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Transcription of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (June 07, 2018)

June 08, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar and good afternoon and welcome to this weekly press briefing. Before we get into the question and answer round, I have a read out on Prime Minister’s visit to Qingdao, China for the SCO Summit.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will be participating in the forthcoming 18th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization to be held under the chairmanship of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Qingdao in Shandong province China on 9th and 10th of June, 2018.

This will be the first SCO Summit after India became a member in June 2017. Among other issues the summit is expected to focus on opportunities for cooperation among SCO members and the situation in the region. Prime Minister’s program in Qingdao includes participation in the welcome banquet hosted by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in the evening of 9th June, 2018. The main day of the SCO Summit is 10th June. Prime Minister will attend the SCO Heads of State meeting in both the restricted as well as the extended formats. In addition bilateral meetings of Prime Minister are planned on the sidelines of the summit.

The SCO summit is a forum which enables India to engage with the countries of Central Asia. A declaration is expected to be adopted at the summit. Other documents are also being finalized in this regard. With this now I open the floor to questions.

Question: Which are the bilaterals that have already been fixed so far and anything else?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: So far we have announced the bilateral meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping that will happen on the first day which is June 9. There are other meetings being organized and we will share information with you in due course of time.

Question: 12 June ko jo President Trump aur Kim Jong-un ki jo Singapore mein mulakaat honi hai, us par India ka kya rukh hai, kis tarah se aap log dekhate hain ki is meeting se poori global community ko kya haasil hoga?

(What is India’s view on the proposed meeting of President Trump and Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore? What do you think will be accrued to the global community from this meeting?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye, hamne pehle bhi kaha hai, hamne is proposed meeting ko welcome kiya hai isko aur hamne ye bhi kaha hai ki jo Korean peninsula ki jo problem hai uska peaceful resolution ke hum hamesha supporter rahe hain aur hum ummeed karte hain ki jo in dono netaon ke beech mein meeting hogi wo successful rahegi in finding a peaceful solution to the Korean peninsula problem.

(See, as we have mentioned earlier also, we welcome this meeting. We have also said that we are avid supporters of peaceful resolution of the problem of Korean peninsula and we hope that this meeting between the two leaders will be successful in finding a peaceful solution of the problem of Korean peninsula.)

Question: Maldives ko lekar kai reports hain ki Maldives ke ek MP ko Chennai se wapas lautaya gaya aur iske alawa Bharat ne Maldives ko jo do helicopter gift kiye they, unki lease khatm hone ke baad Maldives ne unhen lautane ka faisla kiya hai. To Maldives ke saath kya stithi hai aur MP ko lautaye jaane ka kya maamla hai?

(There are reports that an MP from Maldives was sent back from Chennai, other than this the two helicopters that were gifted to Maldives, it is said that after their lease is over Maldives has decided to send them back. So what is our position with Maldives and what is this issue of an MP being turned back?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Do linked sawaal hain. Pehla to ye hai ki jo MP Chennai aaye they unke saath kya hua, uske baare mein main batana chahunga ki wo jab Chennai aaye to unko wahan par rok diya gaya immigration ke upar. Ye 4 June ki raat ki baat hai aur abhi filhal stithi ye hai hai ki hum pata lagaane ki koshish kar rahe hain ki ye hua kaise aur jaise hi hamein jaankaari meilegi hum aapke saath share karenge.Jahan tak helicopter ka sawaal hai hum Maldives ke saath lagatar sampark banaye hue hain.

(These are two linked questions, first is what happened with the MP who came to Chennai, regarding that I would like to inform you that the MP was stopped at the Immigration counter. This happened on the night of June 4. At this moment we are trying to ascertain how did this happen and as soon as we have some information regarding this, we will share it with you.As far as the issue of helicopters is concerned, we are in constant touch with Maldives on this issue.)

Question: Afghanistan mei jo hamare logon ko bandhak banaya gaya hai, kya stithi hai ab tak aur kis tarah ke approach kiye gaye hain aur koshish ki gai hai, aur kya unke parivaron se aap sampark mein hain?

(What is the status regarding the Indians that have been abducted in Afghanistan, what efforts have been made to approach them and are you in touch with their families?)

