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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (September 20, 2018)

September 21, 2018

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

Question: We have seen that letter written by the Pakistani Prime Minister to the Indian Prime Minister in which he has talked about how the External Affairs Minister should meet with the Pakistani Foreign Minister. Has India responded and will there be a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly?

Question: Policy lagataar ye rahi hai ki ‘talk and terror cannot go together.’ Is beech ye dekha ja raha hai ji PM Modi ne khat likha tha uspar jawaabi taur par Pakistan ke Pradhanmantri ne bhi khat likha hai aur Videsh Mantralay ki taraf se ye aasha jaahir kii gaii hai ki tamaam muddon ko baatcheet se suljhaya jaa sakta hai. Is beech ka ghatnakram ye hai ki jis tarah se hamare sainikon ka brutal killing hua khaastaur par jo amaanveey vyavhaar hua, to kya aapko lagta hai ki ye ek mazaak hai Pakistan ki taraf se Bharat ko aur ek tarah se hamein chidhaane ki koshish kii jaa rahi hai?

(It has been the policy that talks and terror cannot go together. In between it was seen the PM Modi has written a letter and in reply Pakistan PM also wrote a letter in which it was expressed that Foreign ministries can have a meeting and explore solutions based on discussions. In the middle of all this there has been brutal killing and inhuman behavior with our soldiers, don’t you think it is a kind of joke from Pakistan side and they are deliberately trying to tease us?)

Question: Mera sawaal ye hai ki Bharat ki jo policy rahi hai ki aatank aur vaarta ek saath nahi chal sakte, to kya is policy mein ab badlaav hua hai kyonki jis tarah se cricket match bhi abhi Pakistan ki team ke saath khela gaya, usko lekar bhi sawaal uthate hain ki jab aap game khel sakte hain to fir baatcheet kyon nahi kar sakte, to kya hamaari is policy mein badalaav hua hai ya hone jaa raha hai?

(India has had this policy that terror and talks cannot go together, so has there been any change in that policy because it is seen that recently we had a cricket match, so the question is when we can play a game so why can’t we have talks, so has there been any change in our policy or is there going to be a change in our policy in the near future?)

Question: We have heard two things in last four years under this government. One, the talks and terror cannot go together and in the last annual PC of EAM she mentioned that talk and terror can happen. So which are these lines which Indian government is going to take now?

Question: Government has earlier said when Imran Khan took oath that we will look at the policy of new government and then take a call on the comprehensive bilateral dialogue, if that can be taken forward. And in the letter Imran Khan has said that he is ready to talk terror but he also mentions Jammu & Kashmir. So will there be any kind of possibility of a dialogue? And there is a report by United States, annual report on terrorism, that also highlights the attacks in India from Pakistan in Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, how do you react to that?

Question: Isi chitthi mein SAARC Summit Pakistan mein karaye jaane ki baat bhi Imran Khan ne ki hai aur ye bhi kaha hai ki Pradhanmantri Modi ko wahaan aane ka mauka milega?

(In this letter Pakistan PM Imran Khan has also talked about organizing SAARC Summit in Pakistan and he has also said that PM Modi will get a chance to visit Pakistan?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Look there are several related issues, some of them may not be directly connected .

You are all aware that our Prime Minister had written to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan to congratulate him on his assumption of the post of the Prime Minister. The letter which we have received is in response to that letter which was handed over to us by the High Commissioner of Pakistan to India on 17th September. At the same time, on the same day another letter was handed over from the Pakistani Foreign Minister to our External Affairs Minister basically reiterating Prime Minister of Pakistan’s proposal for a meeting between the External Affairs Minister and the Pakistani Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly session.

I can confirm that on the request of the Pakistani side a meeting between External Affairs Minister and Pakistani Foreign Minister will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at a mutually convenient date and time.

Now I see that there are several connected questions which came up. First, I think somebody asked about the SAARC Summit, but first I must distinguish between a meeting and a dialogue. This should be confused with resumption of any dialogue, this is a meeting which we have agreed to, based on the request which we have got from the Pakistani side. This does not indicate any change in the policy as far as our stand on terrorism and cross-border terrorism is concerned.

