kashmir. So do you have any response to that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On both OBOR and Kashmir our stand is very clear. We have articulated our stand on OBOR several times from this forum and there is no change in that stand. We are for connectivity but connectivity which is open, which is free, which is equitable. And similarly our position on Kashmir is very well known and it needs no further articulation.

Question: On the issue of Doklam there have been some reports that there is some troop buildup few kms away from Doklam plateau. Has the Chinese PLA informed this officially to the Indian army and are you aware of this and is the status quo really being maintained there?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think it is important to have an accurate understanding of the situation and not to paint an alarmist picture. From what I can make out this particular news report refers to alleged Chinese buildup well within China. I would like to reiterate that there are no new developments at the face of site and its vicinity since the August 28th dis-engagement. The status quo prevails in this area. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect and mischievous.

Question: Media ke kuchh hisse mein ye bhi khabar aa rahi hai ki ISI ne Bangladesh mein takhtaa-palat ki koshish kii aur is sambandh mein Indian agencies ne Dhaka ko soochit kiyaa thaa. Kyaa is vishay par koi update hai to aap share karna chaahenge?

(There were reports from some parts of the media that ISI tried for coup in Bangladesh and Dhaka was informed about it by Indian agencies. Is there any update on this issue which you would like to share with us?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Mujhe lagta hai ki jo khabarein aapane dekhi hain wo speculative hain aur Videsh Mantralay ki taraf se hum usko koi credence nahi denaa chaahenge, koi support nahi denaa chaahenge.

(I think the reports that you have seen are speculative in nature and we as External Affairs Ministry would not like give any credence to them or support them.)

Question: Can you just give us an update on the developments following the attacks on the Swiss couple from the External Affairs Ministry and what exactly has the Swiss government told you on this, their Diplomatic Mission in Delhi?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: There are two elements to this incident. First, of course, I should strongly condemn this incident and the first aspect is related to the law and order part of it and I’m sure you know that the attackers have been arrested but I would also like to highlight the importance which our ministry attaches to quick redressal of such incidents and if you have been following the twitter handle of External Affairs Minister, she was quick to take cognizance of this incident. She sought a report from the state government and she also directed two senior officers including one who is Ambassador designate to Switzerland to go and visit the couple at the hospital, which they did. They also conveyed the best wishes of the External Affairs Minister to the couple.

I would not go into the details of the injury to the couple but we are in touch with the Swiss Embassy, they also have extended their support to the couple. Our response in such cases, and all similar cases, is to bring immediate relief to the victim and from the Ministry of External Affairs I would like to wish the couple a very speedy recovery.

Question: If you could give us an update on the accident that took place in Jharkhand which claimed the life of the Myanmar Consul General based in Kolkata and also any update on Gen V K Singh’s visit to Iraq as far as the DNA samples of the missing Indians is concerned?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On the first, it is very unfortunate incident. I’ve just been told when I was driving to this place that the Consul General of Myanmar who was based in Kolkata, he unfortunately died due to an accident somewhere in Jharkhand. We are in touch with our branch office which is in Kolkata to provide all the necessary assistance. We are also in touch with the Myanmar Embassy here to provide them all the support which would need following this incident.

On the issue regarding missing Indians, some of you may be aware about the ongoing visit of our Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. V K Singh to Iraq, in fact yesterday he was in Mosul and you are also aware about the circumstances under which we had sought DNA samples from the next of the kin of the missing Indian nationals. The purpose of MoS VKS’ visit is to talk to people. He has met a range of people in Iraq and also to get an update on the 39 missing Indian in Iraq.

Question: President Xi Jinping has again been reelected at the same post where he was and he is told to be stronger than he was earlier and in his statement yesterday he has told that PLA should be combat ready. So don’t you think that it is again a provocative statement for China after Doklam stand-off?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: What I share with you all that our Prime Minister had sent his best wishes to President Xi for the success of the congress before the congress began and subsequently Prime Minister also congratulated President Xi on his re-election as the General Secretary of the Communist Party. We hope that the direction and the policy set by the congress will further promote our bilateral relations and contribute to the peace and stability in the region.

Question: The new Pakistani High Commissioner called on the External Affairs Minister two weeks ago. What transpired, was Kulbhushan Jadhav also mentioned in the discussions?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This matter, I think, came up and it has already been dismissed by the Pakistani side themselves. Whenever a new Ambassador or a High Commissioner comes there is normally a courtesy call which he requests on the External Affairs Minister. In such a courtesy call nothing substantive is discussed. The call on by the Pakistani Ambassador, High Commissioner on EAM was in the nature of courtesy call.

Question: My question relates to EAM’s recent visit to Bangladesh where apart from JCC she has also met many opposition leaders there. One of the leader party BMP, they are demanding, it is also appeared in the Bangladesh media, they had told to the EAM that they want dissolution of this government before the general election and a care-taker government should be installed. So what is India’s view on this issue?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have issued a very detailed press statement. One was of course the press statement made by the External Affairs Minister herself and also the press release issued by our High Commission in Bangladesh. It basically lays down the contours of the discussion which unfolded between EAM’s meeting with her counterpart. There was a separate press release issued by our High Commission which touched upon the EAM’s meeting with the Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena.

