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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (August 09, 2018)

August 09, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar, good afternoon and welcome to this press briefing. I do not have any announcements to make so we can straightaway move to the Q&A session.

Question: There are a lot of apprehension regarding NRC in Bangladesh. Recently one of the members of the parliament came to India at the invitation of Government of India and met both the MoS of External Affairs as well as Home Ministry and later he told the media persons that MoS has told him that those persons will be declared as illegal immigrants, would not be pushed back to Bangladesh. Is that the official and the government’s position?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Is there any other question on NRC?

Question: BIMSTEC mei participate karne ke liye PM Nepal ja rahe hain aur wahan ye mana jaa raha hai ki Bangladesh ke jo unke counterpart honge unse is Vishay par baatcheet hogi. Is par jaanana chaahenge ki NRC ke mudde par Pradhanmantri khud baatcheet karenge aur agar baatcheet hogi to kya koi agenda hoga?

(PM is going to Nepal for attending BIMSTEC summit and it is assumed that he will be discussing the issue with his Bangladesh counterpart. I would like to know if the Prime Minister will himself discuss about the NRC issue and what would be the agenda of the talks?)

Question: Whether Government of India is in touch with Bangladesh government, is there any communication on this issue?

Question: Ultimately NRC issue will come to an end and there will be some people who will be declared as illegal, who are not citizen of India, so will they be deported to Bangladesh?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Before I start, let me make it very clear, let’s not speculate too much on this.

We have been in very close touch with the Government of Bangladesh, both prior to and following the issuance of draft NRC. At all points we have repeatedly assured Bangladesh that this is still a draft list prepared under the orders of the Supreme Court and that the process of identification of citizens of Assam is still underway.

The Bangladesh Government have taken the view that the ongoing process is an internal matter of India. We do not apprehend any impact on our ties with Bangladesh, which remains excellent.

To the question regarding whether this is likely to come up during the Prime Minister’s visit for the BIMSTEC Summit, again this is a speculative question. You know that first they have to announce the BIMSTEC Summit, then we have to announce the confirmation as to who is going and then we come down to organizing of bilateral meetings and then exactly what is going to be discussed.

Question: We have seen a military pact signed between Russia and Pakistan in which the Russians will be training Pakistani soldiers. Is this a cause of concern, given the fact that Moscow and New Delhi have been close partners?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have of course seen the media reports. Our relations with Russia, it is a very time tested relationship. It is a special relationship that we have. They are our privileged strategic partner. Our relations are based on trust and respect for each other’s core interests and sensitivities.

After the informal summit at Sochi, the relationship has acquired a new dimension which has provided an opportunity to deepen our relationship further and also let me add that our relationship with Russia which remains excellent is independent of their relations with any other country.

Question: Could you give us any details on the Choksi situation, he is apparently in Antigua and what the laws now say because since both are Commonwealth countries, nationality may not be such an issue?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Any other question on Mehul Choksi?

Question: On the issue of Mehul Choksi itself, what has been Antigua’s formal response on his extradition? Meanwhile his Nephew Nirav Modi seems to have been spotted on some place or the other, is there any official word on where he is?

Question: Indian jail mein Nirav Modi ko rakhane ke liye jo tamasha ho raha hai, Is MEA looking after all these things?

Question: What is Antigua’s specific response towards India’s extradition request? Have they acknowledged the 1993 pact which we have cited that can be an instrument to extradite Mehul Choksi from Antigua?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Let me first answer the question related to Mehul Choksi. Let me first give you the latest update on this.

We have submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda a request for extradition. This we did on August 3, 2018. Now there is an extradition arrangement between India and Antigua and Barbuda pursuant to our respective Extradition Acts and this, let me explain, is as per the provisions of the Extradition Act of 1993 of Antigua and Barbuda.

A person may be extradited to a designated Commonwealth country or a state with which there are general or special arrangements or a bilateral treaty. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda notified India as a designated Commonwealth country in 2001.

