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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (June 28, 2018)

June 29, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Good afternoon and welcome to this weekly press briefing. At the last moment I had to push it by half an hour based on request we received from some of you. I don't have any announcements to make today so we can straight away move to question and answer session.

Question: We have all seen videos of surgical strikes and just a short while ago Ambassador Haley said that Pakistan should mend his ways and not indulge in activities that support safe havens. What is your reaction to it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Our position on terrorism emanating out of Pakistan is very clear and I have shared from this forum several times that Pakistan has to take steps to control terrorism which is coming out from its territory, it has to rein in the terrorists which are operating freely in the country.

As far as the video is concerned you would recall that on September 29 2016 from this very place there was a joint press briefing by MEA and MoD. We had made our position on surgical strikes very clear during that press conference. There is no change in that position.

Question: As far as the surgical strike is concerned your equivalent in the Pakistan Foreign Office has just said that the surgical strike is the figment of India’s imagination. How does the Indian government respond to that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We have already responded and that is what I have just mentioned. When I share or when the spokesperson shares the podium with Ministry of Defence and we make a statement on surgical strike I don’t think I need to add anything further to which has already been said.

Question: Just half an hour ago Ambassador Nikki Haley said that Iran is a threat to the world and she also added that India agrees to it but there are logistical reasons for which India is not with us, so what is your take on this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I have not seen the report and I have not heard her speech but you see on Iran itself we feel that Iran is a very traditional partner. We have historical and civilizational linkages with Iran. We have also communicated our views on Iran’s JCPO and the withdrawal of the US. Amb. Ambassador Nikki Haley has her views and of course our view on Iran is very clear.

Question: As far as the minister goes having said on record that India’s position vis-à-vis country specific sanctions are concerned, they don’t regard it, they only regard UN sanctions. Whereas the United States has just alerted India and even others to snap ties with Iran or they will have to face sanctions. So what is India’s standing position?

Question: Are we actually going to cut down import of crude from Iran, are we going to stop buying oil from Iran or we going to cut down the oil imports from Iran?

Question: State Bank of India, has told companies dealing with Iran that they won’t be giving them loans or changing their money or whatever they do. I am just asking you because State Bank is after all government controlled.

Question: US ke dwara 4 November ki tareekh di gai hai aur wo ek deadline ki tarah hai ki hamei Iran se apne sabhi import aur sambandhon ko khatam karne ke liye. Kya aapko lagta hai ki hum is tareekh ko adhere karenge, kya aapko lagta hai hamare upar ye America ki ek tarah se tanasaahi hogi is tarah se ek deadline diya jana?

(US has given the deadline of November 4 to send all relations and import ties with Iran. Do you think we will adhere to this deadline, do you think this is a kind of dictatorship by US on us giving us a deadline of this sort?)

Question: In your assessment, was this issue i.e. the divergence on Iran between India and the US was this one of the reasons why the 2+2 dialogue was postponed?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This is a separate question which is not related to Iran but I’ll answer that later.

I think it should be very clear I mean as far as I can recall the statement which has been made by the US State Department talks about reducing imports of oil from Iran to zero by November 4. I don’t think there is any talk about snapping ties, I don’t recall seeing that. I think it talks about reducing imports of oil from Iran to zero by 4 November.

It should be noted that the statement was not India specific and it applies to all countries across the world. As far as we are concerned we will take all necessary steps including engagement with relevant stakeholders to ensure our energy security.

Question: ………… Inaudible ………………

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That is for you to analyse. I have said that we will continue to engage with all stakeholders and we will ensure that our energy security is not compromised. On 2+2, I think after seeing the press statement by the US Embassy that speculation should have been put to rest. This morning they have issued a statement and the statement very clearly says that the scheduling change was prompted by reasons unrelated to the bilateral relationship. It also said that both sides remain committed to the relationship and I feel that after our statement and their statement on this matter the wild speculation which some of the media outlets indulged in should be put to rest. The relationship is on a very firm footing and there is nothing to suggest that there is any damage to the relationship.

We have also mentioned that the two sides will remain engaged to finalize the dates for the dialogue in the near future either in India or in the US. I believe a similar statement was also made by Amb Nikki Haley in her address just before this.

Question: Rahul Gandhi Mansarovar jana chaahte hain ye icchha unhone vyakt ki thi, uske baad Congress ne kaha ki MEA ke pass request hamari padi hui hai. Hum Jaananaa chaahenge ki kya request aai hai aur uska kya status hai aur aisa jatayaa jaa rahaa hai ki roda daalne ki koshish hai Sarkar ki taraf se ki Rahul Gandhi Mansarovar nahi jaayein, aur shayad ye special permission maangi hai Rahul Gandhi ne.

