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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (June 20, 2019)

June 21, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Namaskar, good afternoon and welcome to this weekly briefing. I have one announcement to make on the visit of the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to India on which our External Affairs Minister has already tweeted.

The US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will visit India on 25-27 June. This will be the first high level engagement with the U.S. after the elections in India. During his visit he will hold talks with External Affairs Minister and he will also call on other dignitaries in the Government of India. Secretary Pompeo’s visit will provide an important opportunity for both sides to explore ways to further strengthen the India-US strategic partnership and continue the high level engagement on matters of mutual interest including bilateral, regional and global issues.

This was the announcement and I now open the floor to questions. I think it will be better if I take in all the questions on the visit itself at the beginning and then we can move on to next topics.

Question: This morning there was a report in Reuters about the fact that the US Government has conveyed to India its intention to cap H1B visas at about 10-15% as a counter to India’s data localization norms. Has anything been communicated officially, and also US has sent out a strong message to Indian companies towards supplying American products to Huawei, any position, any development on that front?

Question: Usi report mein ye kaha gaya hai ki US ke adhikaariyon ne Bharat ke adhikaariyon ko is baare mein jaankaari bhi dii hai hai ki hum H1B visa par cap lagaane kii taiyaari kar rahe hain, aapke data localization ke prastaav ke khilaaf.

(In that report it has been mentioned that US officials have informed the Indian officials that they are making preparations for putting a cap on the H1B visa against your proposal of data localization.)

Question: US has reiterated its suggestion to India not to go ahead with the S400 missile deal with Russia. So what is your position on this issue now?

Question: US ne jo visa cap ke baare mein bola hai uske baad kya IT ministry ne ye bola hai ki hum WhatsApp aur Facebook ko India mein band kar denge?

(What US has said regarding the cap on H1B visa cap, has the Indian IT ministry in response to that has said that we will ban Facebook and WhatsApp in India?)

Question: Raveesh Ji, ye jo aapne abhi kaha ki state visit hone vaali hai US Secretary of State Michael Pompeop aane waale hain, to kya ye mudda agende mein hoga, kya is baat par discussion hoga?

(Raveesh Ji, as you said just now that a state visit of the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is about to happen, so will this issue be there in the agenda, will there be discussion on this issue?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Questions are in Hindi and English, maybe I will start in English and then touch upon some of the points in Hindi.

The first point is, of course you know, that we are looking forward for the visit as I said that this is the first high level engagement between India and the US since the election and also perhaps this is the first incoming high level visit from any country. So that is one and we look upon this visit as an opportunity to discuss all the issues which will be on the table but for me to speculate on the issues to be discussed, I think it will be unfair and to speculate on the outcome perhaps will be more difficult but I can tell you that after the meeting is over we will come up with some details. There is a possibility of press statement by the two foreign ministers on the day of the talks. You will get a sense about the discussion which has taken place between the two leaders.

I can share with you that most of the issues under the bilateral framework will be discussed. There will also be some discussion on regional and global issues of mutual interest. I think it is important to understand and especially in a relationship which is as diverse, as deep as we have with the United States that there will be certain issues which will be on the table all points of time.

We should look at this relationship from the overall perspective. The overall directions of the relationship remains very positive and I am sure some of you might have heard the speech by Secretary of State Mr. Pompeo at the India Idea Summit where he articulated the strength of this relationship.

There are few points which I thought I will highlight. The first is despite of all the talk about trade issues which we are hearing now, the bilateral trade has almost touch $150 billion and there has been a growth every year in the last few years.

Since 2001 there has been a seven fold increase. There have been 500 US companies operating in India. The contribution of Indian Americans in the growth of US has been recognized by the US leadership, India has been granted a major defence partner status, US has supported India for the permanent member of the Security Council.

Last year we held the first 2+2 dialogue, there is a lot of cooperation going on in the high technology trade, so you see there is a plenty of action that is happening on the India-US bilateral relationship and whatever issues exist are there, I think they will be appropriately discussed between the two sides.

On specific issues on H1B visa, there is no report as such and there is no US official who has come up with this statement. It is a source based report. Normally I do not react to source based report. We have not heard officially from the US Government on this matter. We remain engaged with the US administration, we remain engaged with the Congress on this issue. We have emphasized, time and again, at all our high level interaction, the contribution of Indian skilled professional to the growth and development of the US economy, we continue to do that.

So to put it in very simple terms, the report which we have seen today in sections of the media, I think they are source based. We have not heard anything officially from the US government. We continue to reiterate and engage with the US government on this matter.