We issued a gazette notification which you all must have seen, we did that on August 3, which deducts that the provisions of our Extradition Act of 1962, that shall apply with respect to Antigua and Barbuda with effect from 2001 i.e. when Antigua and Barbuda notified India as a designated Commonwealth country under the provisions of Extradition Act.

Now since the submission of the extradition request we have been told that they are examining the request so it is little bit premature to react at this stage as to what their formal response is. We will have to wait and as and when there are developments, we will get back to you.

On the question regarding Nirav Modi, there was a question at Parliament as well and our Minister of State has already responded. The request from Enforcement Directorate for extradition of Nirav Modi, we have forwarded this to the UK Central Authority on August 03, 2018. This was based on the two red corner notices which were issued by ED. Now we wait for the response of the British Government on this matter.

Vijay Mallya, you are aware that the extradition request was sent to the UK Government in February 2017. Presently the matter is pending adjudication before Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London. The extradition hearing began in December 2017 and the last hearing was held on July 31 where they asked for some addition information. We understand that the matter again will be heard on September 12, 2018 and we will continue to press upon them to have all efforts made to bring him back to India.

Question: Apparently there is a pro-Khalistan rally which is scheduled in London Trafalgar Square on August 12 and there have been reports that United Kingdom has rejected India’s request to stop the rally saying that it is under the freedom of expression and freedom to protest peacefully. There are also reports that a note verbal has been issued by the UK, so can you tell us what the factual position is?

Question: On the same issue, there have been reports from the other states also, other parts of Europe as well as Canada, New York. So have we reached out to states also that these kind of radical elements promoting the Khalistan movement should be stopped? There were recent reports that these people are funded by the Pakistani ISI and there have been direct linkages of the concerned officer in ISI, so have we taken it up with the other authorities in Pakistan as well as the other countries?

Question: Given the way things are shaping up with the UK, as it is you have the legal processes involving Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi before that, now this SFJ Rally and then turning down your demarches and note verbal’s and the UK being upset with the fact that India has not signed on for the illegal immigrants bill, is this like a real downslide in relations that we are watching, if you could give us a larger picture of how you see things.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Let me take the last question first, you see I think you have combined a lot of things together and then you have painted a picture which looks very grim. There are many positive sides to the relationship as well. I do not subscribe to the view which you have that there has been a downside in the relationship. UK remains a very important partner for us. There are issues of course between the two sides which we do take up at regular intervals at different levels.

On the question whether we have sensitized other Missions, yes, we have. We have asked them to monitor developments related to the London event.

On the funding part, it is difficult for me take a guess on that. I think this is something which the investigating agencies have to respond to but on our request, you see it is difficult for me to reply on behalf of what the UK government has said but let me make our position very clear, which is that we have drawn their attention to the fact that the event in London is a separatist activity which impinges on India’s territorial integrity. We have said that it seeks to propagate violence, secessionism and hatred and we expect them to take into account the larger perspective of the relationship when they take a decision in such matters.

Question Contd.: ………… Inaudible ………..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Again this is something which they have to reply. I told you my perspective, how they are going to respond to this, it is up to them and I think their spokesperson should be able to answer your query.

Question Contd.: …………. Inaudible ……………..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: There is nothing to add, this is very clear what we have told them. We have been very clear, we have told them in writing and taken it up in person as well that this is what we feel about the rally and I think we will have to just wait and see now.

Question: Sikhs for Justice’s Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, jo ye rally karwa raha hai, is par seedhe taur par aarop lag rahe hain. Wahan par jo Khalistan ki maang karte hain, wo kehte hain ki Pakistan mein ISI ka ye samarthak hai, UK mein 40 kamre book hue hain, wahan se poori funding ho rahi aur 2019 se pehle Punjab ka mahoul bigadne ki koshish ki jaa rahi hai, ye sab meri baat hui hai wahan par garam khayaliyon ke saath.