(Rahul Gandhi expressed that he wishes to visit Mansarovar and after that Congress said that the request is lying with MEA. We would like to know if the request was made and what is the current status of that request. And it is being portrayed that government is trying to stall the visit of Rahul Gandhi to Mansarovar, maybe he has sought a special permission for this.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Ek to main bata doon ki hamari koi aisi icchaa nahi hai ki hum kisi ki Mansarovar yatra mein roda banein. Main ye baat bilkul saaf karna chaahunga ki hamare pass abhi tak koi bhi formal request nahi aai hai Rahul Gandhi ji ke Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China ko visit karne ke liye.

Aapko shayad pata hoga ki Kailash Mansarovar yatra ke liye do tareeke hain. Ek to jo MEA organize karti hai aur uske liye registration hota hai. Agar aapko jaana hai to aap online jaakar register karein aur ek lottery system hota hai jismein hum aap sab logon ko bulaate hain. Ye ek transparent lottery system hota hai aur us lottery mein aapka naam aana chahiye jisase aap ye yatra kar sakein. Jab humne check kiya aisi koi registration unki nahi hui hai MEA organized yatra ke liye.

Jo doosara raasta hai wo hai private rasta jismein aap tour operator ko contact karte hain aur aap khud jaate hain Nepal ke raaste. Iske liye aapko Chinese visa ki jaroorat hogi jismein hum nahi aayenge, wo unko apply karna hai. Haan ye jaroor hai ki agar hamare pass communication aayega to hum us par action lenge par main ye saaf karna chaahunga ki abhi tak hamare pass is maamle mein koi formal intimation nahi aai hai ki wo jana chaahte hain.

The question was that the Congress party has claimed that the government is not allowing Shri Rahul Gandhi to undertake Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. My answer is that we have not received any formal request for his visit to the Tibetan Autonomous Region of People’s Republic of China. I also mentioned that there are primarily two ways of undertaking this Yatra. First is through the MEA organized route which is a very transparent process. One has to register themselves on the website and through a transparent draw which is conducted in the presence of Media the names of the people who could undertake the Yatra are selected and then they are made public there and then.

His name was not registered as an applicant to undertake this Yatra. The second route is the private route where you have to go through a private agency to undertake this Yatra and in that case some intimation could come to us but even in that regard we have not received anything from his office.

Question: Sawaal maine isliye bhi poochha tha ki Vidhayak ya Saansad logon ko koi special permission di jaate hain MEA ke dwara?

(I asked the question to know if MEA grants special permission to MLAs or MPs?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye jab tak hamare pass koi request aayega nahi to hamare pass permission dene ka sawaal hi nahi hai. Jaisa main bilkul clear kaha hai ki abhi tak hamare pass koi formal intimation aai hi nahi hai.

(See, till the time we receive any request there is no question of giving permission for anything. As I have said very clearly till now we have not received any formal intimation.)

Question: Mera sawal Nepal aur China ki badhate gahre rishton ko lekar hai. Ye rishta dekha ja raha hai khastaur par kai tarah ke strategic tie-up aur khas taur par jo development project hai usmein China interest dikha raha hai Nepal ki territory mein. Kya aapko lagta hai isse hamara interest kahin ek tarah se prabhavit hoga aur hum jo ek tarah ka shabd instemaal karte hain ki hamara aur Nepal ka rishta jo hai wo beti aur roti ka hai, aapko lagta hai ki rishta ab toot gaya hai?

(My question is related to ever increasing close ties between Nepal and China. It is seen that China is portraying interest in many strategic tie-ups and especially in development projects in Nepal. Do think this will have some effect on our interests and do you think our ties with Nepal have broken?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Bilkul nahi. Pata nahi aapko kahan se ye andesha ho gaya ki rishta toot gaya hai. Aapne abhi hamare Pradhanmantri Ji ka daura dekha jo Nepal mein hua aur wo bahut hi successful visit tha. Aapne optics dekhe, aapne personal chemistry dekha dono netaaon ka aur uske pahle jab Nepal ke Pradhanmantri jab Delhi aaye they, tab bhi jo baatcheet hui, jo discussion hua, jo outcome hua us visit se, isase bilkul saaf jaahir hota hai ki jo hum dono ke rishtey hain, jo ek tarah se do Bhaiyon ka rishta hai wo bahut mazboot hai, bahut pragaadh hai.

Mujhe lagta hai ki Bharat aur Nepal ke rishtey ko kisi doosare country ke prism se nahi dekhna chahiye. Hamari alag relationship hai aur bahut hi nazdiki mitrata hai. Aur unke jo bhi rishtey hain China se wo alag hain, jo hamare saath hai wo alag hai. To main bilkul is baat ko nahi manta ki sambandh mein kuch daraar aai hai. In fact uske bilkul vipareet picchale mahino mein hamare sambandhon mein bahut nazdiki aai hai, aur bahut pragaadh bane hain hamare sambandh.