On the SAARC itself our position has been very clear and consistent and time and again we have said that the atmosphere in the region is not conducive for this summit and it is not only India which has felt in this manner. There are a number of other countries who have accordingly felt that under the shadow of terrorism and cross-border terrorism it is difficult to hold the SAARC Summit which is to be hosted by Pakistan.

I think at this stage we have just agreed to the meeting. Permanent missions of both India and Pakistan, they will get in touch with each other to work out how and when the meeting will take place and I think till then about what we will discuss in the meeting, I think we should just wait till the meeting actually takes place.

Aap sabko pata hai ki hamare Pradhanmantri ne Pakistan ke Pradhanmantri ko chitthi likh kar badhaai di thii jab Shri Imran Khan ji Pakistan ke Pradhanmantri bane they. Abhi ye jo chitthi hamare paas aai hai, jo Pakistan ke High Commissioner ne External Affairs Minister ko deliver kiya, ye us chitthi ke response mein aai hai, aap logon ne chitthi dekhi hii hai aur usi samay ek chitthi jo Pakistan ke Foreign Minister ne likhi thi wo hamare EAM ke liye tha, usmein Pakistan ke Prime Minister ki chitthi ka hawala dete hue ye kaha gaya tha ki ye jo dono Videsh Mantriyon ki mulakaat ka jo proposal hai usko unhone reiterate kiyaa tha ki UNGA ki sidelines mein hum us meeting ko kar sakte hain.

Is samay main ye confirm kar sakta hoon ki Pakistan ki request ke baad humne ye tay kiyaa hai ki hamari Videsh Mantri aur Pakistan ke Videsh Mantri ke beech, New York mein, UNGA ki sidelines mein ye meeting hogi. Jo samay aur tareekh hai wo hum dono ke permanent mission hain, un dono ke beech consultation se wo tay kiya jaayega.

Question: Jab baatcheet ki baat tay ho gai hai to agenda bhi tay hua hoga, to kya agenda hai meeting ka?

(When meeting has been fixed then the agenda must have also been decided, so what is the agenda of the meeting?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Jaisa maine bataya ki abhi humne sirf ye agree kiya hai ki meeting hogi.

We have just agreed to this meeting and we have not yet decided on what all things or what all topics would be discussed as part of this.

Question: Abhi tak hamara stand thaa aur humne baatcheet nahi kii hai jisko hum adhere kar rahe they, to kya isko kaise interpret karein, us letter ke baad, naai Sarkar ke baad kyonki jaise dekhein to ek sainik ki Sambha sector mein mutilate kii hui body saamane aai hai uske baad desh mein kahin na kahin ek narazagi hai to kya Pakistan se baatcheet karne ki dishaa mein Bharat aagey badh raha hai?

(Till now we had a stand and we did not had any dialogue and which we were adhering to. Now how do we interpret it after that letter by the new government, because if we look at it we have just discovered mutilated body of a soldier in Sambha sector because of which there is a sense of anger in the whole country, so is India inching towards having a dialogue with Pakistan?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye jaise ki maine kaha ki ismein jyada padhane ki jaroorat nahi hai.

There is nothing much to read into this meeting at this stage. This meeting is taking place on the request of the Pakistani side as I have already mentioned that we have not finalized the agenda of this meeting. We have just responded to the request that a meeting should take place. This request was reiterated by the Pakistani Foreign Minister, it was mentioned in the letter which was written by Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to our Prime Minister.

Question: During SAARC Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting, will India reiterate its stand on the holding of the SAARC Summit because several of the members of the SAARC will request India to agree for a SAARC meeting very soon?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have confirmed that EAM will participate in the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting which is being scheduled in New York on the sidelines of UNGA. What exactly will be our position, I think it will be difficult for me to share at this stage but as I already told you our existing policy on the resumption of the SAARC process is very consistent, I don’t think we have changed in the last few years since this process has been suspended.

Question: To is mulakaat ko hum kis tarah se dekhein, baatcheet shuru karne ki possibilities ke liye baatcheet?

(So how should we look at this meeting, a meeting to explore the possibilities of a dialogue?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Is mulakaat ko hum sirf mulakaat ke tareeke se dekhenge. Ye sirf ek meeting hai, ye resumption of talks ya resumption of dialogue nahi hai. Ye unki taraf se meeting ke liye request aai thi aur humne us meeting ke liye haami bhari hai.