(Direct allegations are being made against Gurwant Singh Pannu of Sikhs for Justice. Those who are demanding Khalistan there are saying that he is a supporter of ISI in Pakistan and 40 rooms have been booked in UK, there is full funding from there and efforts are being made to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in Punjab before 2019.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye jo aapka sawaal hai wo isi mei shaamil ho jata hai jo maine aapko reply kiya. Ye saari cheezein, jo maine abhi bataai hain, ki ye separatist activity hai to vo cover ho gaya ismein, jo hamne kaha ki ye promote karega violence ko, vo bhi cover ho gaya. To jitna strongly ho sakta tha hamne is matter ko take up kiya UK ke saath, writing mein hi nahi hamne unke saath meeting bhi ki hai. Unko repeatedly hamne ye kaha hai ki ye jo ho raha hai ye ek activity hai jo hamare hit mein nahi hai.

(You see, the question that you have asked is answered in the reply that I just gave. All these things which I just spoke about that this is a separatist’s activity so it was covered in that. What we said that it will propagate violence that also got covered in that. We have taken up this matter as strongly as we can with the UK, both in writing as well as in personal meeting. We have repeatedly told them that whatever activity is ongoing is not in our interest.)

Question: Is the Sri Lankan government discussing with Indian government for taking over the operation of Matala international airport because one Sri Lankan minister has recently said that this is under discussion with Indian government?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see there are several bilateral projects also related to infrastructure which is under discussion between India and Sri Lanka and if you had followed up on the visit of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister in April 2017, there was an MoU on economic projects which was signed. Now this is part of strengthening of connectivity in the region.

We are aware that the Government of Sri Lanka, they had made a statement in the parliament on this project. At this stage the only thing that I can share, this is something which is of course which we should be discussing not in a press conference but away from here, is that we are currently exploring the opportunity to operate and manage but beyond this it will be premature for me to comment.

Question: There is a news story that has come in that a Jt. Secretary level officer was de-boarded from British Airways because his three year old son was crying. He said that the British Airways crew was discriminatory on racial basis as also written to various ministers. So has MEA taken up this with the British Government against British Airways?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I read this in the morning as well, what I understand that British Airways has taken this matter very seriously and they have said that they are investigating the matter. They said they will carry out a thorough investigation of this matter.

You brought this to my notice, we will have to see at what level and in what circumstances this has to be taken up.

On the other question, you see that basically he is an UN civil servant and he was a senior official with UN Woman which is an adjunct organization. What I understand that there is an office of audit and investigation, they are investigating the allegations against him but this is not something which is directly related to the Ministry of External Affairs.

Question: …………… Inaudible …………

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, he is a UN civil servant, he is an Indian national.

Question: Pakistan mein nai Sarkar ke gathan ke mauke par kuch Bhartiya logon ko bhi bulaya gaya hai. Unka ye kahna hai ki wo Sarkar se anumati lekar, unki sahmati se jaayenge, to kya is tarah ka koi request praapt hua hai aur aap un logon ko kya salaah denge?

(Few Indians have been invited during the occasion of formation of government in Pakistan. They have said that they will go after seeking permission from the government. So have you received any request and what would you advise them?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye hamare pass abhi request aaya nahi hai. Maine bhi press mein padhaa hai ki kuch logon ne kaha hai ki jaane ke pahle wo Sarkar se salaah lenge. Jab wo salaah ke liye hamare pass aayenge to hum dekhenge ki unko salaah kya dena hai.

(See, we have not received any such request till now. I have also read in the press that some people have said that they will seek advice before going. So when they will come seeking advice then we will see what we have to advise them.)

Question: CAG has placed a report on Tuesday in the Parliament where they claimed UPA violated norms in purchase of Boeing P81 aircraft. Does MEA has any stand on that? There are irregularities in purchase of these aircraft.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Who has bought these aircrafts, which ministry, did we buy it?

Question Contd.: Defense ministry.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Then you will have to address this question to Defense Ministry.

Question: Few days ago there was this case of Indian national, both India and Pakistan were contesting a case in Thailand, his name is Syed Mujakir Hussain. We are told that Indian government has won the case to prove that he is an Indian national. Can you please update on the extradition, the process, what is the status about the case?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have of course requested for his extradition. What I got to know that there has been a judgement in a local court but we are still waiting for a formal communication form the Thai government in this regard and once we receive something then we will decide the future course of action.