(Absolutely not. I don’t know why you assume that the ties have snapped. You recently witnessed a very successful Nepal visit of our Prime Minister. You have seen the optics and the personal chemistry between the two leaders during the visit. And prior to that when Nepal Prime Minister visited New Delhi and the discussion and the outcome of that visit clearly reflects that the relations between the two countries are very close and intense.

I believe that India and Nepal relations should not be viewed through a prism of third country. We have a very different and close friendship and Nepal’s relations with China are on a different pedestal than with ours. So I absolutely don’t believe that there is some rift in the relations with Nepal. In fact it has been exactly contrary and our relations have become more close and intense during the last few months.)

Question: This is about 31 fishermen’s stand in Iran last week. Do we have any updates on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I spoke to our Embassy. Basically, what I was told that they are in touch with the fishermen and we are looking after them and we are also in touch with the local authorities so that we can ensure their repatriation to India as soon as possible.

Question: Recently Bangladesh opposition BNP leaders visited India and also visited New Delhi. They met some think tanks and some politicians also. Now they are asking that India should intervene and see that there is a free and fair election in Bangladesh. How government of India can interfere or oversee the elections that are held there are free and fair?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: The conduct of an election in any part of the world is the sole prerogative of that country. I don’t think government of India is going to intervene or interfere in any democratic exercise which is being conducted in any country around us and especially the neighbouring countries.

Question: Press conference jab ki gai thi September 2016 mei to DGMO ke saath Jt. Secretary (XP) tab ke sath mein baithey they. Aur abhi aap dekh rahe hain ki principal opposition party ye kah rahi hai ki aaj se pehle kabhi surgical strikes ko kabhi is tarah se publicize nahi kiya gaya tha. Kya aapko lagta hai ki official podium se usko press conference karke logon ko ye jaankaari dena ye galat rananeeti thi jaisa aaj principal opposition party charge kar rahi hai?

(When the press conference regarding surgical strikes was conducted in September 2016 then along with DGMO the then JS (XP) was also present. Now you have seen that the principal opposition party prior to now surgical strikes were never publicized. Do you think it was a wrong strategy to inform public by doing a press conference as is being charged by the principal opposition party now?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Is debate mein main nahi jana chaahunga. 29 September ko jo humne kiya wo isi forum se kiya gaya tha aur publicly kiya gaya tha. Is manch se hamara yahi kaam hai ki koi bhi Sarkar ki jo neeti hoti hai aur jo action hota hai, hum is manch ka upyog karte hain usko announce karne ke liye aur wo humne kiya.

(I would not like to venture into this debate. Whatever we did was done from this very forum and it was done publicly. Whatever is the policy or action of thr government, it is our job to use this forum to announce them and that is what we did.)

Question: Ex Foreign Minister of Maldives is in New Delhi nowadays. Has he been given a chance to meet senior MEA officials and how would you describe current situation in Maldives?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: The political developments in the Maldives have been a matter of concern. We welcomed lifting the State of Emergency and called upon the Government of Maldives to ensure early resumption of the political process and allow democratic institutions including the judiciary to function independently in a fair and transparent manner. This will create a conducive environment for the smooth conduct of the elections in Maldives later this year.

Question: Former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid ne sawaal khade kiye hain ki surgical strikes jaise video jo ki bahut sensitive hain ye kahan se leak hua kyonki ye video Sarkar ke pass hi hongi aur agar ye leak hota hai to kahin na kahin ye desh aur seema ke liye ek khatra hai?

(Former Foreign Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has raised questions that leakage of surgical strike videos is a very sensitive issue as these videos must be with the government only and their leakage is a threat to the nation and its boundaries?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Mujhe lagta hai ki aap galat shaks se ye sawaal pooch rahi hain. Aapko pata hai ki mera mandate kya hai. Main Videsh Mantralay ka pravakta hoon aur main Videsh Mantralay ki policies ke bare mein bata sakta hoon. Is type ka sawaal mere daayre ke baahar aata hai.

(I think you are asking this from a wrong person. You know what is my mandate. I am the spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs and I can provide information about the policies of MEA. This type of question is out of bound for me.)

Question: Have you so far received any information regarding location of Nirav Modi from the agencies? Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On this topic let me just make few things very clear because I think there are a lot of speculations going around in the media and I thought I will use this forum to clarify them.

The first is that Nirav Modi was issued a fresh passport only after his previous passports were physically cancelled. When I say physically cancelled it means that you take the passport and you stamp it with "CANCELLED” remark.