Question: Some of the family members of the abducted people have also been protesting today, we have just received some visuals of the same, what is the assurance that has been given to them or who has talked to them?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On the issue of abducted Indians in Afghanistan, during her annual press conference EAM made it very clear the efforts which we had undertaken to ensure that they are released safely. I can tell you that we are according top priority to this problem, we are seized of this matter. EAM had also mentioned that this is a sensitive matter and frankly from this forum I would not like to get into too much details, I can tell you with the Afghan side, we are also in touch with the other stakeholders. Since it is a matter with lot of sensitivity and lives are involved, so I would not really like to get into too many details on this matter and I do expect your understanding on this.

On the other matter regarding their meeting with the External Affairs Minister, EAM had offered to meet them next week. You are aware that she is in South Africa. She attended the BRICS and IPSA Foreign Ministers meeting. So she has given them sometime next week and I am sure when she comes back she would like to meet them. We are working out the date and time for the meeting.

We told the family members that they can come next week to meet the External Affairs Minister. Since they have come, my understanding is they will be meeting somebody at the Ministry of External Affairs. At this stage I am not sure who that person will be but yes I can confirm that some meeting will definitely take place today as well with the families of the abducted Indians.

Question: Can you confirm the scheduling of 2+2 dialogue between India and USA?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: At this stage I can’t, I can only tell you since there are four principals involved, we will make an announcement very soon in this matter.

Question: The Prime Minister met Dr. Mahathir Mohammad recently on his recent three nation tour of South East Asia. I am wondering if there was any discussion on Zakir Naik, any status update on that.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Meeting of Prime Minister with Mahathir Mohammad and the status of Zakir Naik are two separate issues. The meeting with Prime Minister of Malaysia was a very short meeting and it happened while Prime Minister was en route to Singapore. That meeting basically was a broad overview about the relationship. He also congratulated Mahathir Mohammad on his assuming the post of Prime Minister. But on Zakir Naik itself, I can share with you that India and Malaysia do have an extradition treaty in place and under the provisions of the treaty we have made an extradition request to the Malaysian side and now we are waiting for the response in this matter.

Question: Abhi ek delegation India se Europe gaya that, Iran ke saath tel ke karobar aage kaise kaam karenge aur kis mudra mei ye hoga to usko lekar koi details agar aap share kar paayein?

(Recently a delegation went to Europe regarding import of oil from Iran and, how would it work in future and what will be currency of trade, do you have any details regarding that?)

Question: Is there a plan for a meeting with Prime Minister Modi and Iranian President on the margins of the SCO meet and just complementing previous question, what is our strategy, have we sought exemption from the US Sanctions from Iran, like for example EU has already done so?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On the proposed meeting, as I told you that I can confirm only one meeting which is already slotted. I am not aware of any other meeting which has been finalized.

On discussions with Iran, aapko shayad pata hoga ki Iran ke Foreign Minister yahan aaye they aur unke saath hamari External Affairs Minister ki baatcheet bhi hui thi. EAM ne apne annual press conference mein bhi is sawaal ka jawaab diya tha ki sanctions ke baad India aur Iran ke rishtey kaise badhenge, hamara tel ka aayaat kaise hoga, ispar EAM ka bahut hi spasht bayaaan hai jo hamare website par bhi available hai.

(On discussions with Iran, you might be aware that Iranian Foreign Minister had visited India and he had discussions with our External Affairs Minister also. In her annual press conference EAM had very clearly articulated replies on our relations with Iran after sanctions, how would we import oil etc. which are available on our website also.)

Further, regarding exemptions, you see there are different elements to what you have asked, if it is specific to for example oil imports, if it is specific to Chabahar I think the answer will be different. I can tell you for example for Chabahar, we have expressed our position in this regard. We have told them that it is our hope and expectation that the project would not be impacted by these developments.

We have told them that Chabahar provides an alternate access to Afghanistan and Central Asia which we have used to supply wheat to Afghanistan. The success of this project will contribute towards objective of creating a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and this is something which is also shared by the US and the same objective.

Question: Jo team Europe gai hai us Indian delegation mei kaun kaun log hain aur MEA ke kis level ke officers gaye hain.

(Who are the members of delegation that is visiting Europe and what is the level of participation from MEA?)Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Aap thoda detail bataiye, kaun si team ki aap baat kar rahe hain, to main us par kuch jaankaari de sakoon.

(Please explain in detail, which team and delegation are you referring to so that I can provide you information.)