EAM did meet opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia. She is not the opposition leader but she is the chairperson of a political party now. EAM also met the leader of the opposition later on the same evening. Several issues were discussed basically focusing on how to take the relationship forward, how to work on the agenda of advancing and strengthening bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh.

Question: Extradition request often go through Ministry of External Affairs and one request for Christen Mitchel was turned down because there wasn’t adequate evidence that was given initially. Apparently a second request is also being readied. Has it already reached you and to the British authorities or is it on the way?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You were right, the extradition request comes to us, it is routed through the CPV division. On this specific case I’ll have to check with the CPV division and I will revert to you.

Question: Can you please brief us about the series you were talking about on twitter. As the spokesperson what will be frequency, what is the idea about it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Today is the first time we are doing it. The idea was of course to give a chance to a layman, somebody who does not understand the nuances of the foreign policy like all of you do here, and given them a reply which is in very simple terms. For example if somebody asks me about India-Russia relations I will try to give them a response which is very simple and perhaps try to connect to the relationship at their level. We have not yet thought about the frequency but it will be perhaps once in two-three months.

Question: ……….. Inaudible………

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Once in two to three months. I will be taking around 8 to 10 questions because a lot of questions have come to us. I have to be selective in terms of selection of questions but I go live via periscope.

Question: What is your response to the Japanese Foreign Minister’s remark to a Japanese Daily suggesting that there be a dialogue between India, Japan, US and Australia?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much for your question. I have something for all of you.

India is open to working with likeminded countries on issues that advance our interests and promote our viewpoint. We are not rigid in this regard. Because of our broad acceptability as a country there are a number of such initiatives which we are part of. For example we did the trilateral meeting with Russia and China last year and this was on the topic of Asia-Pacific.

We also do an India-Sri Lanka-Maldives trilateral on security matters. We have been doing India-US-Japan for many years now and recently we have started India-Japan-Australia. We also have India-Afghanistan-Iran and we are looking to hold the India-US-Afghanistan meeting. All these meetings are conducted at different levels. As far as we are concerned we have an open mind to cooperate with countries with convergence but obviously on an agenda which is relevant to us.

Question: ….. Inaudible ……..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I have answered whatever I had to so it is up to you to interpret from my statement.

Question: The French Defence Minister just visited and she has made a comment that India and France will be having an ambitious global defence and security partnership in the Indian Ocean region. Any more details about this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, it is too early. Today is the day of the visit and I think perhaps some of the defence related questions may be defence ministry will be able to answer in a much more detailed manner. But once the visit is about to conclude we may have more details about what actually transpired in the meeting.

Question: If you permit I’ll have two questions. I is the follow up to the question asked on BRI. You have mentioned that India is open to working with likeminded countries and is not rigid.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That is not BRI, that is quadrilateral. That is extension of India-Japan-US trilateral to include Australia.

Question Contd.: So we are open to working with them?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That is what I said.

Question: The Pakistani Foreign Minister when Tillerson was in New Delhi spoke about, in their parliament, how US has shared a list of 75 militants with the Pakistani government which does not includes Hafiz Saeed and others who are wanted here in India. How do you look at that statement? You think they are giving it a deliberate spin or how would you read those remarks of the minister there?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much for the question. Unfortunately the list which was shared by the US to Pakistan, we never received a copy of that and we are unable to comment on exactly who are included and who are excluded. That is the reason why I am not in a position to respond to your question.

Question: ………………….. on the issue of terrorism. We expect that US should have shared the list that they have given to Pakistan for our own confidence.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: See, we have to understand and unless and until we get to know under what situation or circumstances the details of the names were shared, it will be difficult for us to find out why x, y or z was not included. Coming back to your question about the stand on terrorism, I think that is very very clear. If you have been following their statement which was announced first during their India policy in Washington followed by their statement at the Bagram airbase and what he replied to a query on Pakistan. I think it demonstrates a growing convergence on such topics between India and the US.

Question Contd.: ……….. Inaudible ……..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As I said if things are available to us then we will come out with some response but it is important to understand under what circumstances and what kind of names have been shared, we are not privy to that information.

Question: Can you confirm or deny if India specific terrorists like Hafiz Saeed or Lakhavi, did these names emerge in Mr. Tillerson’s meeting with Mr. Ajit Doval or EAM because we are given to understand that specific names did not figure.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have shared, in fact EAM’s press statement was very detailed. There were a couple of very strong paragraphs on the discussion between EAM and Secretary Tillerson on terrorism and beyond that there is nothing further which I can add at this stage.

If there are no other questions then we come to the end of this weekly briefing. Thank you all for participation.

(Conclude)
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