Number two, at no stage he had more than one valid passport in his possession. Number three, you all are aware that in February this year, based on the advice of our agencies his passport was initially suspended and then it was revoked. The revocation notice were sent to all the PIAs which are the Passport Issuing Authorities. It was also sent to our missions and posts and we also intimated the agencies regarding the revocation.

We have sent another message to all our missions and posts as well as a message to a select group of countries requesting the help of that government in denying entry and to inform us if he is residing in that country. Also to clarify that so far we have not received any extradition request in respect of Nirav Modi.

Question: Haal hi mein Lucknow mein ek controversy hui passport jaari karne ko lekar hui jismein passport adhikaari par kaaryavaahi bhi ki gai. Usmein abhi kya stithi hai Lucknow Police LIU ki taraf se jaanch report daakhil kar di gai hai to kya koi action hua us case mein aur kya Vikas Mishra ka transfer waapis kiya gaya hai?

(Recently there was a controversy in Lucknow regarding issuance of passport and in which action was taken against passport officer. What is the status on that as Lucknow police has file LIU investigation report. So what action has been taken in that regard and has the transfer of Vikas Mishra been revoked?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye mujhe lagta hai ki let us not go back into the hows and whys of it. Abhi ki stithi mein main itna bata doon ki Police Verification report in respect of Ms. Tanvi Seth has been received. We are examining the report.

Hamein police verification report mil gai hai aur hum isko examine kar rahe hain. Jo hamare passport officers hain wo empowered hote hain to take appropriate action. Jo bhi uchit kaaryawaahi hoti hai aise maamlon mein wo lene ke liye passport adhikaari empowered hote hain as per the passport act.

(See, I don’t think we should revisit the whys and hows of it. At this stage I can tell you that the police verification report in respect of Ms. Tanvi Seth has been received and we are examining the report. We have received the police verification report and we are examining it. Our passport officers are empowered to take appropriate actions on such things as per the passport act.)

Question: On this same issue our minister was trolled on twitter. Would you take some action, legal action or file some report with cyber-crime because trolling minister or lady is crime?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Look, EAM has responded to those obnoxious tweets and the trolling which she was subjected to in her own way and in a manner which she deemed fit. I don’t think I have anything further to add on that.

Question: I just want to return to the Sushma Swaraj question once again. The kind of threats that were given to the minister that were serious in nature. So don’t you want to initiate any legal proceedings any policy investigations on this. This falls in the realm of cyber-crime.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I know what you are referring to but what I am trying to say is that the action in this matter has already been taken in a way that External Affairs Minister deemed fit and any further action, if at all, is to be taken, it will be taken by the External Affairs Minister.

Question: Ambassador Haley was here. Before that there was trade talks between India and the US and Ambassador met External Affairs Minister and also the Prime Minister. So what was the main issue that was discussed between the leaders and the officials and also any outcomes of the trade meeting?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: For trade thing you will have to contact the relevant ministry. I can share with you details about Nikki Haley’s visit.

You would have seen the press release which was issued by the Prime Minister’s Office. That basically covered the gist of the discussion between Prime Minister and Ambassador Haley. As far as her meeting with EAM is concerned, as I mentioned in my tweet yesterday, broadly we covered bilateral issues and also to some extent cooperation in the context of UN which was also discussed in her meeting with External Affairs Minister.

Question Contd.: Iran was discussed?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As I said that whatever we had to share we have shared and I think there is nothing further to add.

Question: Would you like to say anything on grey-listing of Pakistan by the FATF?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You know that the meeting is taking place in Paris and the public announcement of any decision will be made by FATF according to existing rules and procedures. I think we will have to wait for the announcement.

Question: My question is about Indo-UK relations. Recently there has been visa row that had erupted and the British High Commissioner to India has said that he has not been formally given any kind of briefing by Indian government about what are the concerns with the newer release of the visa. Have you approached the British High Commission or British government after they have announced the new visa policy for students in UK?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think you are referring to the statement made by the British High Commissioner.

Question Contd.: Yes, but that came after the announcement of the visa policy by the British Cabinet in London.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I can say that we have taken note of the comments which have been made by the British High Commissioner. We would like to state that this matter of student visa from India to UK has been taken up by the Indian side with the UK most recently during the third Home Affairs Dialogue which took place on 30th May. This matter prominently figured and we have expressed our views on this to the UK side and we will continue to pursue this with the UK government so that the interest of the Indian student community is protected.

Question: UK Under Secretary for Peace Keeping Missions is visiting India and he has also visited Nepal and Bangladesh earlier after India he will visit Pakistan. How does India look at his visit?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: He has a series of meetings lined up. I think he is meeting Defence Minister, he is also meeting our Secretary (West) who looks after the UN. I have not got any read outs from those meetings or the meetings that are going to take place. We will see if we can issue something after the visit is concluded.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen for joining.

(Concludes.)

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