Question Contd.: England gayi hai team aur usmein External Affairs Ministry coordinate kar rahi hai, petroleum, commerce aur finance ke officers usmein hain.

(A team is visiting England where MEA is coordinating and there are officers from Petroleum, Commerce and Finance ministries.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Jaisa maine bataya ki jo cheezein aap pooch rahe hain, dekhiye meeting jahan bhi ho lekin is mudde par jo hamara stand hai wo hamne bahut hi clear kar diya hai.

(As I said earlier, see wherever the meeting might take place but our stand on this particular issue has been very clearly stated.)

We have said that they have the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Aur humne ye bhi kaha hai ki jo hamari dono se baatcheet ho rahi hai usmei hum ye dekh rahe hain ki jo ye mudda hai, isko hum kaise hal kar paayein.

(We have also said that we are in discussion with both parties in which we are looking for options to resolve this issue.)

Question:
You told us that during her press conference EAM spoke about the meeting between Theresa May and Prime Minister on Vijay Mallya. Now has there been any forward movement on that, can you tell us anything more on the discussion?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: There is an extradition treaty between India and UK which I am sure you are aware of and under the provisions of this treaty we made a formal request in February 2017 for extradition of Vijay Mallya from UK. You are also aware that extradition hearings have been going on since then and I understand that the closing submissions in this case have already been made. We now wait for the verdict. I can only assure you, I can only share with you that we have left no stone unturned in our efforts to convince the court that the extradition of Vijay Mallya to India should take place.

Question: Hum ye dekh rahe hain ki pichhale kuchh dino se lagatar Bharat-Pakistan seema ceasefire violation ho raha hai, ispar kya update hai aur kis tarah ki communication further ho rahi hai?

(We are witnessing continuous ceasefire violations from Pakistan in past few days. What is the update on this issue and what kind of communication is being done further on this issue?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye jab bhi ceasefire violation hota hai India aur Pakistan border par jo Pakistan ki taraf se unprovoked, ye main aapko bata doon ki

(See, whenever there is an unprovoked ceasefire violation from Pakistan on India-Pakistan border, let me tell you that)

We always take this very strongly this matter of unprovoked ceasefire violation with the Pakistani side. It involves loss of life, it also involves loss of property and in fact only this year i.e. in 2018 there have been more than 1000 unprovoked ceasefire violations by Pakistan. We have also maintained that the ceasefire violation by Pakistan is used as a cover to infiltrate terrorists into our territory and we have seen the results of such infiltration in the past also. We hope that Pakistan will realize what it is doing and adheres by the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two countries in this matter.

Question: SCO ke full member banane ke baad pehli baar India usmein participate kar raha hai, kya aap bata sakte hain kis tarah ka objective hai, kya hamara overall ek view hai is meeting ko lekar?

(It is the first time that India will be participating in SCO after becoming its full member. So can you tell us what is our objective and what is the overall view regarding this meeting?)

Question: This is also significant that for the first time India and Pakistan have joined SCO as full members and the way SAARC has been functioning because of terrorist activities of Pakistan, how India is going to raise this issue in SCO, will it be just a poo-pooing affair or it will be something very significant and strong because in last SCO meeting also terrorism has been raised by India nothing came out of it, so what will be this time new?

Question: We had an Indian delegation going to Pakistan and participating in discussions on the menace of terrorism but we did not hear anything what was the outcome, what was the view of Indian side and what exactly had happened, could you just elaborate on this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
I think the questions are all connected. Let us understand that this is a multilateral forum and wherever we participate, coming to your question, the participation in Pakistan was under the ambit of SCO-RATS that is where we had sent a technical team to participate in that meeting. It is our obligation and responsibility to participate in multilateral meetings wherever they are held and that is how we participated in this SCO-RATS meeting in Pakistan.

On the first question regarding the objectives of SCO, I think it can be broken into two parts, the objective of SCO in general and there I can share with you that for this summit the objective is to further deepen the existing relationship between the SCO member countries. They have identified four areas i.e. politics, security, economic and cultural cooperation.

There is something called Shanghai Spirit which needs to be strengthened, which talks about mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, mutual consultations and respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development. I also presume that there will be discussions on regional and international issues when the leaders meet for the summit.