On the related issue of data localization, there are consultations which are taking place both within the government and also between the government and the industry and I am sure you must have seen a press release issued earlier by the Commerce and Industry Ministry, I think that was earlier this week perhaps on Monday or Tuesday, in that press release the Industry and Commerce Minister mentioned that there should be a proper synergy towards realizing the full use of digital technology together with trade and investment and also how do we balance it with our national priorities and sensitivities. What we articulated is in line with the best practices which is being followed globally. We are engaged with the US, we will remain engaged with the US on this matter and see how we can dispel any misconception on data localization which they might have.

I will come to Huawei as well, the Huawei question is something which is related to Department of Telecom and it is within their purview but you are aware that this is being debated intently across continents. We will take a decision which will be guided by our economic and security interests.

Further, time and again I have mentioned that specific matters of defence acquisition, normally I have not commented on them from this forum, so if it is S400 or any other platform I think it is something which should be addressed to the Ministry of Defence.

Question: Mera sawaal Pakistan ko lekar hai ji kya Bharat kii neeti koi badalaav aa rahaa hai kyonki Pakistani media aaj kah rahaa hai ki PM ne letter likha hai, Modi ne Imran Khan ko, ek tarah se baatcheet kii peshkash kii hai, halaanki aapne jaari bhi kiya hai statement lekin iske bavjood mera sawaal ye hai ki kya mahaoul ban raha hai aur doosara ye ki Kashmir mein aatankwaadi ghantnaayein ruk nahi rahi hain, Pulwama jaisa hamala fir se karne kii koshish kii gaii, to Bharat kii taraf se policy kya hai, kya internationally Bharat abhi bhi Pakistan par dabaav banaa raha hai ya mahaoul shant hai?

(My question is related to Pakistan, has there been any change in the policy of India because Pakistani media is also saying that Indian Prime Minister has written a letter to Imran Khan for a dialogue. I know that you have issued a statement but still I would like to ask if the atmosphere is being created, and my second question is there are continued acts of terrorism in Kashmir and there was an attempt for a Pulwama like attack, so what is the policy of India, are we still trying to put pressure on Pakistan through international modes or things are calm on that front?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Dekhiye mahoul mein aur hamari position mein koi bhi badalaav nahi hai. Aapne jo letter ki charchaa kii hai ismein do cheezein hain, ek to ye hai ki humne letter likhii hai ya nahi likhii hai, to ye maine pahle hi confirm kar diya hai ki humne chitthi likhii hai aur ye jo established diplomatic protocol hota hai uske tahat agar aapko koi bhi congratulate karta hai chitthi likhata hai to aap usko jawaab dete hain. Pradhanmantri ne bahut saare leaders ko jawaab diya hai, hamare External Affairs Minister ne bahut saare apne counterparts ko jawaab diya. usi ke tahat pradhanmanttri ne Imran Khan ko jawaab diya.

Jo doosari ismein cheez hai wo distort karne kii hai, aur jo distort karne kii mansiktaa hai jo humne aaj Pakistani media mein dekhi, simple aur straight forward letter hai, humne aapko ye bhi bataya kii us chitthi mein kya hai. Us chitthi mein ye hai ki Bharat South Asia mein aur baaki deshon ke saath ek normal aur cooperative rishta chaahtaa hai. Us normal aur cooperative rishte ke liye ye bahut jaroori hai ki hum aisa vaatavaran banaaye jo aatank aur violence se door ho.

Ye hamara purana stand hai jisko humne reiterate kiya hai. Koi bhi charchaa us chitthi mein baatcheet ke baare mein nahi hai, to ye main dobara kahna chaahunga ki jo Pakistan ki taraf se baar baar ek koshish hoti hai ek fake news ko peddle karne kii, aur aap logon se bhi guzaarish karunga kii isase pahle kii aap log usko hawaa dein, humse check jaroor kar lein ki ismein sschhaai kya hai. Agar aap wo news pahle daal denge aur fir humse check karenge, to unka jo maksad hota hai wo pura ho jata hai.

(See, there has been no change in either the atmosphere or our position. The letter that you have mentioned there are two things in that, first, have we written a letter or not and to which I had confirmed it earlier that yes we have written a letter and it has been written under the established diplomatic protocols, under which if someone congratulates you and writes a letter then you reply to that. Prime Minister has replied to many leaders and similarly our External Affairs Minister has also replied to many of his counterparts.

Second thing is related to distorting things which we have seen today in the psyche of Pakistani media. It is a simple and straight forward letter and we have also informed you what is there in that letter. That letter mentions that India wants normal and cooperative relations with all the countries in South Asia and for that normal and cooperative relations it is imperative that we create an atmosphere which is free from terror and violence.

