Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namashkar, good afternoon and thank you all for joining. I have no announcements to make today so we move to the Question and Answer round straight away. The floor is now open for questions.
Question: Pakistan has once again rejected the request for consular access for Kulbhushan Jadhav, your reaction on that. And also is the 25th visit is on, has the visa process been completed?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Two parts of the question. The first, as you are aware that we have repeatedly requested for consular access in respect of Mr. Jadhav and many other Indian nationals who are incarcerated in Pakistani prisons. This is as per the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations. We have appealed at the ICJ, if you remember, in May because we thought that the Vienna Convention was being violated. We do reiterate our position that Mr. Jadhav remains in Pakistan and is facing death sentence awarded through a farcical process and on concocted charges.
On the other question regarding the visit of Mr. Jadhav’s wife and mother, you are aware that we had welcomed Pakistan’s offer to allow Kulbhushan Jadhav’s mother and wife to meet him. We are now working on finalizing the visit, we are also working on the modalities in consultations with the family members themselves. At this stage I don’t think it is proper for me to share more details on this matter.
Question: A question on Nepal, we saw a lot of developments happening and results coming out, India’s reaction to that?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Well I have a reaction which I think I should read out. India welcomes the conduct parliamentary elections and frist ever provincial elections in Nepal. We congratulate the government and the people of Nepal. India has age old unique, time tested ties of friendship with the country. We look forward to working with the next democratically elected government in Nepal to advance our close and multifaceted partnership across all sectors and to support Nepal in its pursuit of peace, stability, economic prosperity and all round development.
Question: Recently Sir Lanka has handed over formally its southern port of Hambantota to China on 99 years lease and for Beijing the Hambantota project is a lynchpin of the One Belt One Road which aims to build a new silk road of trade between China and many countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Experts have accused Beijing of using project such as this to increase its regional political power. So what is your reaction on that?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I could get the first part which is on Hambantota but not really the second part of your question. What is it about?
Question Contd. : It is about One Belt One Road and the new silk road from China to Asia, Africa and Europe.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think the second part is very easy because I have articulated our position on OBOR several times from this forum and there is no change in that position.
Regarding Hambantota we are actually confident about the strength and enduring nature of our ties with Sri Lanka which are deep rooted and multi-dimensional. Our relations with Sri Lanka stand on its own and is not dependent on our relations with any third country. We continue to take up with Sri Lanka issues related to the security concerns in the region and expect that our Sri Lankan friends will keep in mind our security concerns and sensitivities.
Question: Any dates for the SR level talks with China, is it happening next week?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Very leading question but I’ll have the same response which I conveyed last time. You are aware that it is mechanism which has been set up to find a political solution to the boundary issue from the overall strategic perspective of bilateral relations. 19 rounds of SR talks have been held. We will announce very soon the dates for the next SR talks. At this stage I think I will not venture into announcing the dates.
Question: We saw a very aggressive statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the bilateral talks that India and China had and when the Chinese Foreign Minister was here we got a very muted response from his statement also and it didn’t appear that there were heated exchanges within the room when the talks were happening on the Doklam issue. Could you just explain, did India also raise the issue of Azhar Masood’s sanctioning and NSG aspirations and how forcefully Doklam issue was taken up by External Affairs Minister?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, I don’t agree with your assumption that there were heated exchanges. I don’t think that is correct at all. I can tell you that since the report came out we have issued a press release yesterday and which is actually self-explanatory. We have given what was discussed in the meeting. We had also indicated during that time that EAM had underlined the need for approaching our difference with due consideration to each-other’s sensitivities and concern.
EAM had also recalled the Astana Consensus between our leaders on the need to work together to ensure that our differences do not become disputes. The two sides also highlighted the need to maintain strategic communication at all levels. So I think a lot of issues were discussed but not in the manner in which it has been projected. As I mentioned in the press release yesterday that in the sections of media the way it was represented was completely incorrect.
Question: The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson has dismissed some reports appearing in the Indian Media about the Brahmaputra River and the diversification of water. Have you taken it up with the Chinese authorities and especially about the Siang River, the tributary of the River. The Arunachal Agency has said that the water in that river is unfit for human consumption, so would you have an update as to whether you have taken it up with the relevant authorities on the other side?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On the first question, there was a report which was dismissed, so I don’t know what I can add on this but I can say that we had seen the report and as I had indicated that the matter is under investigation. It has been a subject of comment by the Chinese side. You are aware that we have an existing mechanism to deal with such matters and the idea is to engage with the Chinese side further on any such matter related to the Rivers which come from China to the Indian side.
On the issue of Siang, now this is naturally a matter of concern to us. We are coordinating with the Ministry of Water Resources and we have ascertained certain facts. I can also share with you that the matter did come up during EAM’s meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister and again as you are aware there are existing mechanisms between the two countries to deal with such matters on the River arrangement.
