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Transcript of Weekly Press Briefing by Official Spokesperson (November 09, 2018)

November 10, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon and welcome to this weekly briefing. I wish you all a happy and prosperous Deepawali. Before we get into Q&A I have two important announcements to make regarding Prime Minister’s visit i.e. next week.

The first is that PM will make an official visit to Singapore to attend the 13th East Asia Summit and Associated meetings on 14th and 15th November. PM is also expected to participate in a number of other events including the keynote address at the Singapore Fintech Summit. There will be detailed briefing which we will have on Monday which will be done by Secretary (East) on the visit of PM to Singapore.

The second announcement is regarding the invitation from the President Elect Solih of Maldives to Prime Minister to attend the swearing-in ceremony on 17th November. Prime Minister has accepted the invitation with pleasure. In keeping with her Neighborhood First policy, India looks forward to closely working with Maldives in further deepening our partnership. PM will return to New Delhi on the same night.

So these are the two announcements that I had, now I open the floor to questions.

Question: Yesterday there was this briefing by Pakistan Foreign Ministry in which a question was asked on Arihant, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said, it is the first actual deployment of nuclear warhead in South Asia, what is your reaction on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I think it is important to keep in mind what we have said on this issue and you must have seen the tweets by the Prime Minister, there was also a press statement release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on this matter and beyond that there is nothing further which we need to add.

We are a responsible nation and I think these comments are coming from a country for whom the tenet of responsibility does not exist.

Question: India has got waivers from the US on Iran, what is New Delhi’s reaction on it, also if you could give some practical details about the waivers?

Question: Just to add to previous question, Brian Hook, the special representative on Iran has said that the United States has reached specific bilateral agreements with each of the eight jurisdictions. So what are the conditions on which we have got a waiver, is there any time limit which has been prescribed within which we have to bring our oil imports to zero or how much oil can India actually import?

Question: Could you give us some clarity on the status of this Chabahar port project, does it come under the ambit of sanctions? We were given to understand that November 4 deadline, the port will also come under the ambit of sanctions, so have we got any waiver regarding Chabahar and what is the status of that? And also the waiver for the purchase of Iranian oil, what is the time limit, is it till May next year?

Question: This is about that India will be buying certainly the oily from Iran, what is the payment mechanism, has something been evolved, what is the status of that, will it be only rupee or will it be partly rupee, partly Euro and how the euro payment will work?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:You see these are all related questions. I will not, frankly, get into the details of and mechanism which we are going to adopt. I think there are certain aspects which are to be dealt by different ministries. I can share with you that we have seen the US notification including India in the list of countries granted significant reduction exemption for continued purchase of Iranian crude oil without attracting US sanctions.

We appreciate that the US government has taken into account our need for energy security and they have understood our sensitivities in this matter. We welcome this. We are now examining the details of the exemption.

As far as the scheduling etc. I think it is important to understand that India is a major importer of crude oil from Iran and this is very important for our energy security requirement. We do appreciate that the US has shown understanding of our position and have said in the past that the intention of imposing sanction is not to hurt India. But I am not at the liberty of to give you details of the quantum of crude oil which we will continue to import from Iran after this exemption.

On Chabahar, we have taken note of the US statement that exception has been provided under the Iran Freedom and Counter-proliferation Act of 2012 with respect to the development of Chabahar port and the construction of an associate railway line. We appreciate that the US recognized the role which this port will play to bring strategic and long-term benefit to Afghanistan as well as the role which it is going to play in enhancing Afghanistan’s connectivity with the outside world.

Question: Russia mein meeting chal rahi hai jismein Taliban bhi shaamil hua hai, ye pehli baar hua hai ki Bharat bhi pehli baar ismein un-officially shaamil ho raha hai. Kya karan rahe hain, ya kya mazbooriyan rahi hain ki Bharat ko is meeting mein shaamil hona pada jahan par Taliban maujood hai baat cheet ke liye?

(There is a meeting on Afghanistan in Russia where Taliban is present and for the first time India is also participating in it un-officially. What are the reasons that India was compelled to participate in the talks in the presence of Taliban?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Main aapse request karunga ki aap hamare statement ko dhyan poorwak padhein. Do-teen cheezein usmein hain jo main highlight karnac haahunga. Ek to ye ki India ki jo participation is meeting mein thi, jo meeting Russia ne bulaayi thi Afghanistan ke upar, pichhali do baar hamara participation raha hai official level par aur ismein jo do teen cheezein hain, ek to ki hum, jo Afghanistan ke andar peace and reconciliation ka effort hai uska hum bharpoor samarthan karte hain.

To preserve unity and plurality, to bring security, peace and prosperity in the country. Aur jo teesari pramukh cheez hai, jo hum lagataar bolte rahe hain, jo consistent policy hai India ki jo hai,

India will support any effort which is Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled and also with the participation of the government of Afghanistan.

To isme inko mazboori wali baat nahi thi. Jo bhi effort hota hai jismein hamein lagta hai ki is process ko continue karega aur hamein lagta hai ki koi process is consistent with the policy which we have for Afghanistan, which I just mentioned, Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled, I think we will participate in that process. That is why you have and we made it very clear that our participation at that meeting will be at the non-official level.

(I would request that you read our statement carefully and it contains few things which I would like to highlight. One that in the last two such meetings called by Russia on Afghanistan our participation has been at the official level and that we support the peace and reconciliation process of Afghanistan and India will support any effort which is Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled and also with the participation of the government of Afghanistan.