This is our long standing position which we have reiterated. There no mention of any dialogue in that letter and once again I would like to say that there is an attempt to peddle fake news from the Pakistani side and it is my humble request to my friends in media before you put out such news please do check with us about the correctness of such news. If you put that news first and then check with us then their intentions are fulfilled.

Question: I have a related question, these messages and the news reports from Pakistan came today evening and this came just two days ago, the announcement from the FATF which is meeting in US right now. What are your expectations from the FATF, do you think that there should be blacklisting of Pakistan or do you think the grey list should continue because I believe that there is representation from Indian side also? Secondly, why do you think this kind of fake news is being peddled, do you think Pakistan is desperate for a dialogue with India because this has happened two weeks back as well when the Foreign Minister wrote that letter. What is the status right now, will there be a dialogue, or do you think the thing remains the same, terror and talks cannot continue?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Coming to the second question first, I don’t think there is any change in our position and I think we have made it very clear time and again that Pakistan has to take action, has to take action which is verifiable, has to take action which is irreversible. Unless we are convinced that action has been taken on the ground and not any temporary action which we have seen several time in the past, they really have to take some action and something which can be verified. So we will not be fooled by some cosmetic action here and there, some concrete action has to come from their side, number one.

On the first question, FATF, we would not like to say anything, it is a sensitive matter, it is a matter on which a decision is taken by the members of the FATF. Once they issue a press release, whatever decision is there, then we will see if we need to react or not but at this stage I don’t think it will be proper for me to come up with any expectation in which direction things should go as far as FATF is concerned.

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

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I think I have something on that. Something which is very important to understand in the beginning is, our vote on June 6 should not be in any way construed as a vote against the Palestinian cause and I would explain why. We voted in favor of a proposal which was submitted by Israel at the ECOSOC – Economic and Social Council of the UN, for further scrutiny by the committee on NGOs on the application from an NGO, Palestinian Association for Human Rights requesting consultative status.

The proposal was submitted by Israel based on information that the NGO allegedly has close contacts with terrorist organizations. Our vote in favor of the proposal is in line with India’s position on greater scrutiny by the NGO committee of the consultative status applications for possible terrorist linkages and to screen the NGO applications with the sanctions list of the UN Security Council before ECOSOC NGO status is granted to them.

So again it should not be seen as something linked to the Palestinian cause, it is something which we have done in the past and this basically was done so that a proper vetting of the NGO could be done before it is admitted as an ECOSOC observer.

Question: Of all the responses that have been sent to various heads of state and foreign minister’s was this last of the letters that have been sent as a response?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:It is very difficult to put a timeline as to when the response was sent. I think I can tell you this response was sent to Pakistani Prime Minister on June 12 and frankly it is difficult for me to put a timeline as to which response went when. As and when we got congratulatory letters we kept responding.

Question: This is regards to 243 people from India who in January this year off the coast of Kerala went off on a boat allegedly to New Zealand. Is there any word on them because their family members know nothing about them, it has been five months, has India contacted New Zealand, has there any request from the Kerala government on that count and is there any human trafficking involved in this issue?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:There was a vessel Devmata-2 which sailed from a port near Kochi and when it sailed we were informed by the state government that there are people on board and they were headed to a certain destination in the Pacific Ocean. Our responsibility as the Ministry of External Affairs was to kind of sensitize the countries in the region, to tell them this is what we know and also seek inputs from them just in case they come across this vessel. So far, I checked today, we have not received any information from any of the countries whom we have asked to provide information.

Question: Recently there was an IED attack in Kashmir in which some of our soldiers were also killed and there were reports that Pakistanis have given intelligence on this, which they had shared with the US and India and there were also some reports that our High Commission in Islamabad had received an anonymous call on this. So just wanted to check if Pakistan, in fact, do you detect any policy change from the other side that they have actually started sharing information to prevent a Pulwama like conflagration in future?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:You see, intelligence sharing, between any two countries is not something which is in the purview of Ministry of External Affairs. There are specialized agencies who handle this so frankly I will not be able to answer your question.

Question: Kya Kartarpur ko lekar koi development hui hai, kya Pakistan ki taraf se koi clarification aa gaya hai jiska hum intezaar kar rahe they?

(Is there any development related to Kartarpur, have we received the clarification from them which we have sought from them?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Ek cheez to main bataaa doon ki Pradhanmantri ne jo chitthi likhii thii us chitthi mein Kartarpur Corridor ka bhi jikra thaa aur unhone us us chitthi mei ye likhaa thaa

(One thing that I would like to inform is that the letter that Prime Minister wrote has a mention of the Kartarpur Corridor. The letter mentions that -

"We will continue to work for early operationalization of Kartarpur Corridor functional all year round.”