(We must look at this meeting as it is i.e. a meeting only. This is just a meeting, these are not resumption of talks or resumption of dialogue. There was a request for meeting from their side and to which we have agreed.)

Question: On the issue of the mutilated body of the soldier that has been found.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We are ascertaining facts on this matter. On this barbaric incident which not only defies logic, not only defies civilized behavior but also is against all international norms. I understand that BSF has strongly taken up the matter with their counterpart on the Pakistani side. Yes, this is a very serious issue and definitely we will take it up with the Pakistani side at the appropriate level.

Question: Earlier today, EAM Sushma Swaraj was part of a empowered committee meeting at the Finance Ministry and there was Mr. Nitin Gadkari, the Finance Minister and top bureaucrats were present and I believe there were substantial discussions on Iran payment mechanisms. Could you throw some light on the way ahead and what was discussed today?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I am not privy to that meeting but I can only share with you our position on the sanctions on Iran by the United States.

As you are aware we are very closely monitoring the developments and assessing the implications. We are in touch with all stakeholders in the matter. You are aware that Chabahar is a very important project for us, not only for access to Afghanistan and Central Asia for but also for Afghanistan itself. Our own developmental assistance and developmental programs in Afghanistan and for that Chabahar is a very crucial project.

You are aware that this matter did figure in the discussions during the 2+2 Dialogue with the United States earlier this month. I can say that these discussions have led to a better understanding by the US of our objectives, concerns, sensitivities and expectations. We of course will continue to work with the United States and other stakeholders to ensure our energy security and also our national interest. Question: Elections are scheduled to take place this weekend in Maldives. What are the expectations of India and do you think free and fair elections would be conducted?

Question: There is a documentary by Channel 3 which is whipping anti-India sentiments. This is just before the elections, so how do you take it and what is our position on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I am taking the first question first.

We are of course following the upcoming presidential election process in Maldives very closely. The relationship between the people of India and people of Maldives is very historical and very close and friendly. We do hope that the election process in Maldives will be conducted in a fair, transparent and in a very credible manner.

On the second question regarding a report telecast on Channel 13, we have seen the telecast of the documentary. The content are absolutely fake, motivated and is a malicious attempt to malign India. We are absolutely confident that the people of Maldives know the truth and will see the design behind telecasting this documentary at this critical juncture before the elections.

Question: Kartarpur corridor ko lekar Navjot Singh Sidhu ne bahut se daave kiye hain lekin isko lekar abhi clarity nahi hai ki kya Pakistan ki taraf isko lekar koi formal communication hua hai, saath hi Sidhu ki mulaakaat kuch din pahle Videsh Mantri Sushma Swaraj ji se hui thi, us meeting mein kya hua, kya convey kiya gaya Sidhu ko Videsh Mantri ki or se?

(Navjot Singh Sidhu has made a lot of claims regarding Kartarpur Sahib Corridor but there is no clarity if there has been any formal communication with Pakistan. There was this meeting between Sidhu and EAM, so what was conveyed to Mr. Sidhu by EAM?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye Kartarpur Corridor ke upar kaafi reports chal rahi hain aur aaj usko silsilewar tareeke se main batana chaahunga ki kaise ye position evolve hui hai.

(A lot of reports are being circulated on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.)

I would like to explain in a sequential way how the position has evolved over the last several years actually. I can confirm that the matter has been taken up with the Pakistani side several times in the past. You may be aware about this 1974 protocol between India and Pakistan on visits to religions shrines. I think under this protocol there are 15 shrines which are part of this protocol. Kartarpur Sahib is not part of this list.

If we start this process, I will have to go back to 1999 when during the visit of then Prime Minister of Shri Vajpayee Ji to Lahore, this issue was raised and this was to consider a visa free visit to the Shrine but there was no response from the Pakistani side.

After that Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh on a request from Punjab Chief Minister Shri Prakash Singh Badal announced on the eve of 400th Anniversary of Prakash Utsav on 1st September 2004 the provision of corridor to Kartarpur Sahib. Following this on 04 September, 2004 during the FS level talks we requested the Pakistani side may be included in the list under the protocol. This was not agreed by the Pakistani side.