Question: Would you care to comment on the Maldives President’s visit to China and the victory of the Leftist Alliance in Nepal?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Only one question please. Choose the question, first or second?
Question Contd. : Maldives.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: So do you want a reaction on Maldives’ President’s visit to China?
Question Contd. : Because when Maldives President was in India and he has told that he will sign the first FTA with India but recently he has signed at FTA with China in a manner that is being questioned by many people. So it is becoming quite an issue of concern the way it has been done, it will destabilize the region and the hegemony of China will again increase in those regions. So your comment on that.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank for both the questions related to Maldives. As far as the visit of Maldives President to China is concerned, it is perhaps something which you need to address to either of the two countries. We feel that as long as the development of bilateral relations between the two countries contribute to the peace and stability in the region, I think we should welcome that.
On Maldives signing the FTA with China, we have actually seen reports about Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement. The reports have also alluded to the manner in which the FTA was passed by the Majlis. We are actually yet to see the full document and hence it may not be appropriate for me to comment on the contents. As you are aware India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Maldives. Our two countries have strong historical and civilizational linkages and also at the people to people level. We are also committed to support democracy, development and stability in Maldives. It is our expectation that as a close and friendly neighbor Maldives will be sensitive to our concerns in keeping with its India First policy.
Question: Global Times in its editorial called, after the bilateral, they said that the principle and flexibility are two different things that is the Chinese view but they will go together and as you said would try to not let differences become disputes. On the issue of Azhar Masood on one hand and Doklam and every other, let’s say, prickly issue between India and China, how is that going to work? Principle and flexibility are separate things but must go together, what is India’s highest priority right now, Masood Azhar or Doklam?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will not be commenting on the article which have appeared in the Chinese media. We have actually given an account of EAM’s meeting with her Chinese counterpart. Yesterday we again issued another statement giving detailed account of that meeting. As I have indicated that the issued which are of concern to us they are taken up, not only with China but with other countries as well. We do understand those issue of concern and at all appropriate levels we do make it a point to address those concerns.
Question: With regard to the development in neighborhood you have been saying that the neighbours will be sensitive to India’s concerns and sensitivities but the fact remains that in the past fortnight or so, in Nepal, in Sri Lanka, in Maldives there has been a turn of events which could be seen as going against Indian interests and there is one common factor in all these three and that is China. How do you view these events because especially in Nepal where Mr. Oli is expected to take over and he has been known to take a very strident and blatant pro-Chinese stand despite his having visited India when he was Prime Minister? So how do you look at this, is the Indian Government worried that Mr. Oli is going to take charge once again because his previous tenure was not seen to have been very conducive for the bilateral ties.
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think you have very smartly violated the one question rule by putting two or three questions. I will take the last one which is on Nepal. I have already mentioned our position. I have mentioned how we look at the elections, I have also mentioned as to how we are going to look at the next government which is going to come to power.
Question: During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China, the hotline between the two countries was discussed between the DGMOs but now what we have been told that even after two years it is still not functional and the primary difference is that the Chinese want the hotline between the DGMOs here and the Western Command whereas we want between the two headquarters. Is there any forward movement on that even after two years or do we still have to come to an agreement?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think you have done the research on this topic and I have not. So you’ll have to give me some time. I’ll cross check and maybe before the next weekly briefing or at the next weekly briefing I can give you the answer.
Question: Just a quick follow up to the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s presentation address here in New Delhi. He made a couple of points, one he said that India could consider joining the Eurasian Economic Union and two he said that he would welcome talks with the Taliban provided they fulfill certain conditions. So does India have a view on the Afghan peace process in particular and also on the Eurasian Economic Union?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On Afghanistan you know our position, we support the reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan which are Afghan led, Afghan controlled and Afghan owned. We have enjoyed a close association with the country and we are committed to assist Afghanistan in its nation building efforts.
Regarding the comments made by the Russian Foreign Minister on OBOR, you see our position on OBOR is very clear, I think I have mentioned that on earlier occasions as well. On this particular suggestion, also I think I have mentioned in the past that if there are suggestions, if there is a view which takes into account our sensitivities in the matter then there is something which we are willing to look at.
Question: The Russian Foreign Minister also talked about including the Taliban in the inclusive political dialogue in Afghanistan and the Foreign Secretary and the NSA were also present there at the moment. Do you have a response to it that Taliban should be included to a political solution of Afghanistan?
Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Our position on Afghanistan and the peace process I have just articulated. I have nothing further to add on what I have already announced which is that we support reconciliation efforts which are Afghan led, Afghan controlled and Afghan owned.
Thank you very much. Have a good day.