Iske alawa jo abhi kii status hai wo basically ye hai ki aapko pata hai ki abhi tak teen technical level discussions hue hain, kuch humne unse clarification bhi mange hain aur unka humein intezaar hai par sabse jo mool baat hai ismein wo ye hai ki Bharat Sarkar is corridor ke liye committed hai. Hum ye samajhate hain ki ye jo hamare pilgrims ki ye ek long pending demand hai aur isko poora karne ke liye jo bhi hamein steps uthaane padenge wo hum uthaaenge. To hum iske liye committed hain, jo hamein clarification chaahiye uska hum intezaar kar rahe hain aur Pradhanmantri ne khud apni chitthi mein likha hai ki wo chaahenge, aur ye note karne waali baat hai ki us chitthi mein likhaa gayaa hai ki "The Corridor should be functional all year round."

(Other than this, the current status of Kartarpur Corridor is that as you know till now we have had three technical level discussions. We had sought certain clarifications also which we are still waiting for but the most important fact is that India government is committed to it. We understand that it is a long standing demand of our pilgrims and to fulfill it we will take whatever necessary steps we might be required to take. So we are committed to it and we are waiting for clarifications that we had sought. Prime Minister himself mentioned in his letter that he would like and it is important to note that that letter mentions -

"The Corridor should be functional all year round.")

Question: There are certain people that government wants back from different parts of the world. Anything coming out of Antigua because there has been a long silence for a while?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I am afraid not, I can only tell you that we do engage with them from time to time our High Commissioner has met the relevant officials from time to time including the Attorney General. We have told them about the urgency. There is a certain process, if you understand, which has to be followed. What we were told that the extradition request still remains under the consideration of the Antigua and Barbuda authorities and we are trying to see how we can actively follow up on our request.

Question: The news reports from Pakistan actually quotes the letter, do you think those quotes are fake?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I can say

Question Contd.: Why can’t we release the letter?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:We are not in the business of releasing letters, we don’t release letters. Why don’t you ask somebody who is quoting to release the letter?

Question Contd.: It says that India has expressed desire for talks.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:That is what I am saying, if you are so confident and if you think they can be trusted you ask them to release a copy of the letter.

Question: Actually just a clarification, this thing on Kartarpur that you said, so this is their in PM Modi’s letter dated June 12?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Yes, there is a mention of ‘operationalization of Kartarpur corridor which is functional all year round.’

Question contd.: So apart from Kartarpur which PM has raised and also the terror free environment…

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:That’s it.

Question: Is there any information regarding Foreign Minister’s upcoming visit to Nepal for Joint Commission Meeting?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Not at this point of time, I can only tell you that there is a strong focus on the neighboring countries as part of our Neighborhood First policy. There are discussions taking place and the two sides are in touch to work out a mutually convenient date.

Question Contd.: What about President Kovind, he is also supposed to visit Nepal?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I am not aware of that.

Question: JS (Americas) was present in the e-commerce meeting as well, was the view of American e-commerce companies was represented and also, EAM also met Piyush Goyal after that, so any information?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:See, if you expect that I am going to give you a readout of internal discussions then you are very hopeful but I can tell you that there are press releases coming out being released by different ministries. I can refer to the press release by the ministry of commerce, they have actually given details of kind of companies who were present in that meeting and I think that perhaps might answer your question.

Question: Could you give us some more information on the celebrations of the Yoga Day tomorrow for the diplomatic corps that you are organizing.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:I am glad you asked this question because you see I was looking for an opportunity.

This is the fifth International Day of Yoga which we are celebrating. From the Ministry of External Affairs we have asked all the missions and posts all over the world to do this in a grand manner and if you have been following our posts and their posts, you would have seen that the celebrations are not only taking place in the capital cities, it has moved to several other parts of the country. Now if you look at France for example, or Germany, in Indonesia we are doing it in front of Prambanan Temple, in Paris we did it near Eiffel Tower.

So we have selected very high profile locations, we are also getting support of the local government, because now we have localized it to the extent that it is now taking place in several cities across the world so huge participation of the local population at the International Day of Yoga and it has helped to take the message of Yoga to different parts of the world. There was a video message by the Prime Minister that has been sent to all the missions for them to screen at the beginning of the Yoga Protocol which everybody is supposed to follow.

On the next question, tomorrow at 9:00 we are calling in all the Diplomatic Corps, the Ambassadors and the High Commissioners in India to come and celebrate the International Day of Yoga with us. We will have the External Affairs Minister and also some of the senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and we will all start the day tomorrow with Yoga. So that we are charged for the whole day tomorrow and the venue is PBK – Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra. So you are all welcome to join not only to report but participate in the yoga, if you want.

Thank you very much all for joining and have a nice day.

(Concludes)

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