Question: Pakistan mein election ke baad fir se infiltration bid ek baar fir se tez ho gai hai, abhi Gurez mein bhi ek attempt hua, infiltration bid foil jaroor kiya lekin hamara ek officer aur teen jawaan maare gaye. Central inputs hain ki jitney bhi launchpads hain unko activate kiya gaya hai, is par aap kya kahna chaahenge?

(After the elections in Pakistan, infiltration bids have once again gained momentum. Recently there was a bid in Gurez, although it was foiled but one of our officer and three soldiers were martyred. Central input says that all the launch pads have been activated. What is your reaction to this?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye, is manch se to maine bahut baar kaha hua hai ki chaahe satta jo bhi aaye, ye jaroori hai ki unki jo country hai, aur wahan se jo terrorist operate hote hain, jo terror infrastructure hai unko band karna hoga agar kuch bhi hum rishtey mein sudhaar ki baat karte hain, ye jo hamara stand hai wo to bahut purana hai.

Jahan tak infiltration ki baat hai to wo to kaafi dino se kar rahe hain aur jo wo karte hain uska hum jawaab bhi dete hain.

(See, I have reiterated time and again from this forum that whichever government may come, it is imperative their soil should not be used by terrorists to operate from there. If we talk about improving relations then they will have to shut down the terror infrastructure from their country. This has been our long standing position since long.

As far as infiltration is concerned, they have been doing it for quite some time and we also keep on responding to that.)

Question: You just talked about the Khalistan separatists. On contrast to this I just want to know what is India’s stand on Baluchistan because on last 15th August address to nation Prime Minister Modi openly said that he will support the Baluchistan liberation movement?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: There has been nothing new which I must inform you about.Our position remains the same.

Question: Is India looking at the likely impact that the US sanctions would have on Iran on the Chabahar project?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This I have answered in the past. You see, what I can share with you that we do have a strategic energy partnership with the US. We are engaged with them on our energy security. We have conveyed our position and expectation to the US side and we do reiterate and I would like to reiterate once again that we will take all necessary steps as mandated by our national interest in this regard.

Question: Has there been any talks at official or un-official level with Bangladesh regarding the NRC exercise in Assam?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This has been answered, you can find it on our website.

Question Contd.: My question is has there been any message that has been conveyed to Dhaka?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Yes, of course, I said that we are in touch with them.

Question: On Pakistan, there are a lot of Bollywood and Cricket celebrities who have been invited for the PM elect.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Somebody just asked and it has been replied.

Question: During that recent natural calamity in Indonesia, a lot of Indians were inconvenienced very seriously. There are questions being asked about early and quick reactions by Indian mission in Indonesia, that enough was not done. Would you like to say anything on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: The number or the adjective that you have used ‘many Indians’ I think the number you are talking about is 25. There were 25 Indians and from the beginning, from the moment it happened, our consulate in Bali was in touch with them and through the efforts of Indonesian government, this happened in an Island called Gili Trawangan which is off the Island of Lombok and other than Indians there were many other nationals as well but I think in maybe 24 to 36 hours all the tourists, including Indians were evacuated to Bali and they continued on their onward journey.

Question: Going back to the referendum rally, could I ask you a question. UK MPs who are concerned with the regards to the rally that is going to be held in London how told their own constituencies the Indians there that the Indian mission is looking at and monitoring those who will be attending the rally and it could have an adverse impact on those who might want to travel to India. Is the Indian High Commission in UK monitoring those who will be attending the rally and could that impact their travel to India?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, it is difficult for me to respond to individual comments made by British MPs and I don’t think there is any way you can actually monitor the people who are going to attend from different parts but as I mentioned earlier that our concerns on this have been expressed very clearly to the British government, not once but several times and not only through writing but in person as well.

Thank you very much. Since there are no other questions, I conclude this weekly press briefing.

(Concludes)

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