So there was nothing compelling to attend the meeting. If there are efforts in which we feel that it will continue this process and we feel that this process is consistent with the policy which we have for Afghanistan, which I just mentioned, Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled, I think we will participate in that process. That is why you have and we made it very clear that our participation at that meeting will be at the non-official level.)

Question:As you have told that in the last two meetings you have participated at the official level and now you are participating at un-official level given the fact that one of the major forces of Afghanistan peace process, Taliban is also present, so why it is non-official participation and what will be the gain out of it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:As I just mentioned that it was decided by the government of India that our participation will be at the non-official level. Now beyond this I really cannot get into the details as to why at this level. You know there a lot of factors which go into taking a decision, this time it was a conscious decision of government of India that we will participate at the non-official level.

Question Contd.: Will they deliberate in the meeting or…

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Now see the meeting is taking place today, so wait and we will see what happens in the meeting.

Question: Will the non-official reps from India will also have interaction with the Taliban reps in Moscow?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:It was never mentioned and I am surprised some of the news channels carried this, where did we say that there will be talks with Taliban? We didn’t say. We just said that we will be participating in a meeting on Afghanistan which is hosted by Russia. Or we will be participating, we have decided that we will participating non-officially, but we didn’t say in our press release that there will be any talks with Taliban.

Question: Can you tell us what non-official would actually mean? Actually someone not currently with government of India, but would you say someone formally who was once with the government of India, a former diplomat, could you just elaborate a little?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:The term non-official is self-explanatory. I don’t think I need to elaborate what this constitutes. Non-official is self-explanatory, so I don’t think I should get into that.

Question:
Captain Amarinder Singh has once again written to External Affairs Minister today seeking some sort of step on the Kartarpur Corridor opening matter. Is there any sign whatsoever because in the last briefing the Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson made it very clear that there could be no movement forward possible unless there is a dialogue or a meeting happening between the two countries. So should we consider that things are not going to move forward as far as the Kartarpur Corridor is concerned as there is no dialogue one can possible see in the near future at this moment.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I am not aware of this letter to check the content of the letter, but in my previous briefing I have mentioned our position, in fact, in a very detailed manner on the Kartarpur issue. I have mentioned in the past that we have taken up the matter with Pakistan on opening the border for Sikh pilgrims to go visit the Gurdwara on the other side.

We have heard from Pakistan that this is something which they want to do but I don’t think, I am not aware of any official communication which we have received from Pakistan that they are keen to work with us on this matter. But in any case I’ll have to look at the letter and the content of the letter.

Question: A simple and basic question, in the current context is there a bad Taliban and a good Taliban or is it only and only, just a bad Taliban, what is MEA’s stand on it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:The way you ask the question to me I think I will not be able to answer the question the way you have asked but the way I will put it is that in our policy on Afghanistan which we have articulated and which has been consistent for quite some time now that we will be supportive of any process in Afghanistan where Afghanistan is a participant, they are party to that process and they also have a stake in that process. Which means that any process which is Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan driven.

Question: This is on CAATSA sanctions on Russia, what is the status now, have you got total exemption from US Administration regarding future Indo-Russian defence relations?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:No, I think I have mentioned on the past that we are engaged with different stakeholders in this matter, we have explained our objectives and position to US side at different levels. We feel that it has contributed to a better understanding by the US about our concerns, about our objectivities and expectations. We do intend to continue to remain engage to the US side but I think it is important to note that our defence purchases and acquisitions are dictated by our national interests.

Question: Even as the Prime Minister, you just announced, is going to the Maldives, one of our Southern Maritime neighbor Sri Lanka, there are reports that the rupture in ties between President Sirisena and the ousted PM Wickremesinghe happen because of a discussion in a cabinet meeting where the sparred on whether India and Japan should be given the Colombo Port Project and according to the reports Mr. Wickremesinghe said that India and Japan should be given the project and President Sirisena opposed it tooth and nail. I just wanted to know, is this correct, what is the government of India’s reading of the situation?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:It is difficult for me to comment for me on specific news items which are appearing in different sections of the media about the internal developments in Sri Lanka. I can tell you that we continue to closely monitor the situation. At this stage, I think, the situation still remains unclear but we do hope that democratic values and constitution process in Sri Lanka will be respected and that India and Sri Lanka do enjoy strong bonds of friendship and we will continue to extend our development assistance to the people of Sri Lanka.

Question: Regarding Sri Lanka political crisis you explained India’s position many times but my question is any political party that are seeking the help from Indian side?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:As I said and you yourself mentioned that we have explained our position on internal developments in Sri Lanka. Now this is something which has to be handled within Sri Lanka. I am not aware of any political party seeking our support. I don’t think we are looking in terms of engaging with any political party at this stage especially when things are still very fluid but also let me share with you that especially with the neighboring countries India enjoys good relations with political parties across the spectrum that is not only with the ruling parties but India enjoys good relations with political parties cutting across the political system.

Question: Will Prime Minister Modi and President Trump be meeting on the sidelines of G20?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:If I remember correctly I think the program of the Prime Minister for G20 is still being finalized and as and when there is some concrete shape his program takes then I will be able to share more details on any bilateral meetings which Prime Minister may have.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about Prime Minister’s visit to Maldives, what would be all his programs there?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I just read out the statement and it is not a bilateral visit that you need to understand. Prime Minister is going there to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new President and that is what I have to share at this stage.

I don’t see any other question. Thank you very much, thank you for joining.

(Concludes)

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