In 2005 Pakistani agreed to allow visit to three shrines with visas including to Kartarpur but did not agree to put Kartarpur in the protocol. In 2008 the then External Affairs Minister raised the issue of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor with the then Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi who is again the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. However we did not receive any official response from the Pakistani side since then.

It may be noted that all political parties in India have taken up this matter with the government and referring to your question recently Minister Harsimarat Kaur Badal Ji also wrote to EAM on this matter to which EAM has replied that she will raise this issue with the Pakistani government. Even now after so many years we do not have any official communication from the Pakistani government that they are willing to consider this matter. EAM will therefore raise this issue in her meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister on the sidelines of UNGA.

Question: …………. Inaudible ……………..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
As I told you Mr. Sidhu met the External Affairs Minister. He also raised the same issue to which EAM replied that this issue has already been flagged to her by Minister Harsimarat Kaur Badal Ji that she will take up the matter with the Pakistani government at the earliest opportunity.

Question: ………….. Inaudible…………………..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: At least one topic I can confirm which will be raised is the issue of Kartarpur Sahib.

Question: It was learnt that the Indian government has asked the UAE government for further details on Christen Mitchel. Where he is, whether he is on bail, whether he is in jail, when he can be extradited, all those things. Can you give us some information on it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: There are lot of reports floating everywhere on this issue. I can tell you that we have not received till today, till the time I was coming for this briefing, we have not received any official intimation from the UAE government about this case. So unless we receive something, we receive an official intimation from the UAE government, we will not be in a position to react to the developments which are happening in the matter and some of them are actually could be, there is a possibility that there could be internal developments within the system but we react only when we are official intimated by the government of UAE.

Question: Just a follow up on last question, is there clarity that government sources earlier suggested that this was perhaps an opinion of the court on whether a foreign national could be extradited to a third country and not an order, but now reports suggests that there is a deadline in case if Christian Mitchel wants to appeal against state, there is a 2nd October deadline, so we assume that an appeal can only be on a court order not on opinion, so is there a clarity whether it is an opinion or a court order?

And just a second question on Pakistan, even as you prepare for talks, you have senior ministers including the Defence Minister talking about beheading Pakistani soldiers, General VK Singh saying that Imran Khan is a puppet of the Pakistani army, how do these statement really go forward in sort of reconcile with the government’s aim of holding a meeting which is not a dialogue as you clarified?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
On your first question, any extradition exercise is something which is conducted between the two governments. You are referring to a source, I can tell you that we can't comment on a source based information, but at this stage, as I said, it is not possible for me to comment because we have not been intimated about the details of the case.

If the UAE government tells us that look this is what has been decided by the court and now this is how we intend to proceed then we come into the picture. Then we intimate the agencies to take the process forward but at this point of time I have nothing more, because we don’t have any intimation in official capacity from the UAE government.

On the other aspect on how to reconcile and you also referred to a statement made by the Defence Minister, you see I would not react to a statement made by a minister. As I explained a decision has been taken by the government that the External Affairs Minister will be meeting her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the UNGA.

Question: India continues to maintain that talks and terror cannot go together and in the past three years all the meetings and request for meetings, we have not really seen apart from the fact that there are functional level meetings that have taken place between India and Pakistan. What really changed now for India to go ahead with the meeting even if it is not a dialogue?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will not get drawn into this again. I have time and again mentioned my position. Let us wait for the talks. I think we have said that talks and terror cannot go together but as somebody pointed out that, talks on terror can go on. So I think let us wait for the meeting between our External Affairs Minister and the Pakistani Foreign Minister to happen.

Question: Apparently the ministry is also in confrontation with one of the chief ministers, the West Bengal Chief Minister. Can you throw some light why are trips abroad are not taking place?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
I am not aware about any such confrontation which is taking place. I am sure you are aware, as we speak, the Chief Minister of West Bengal and her delegation is in Germany, are you aware of that? Please don’t drag us wherever we are not responsible. I don’t think there is any question of confrontation between a Chief Minister and External Affairs Ministry and the presence of Chief Minister of West Bengal to attract investment in West Bengal in Germany is a testimony to the fact that what you are thinking is completely baseless.

I forgot to mention one this which somebody raised about the country report on terrorism which was released by the US State Department yesterday. I will take this opportunity to highlight few points from this very significant document. This is a 340 page document and there are references to country reports on not only India but also on other countries.