As far as our objectives are concerned, we share the goals which have been enshrined by SCO for this meeting but you see, SCO is a grouping of Central Asian countries, it helps in strengthening relationship with many of the member countries who are members of SCO. We have participated in dialogue mechanisms since we became a full member in June 2017. Since we joined, SCO members now represent approximately 42 percent of the world’s population, 22 percent of the land area and 20 percent of the GDP.

It is important for us to ensure peace and security in the SCO region and fight against the growing threat of terrorism. We are also very focused on the connectivity aspect of it and this is evident from our involvement with several connectivity projects like the International North South Transport Corridor, the Chabahar Port Development, the Ashkhabad Agreement, India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway Project and Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Initiative, amongst many others.

So you see there are multiple objectives of our participation. Common development is one, the connectivity is another, strengthening relationships with Central Asian countries is yet another one and also terrorism, how do we use this platform to fight terrorism and the scourge of terrorism in today’s world.

Question: This is specifically regarding the SCO, I am just wondering whether Prime Minister Modi will be talking specifically about Iran sanctions on oil and whether he will also be discussing North Korea with China and Russia?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This falls into the category of very speculative question. Whether any issue is going to be discussed or not, it is difficult for me to predict at this stage. On the bilateral meetings which Prime Minister will have, it depends on who is meeting and as you know in such formats the time which is available for bilateral meetings is very short, so I think we will have to prioritize and see the kind of questions and the kind of issues which we are able to discuss with the leaders whom the Prime Minister is meeting.

Question: I was reading somewhere this morning that MEA has put restrictions on Pakistani academics from attending seminar in India, do you like to comment on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Is it related to the conference organized by the AAS and Ashoka University, in fact I also read the news report. Please note that there are several factors which goes into taking a decision about the participation of an individual or country in any conference or seminar. One major consideration which goes into when we take a decision is of course the input which we receive from the agencies but one very important input is the state of relationship.

If the state of relationship is good and positive, then these things are very smooth and very free flowing and if you have a relationship which is not smooth, then of course there are due diligence and all other things come into the play. Yes, I think participation by Pakistan or any other country is a reflection of the current state of relationship between India and that country.

Question: Any update regarding extradition of Nirav Modi and also if you can provide us information on location of Mehul Choksi?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see time and again I have mentioned that I will not be able to provide the location of Nirav Modi. I have mentioned that MEA comes into the picture once we are informed by the agencies about his whereabouts and once that happens then it is our responsibility to take up the matter with the concerned government. I can only share with you that till the time I entered this room we have not been intimated by any agency regarding the location or whereabouts of Nirav Modi.

Question: You described SCO as an organization focused on Central Asia but already two of our neighbors Sri Lanka and Nepal are observers of SCO. Is SCO emerging as an alternative mechanism to SAARC in which China and other South Asian countries are also going to be members, now that India and Pakistan, two of the biggest countries of South Asia are already members of SCO, do you think you would welcome admission of smaller countries of the region into the SCO?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think it is not possible to compare what SCO stands for and what SAARC stands for. Out of eight countries in the region only two are the members of SCO and the membership is defined through consensus. India and Pakistan became members of SCO because there was a consensus in the organization about admitting these two countries.

I don’t think we can, at this stage, draw conclusions about SCO being a substitute for any other organization. It has existed for quite some time and of course I keep on hearing this query about one particular organization substituting SAARC all the time. Sometimes it is BIMSTEC, sometimes it is the SCO. I don’t think I draw the same conclusion as you.

Question: Has there been a quad meeting, is it about to happen and what is the level of participation?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As you know that there is a regular ASEAN related senior officials meeting which is taking place in Singapore at this stage. It is normal on such occasions for the officials who are present for such meetings to have a bilateral, multilateral or pluri-lateral meetings.

One of such meetings which will be taking place later today is the senior officers level meeting between India, Australia, Japan and the US in Singapore. As I said it is at the level of Joint Secretary, it is exactly at the same level as it took place the last time.

Question: Currently senior leaders from the Bangladesh opposition party BMP are visiting New Delhi. They have met some thinktank organization. Some unconfirmed reports say that they have met Mr. M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs. So whether they have come at the invitation of government of India or MEA is giving them any hearing?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Frankly I am not aware of this meeting which you are talking about and also their meeting with M J Akbar and the visit. So I will have to check and I can revert.

Since there are no other questions then we conclude this weekly press briefing. Thank you all for joining.

(Concludes)

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