Number one, the report states and acknowledges that India continued to experience attacks including by Pakistan based organizations. Number two, in the context of Afghanistan the report says that a number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe heavens in Pakistan. Number three, they are talking about Pakistan’s role in reconciliation but at the same time they are saying that it did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and the Hakkani Network from operating in Pakistan based safe heavens and threatening US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

There is also a chapter on terrorist safe heavens which says that several terrorist groups focused on attacks outside of the country continue to operate from Pakistani soil in 2017. This is something which is available publicly, I am sure you will take a look at this report.

Question: Mehul Choksi ke extradition par hamari request aur jo document hamne diye they, uspar koi update hai kya kyonki Mehul Choksi ne TV interviews mein kaha hai ki Antigua par dabaav daal raha hai Bharat, chhota desh hai Antigua is liye use dabaa kar Mehul Choksi ke extradition ki koshish kii jaa rahi hai?

(Is there any update on our request of extradition for Mehul Choksi because in his interviews to TV Channels Mr. Choksi is claiming that India is pressurizing Antigua as it is a small country?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Jaisa maine pahle bhi kaha hai ki CBI ki jo request they extradition ke baare mein Mehul Choksi ke sandarbh mein wo request thi financial fraud ke baare mein. Isko humne Antigua & Barbuda government ko handover kiya 3 August 2018 ko. Ye request abhi Antigua & Barbuda government ke tahat vicharaadheen hai.

A CBI request for extradition of Mehul Choksi for the offence of financial fraud was handed over to Antigua & Barbuda government. There was another extradition request which went from ED, both the request for extradition of Mehul Choksi from Antigua & Barbuda to India are presently under the consideration of the government of Antigua & Barbuda.

Question: Again on Pakistan, it will be the first high level meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries after December 2015 when EAM visited Islamabad. So as you mentioned that Kartarpur Sahib issue will be raised and we have been facing cross-border terrorism almost on daily basis, so can you say that this issue will also be raised?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As I mentioned earlier that at this stage we have agreed to a meeting and I can tell you that there are discussions which will start, which maybe ongoing to define the agenda for the talks. I could mention Kartarpur because I am aware that this matter will be raised. So let us not speculate, let us wait for the talks. At some time, may be closer to the date of the meeting or when the meeting is over we will share with you the details of the discussion which will take place between EAM and the Pakistani Foreign Minister.

Question: Aaj ki raat hai bas aapke paas, aapko ye Sushma Swaraj Ji ka statement yaad hoga, jab Sartaj Azeez aane wale they aur wo kah rahe they ki jaa kar Kashmir par baat karenge aur Bharat ki taraf se kaha jaa raha tha ki baatcheet hogi to aatankwaad par hi hogi, to kya aap aisa sandesh Pakistan ko denge ki mulakaat hogi to aatankwaad par baat hogi?

(You only have tonight, you might this statement by EAM when Sartaj Azeez was about to visit and he made a statement that he will talk about Kashmir and India was insisting that if there will be discussion it will be only on terrorism, so would you be giving a message to Pakistan that if talks will happen then terrorism will be discussed?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Jawaab bilkul pehle wala hi hoga, jaisa maine kaha, main ye baat baar baar bol raha hoon, yadi main abhi ye kah raha hoon ki agenda bhi tay nahi hua hai to iska matlab ye nahi hai ki is par baatcheet nahi hogi, meri yahi guzaarish hai ki abhi agenda tay hona baaki hai. Jaisa ki kahte hain ki ye bilkul hi taazaa khabar hai ki meeting hogi, ab iske baad jo baaki process hai wo shuru hogi, kispar baat karenge, kaise baat hogi, kab baat hogi aur jaise jaise development hoga hum bilkul aapko bataate rahenge.

(My answer will be the same as I said previously on the issue of meeting. I am saying this time and again, when I am saying that the agenda of the meeting has not yet been finalized then I do not mean that there will be no talks on this particular issue. It is my request that agenda of the meeting is yet to be finalized. As it is said that it is this is the most recent information that meeting will happen. Now the rest of the process will start after this confirmation. What all will be discussed, when it will be discussed, how it will be discussed. As things will develop we will keep on informing you.)

Thank you very much. This concludes the weekly press briefing. I wish you all a very good day.

(Concludes)

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