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Transcript of the Media Interaction of External Affairs Minister in Islamabad

September 08, 2012

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good evening friends. The External Affairs Minister has agreed to take a few questions. He has to go for a dinner, and we are running slightly behind schedule. He will take a few questions on the record. We would not have any opening remarks. You have everything that he has said. You can begin with your questions.

Question: Sir, all this talk about Visa Agreement, at the end of the day Foreign Minister of Pakistan made no reference of terror during that entire long press conference. You were present during that entire …(Inaudible)… How did that strike you, after these hours of negotiations and all the things that you told her, not a word on terror?

External Affairs Minister (Shri S.M. Krishna): What is material for me is the Joint Statement that has been issued after my talks, and the Joint Statement certainly contains mentions about terror. So, that is what matters for me.

Question: But did it come as a surprise that she did not even mention it?

External Affairs Minister: The Joint Statement is a document and she is a signatory to that statement.

Question: The Joint Statement gives an impression that Pakistan has been able to equate Samjhauta Express incident with 26/11.

External Affairs Minister: These are issues which are being raised every time I come to Pakistan or every time the Pakistan Foreign Minister comes to India. They raise the Samjhauta Express and we raise the 26/11 and in the Joint Statement, both of these aspects are covered.

Question: Sir, there is a lot of confusion over what you said on conditions for the Prime Minister’s visit and whether you are linking this to progress on the Mumbai attack.

External Affairs Minister: The Prime Minister’s visit needs lot of preparations. It takes months of preparation for the Prime Minister’s visit to happen. And Prime Minister has other commitments. His calendar has to be looked into. So, there is no commitment that I could make about the possible visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan. There is an invitation which has been extended to the Prime Minister, and it is for the Prime Minister to find about the invitation itself per se, to accept the invitation, and then work on the dates. So, that is something which is in the area of speculation.

Question: But is there any condition? You said there would be no conditions on any progress on Mumbai.

External Affairs Minister: The invitation to the Prime Minister, we are at that point. So, the question of any condition does not arise.

Question: Sir, on Sarabjit issue, is there any positive signal from the Pakistan’s side?

External Affairs Minister: I think when I mentioned this to the President last night, the President has taken it very seriously and he instructed his office to certainly look into it. And our approach is on humanitarian basis considering the fact that he has spent almost twenty years in a Pakistani jail. And his age, his health, all these are going to be factors which the Government of Pakistan will have to look into.

Question: Sir, you said, "When I go back I will provide an assessment to the Prime Minister”, and Ms. Khar said, "His assessment will be positive”. Can you give us a little trailer of what your assessment would be?

External Affairs Minister: I think that is between me and the Prime Minister. I cannot convey to my Prime Minister through the media. Don’t you think that if you were here you wouldn’t do this? Would you?

Question: Sir, during the press conference Pakistan Foreign Minister spoke about the Pakistan’s desire to move on on Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen, and put it in the context of getting on with the relationship. Do you it also as a move, sort of suggestion, that you move on from Mumbai?

External Affairs Minister: Mumbai is very much on the table and they will have to take the follow-up action for bringing to justice the perpetrators of the heinous crime on Mumbai and on India. India is not going back on that, we are insisting on that at every conceivable occasion, and we will continue to do that. Again, you mentioned about Kashmir, you mentioned about Siachen, you mentioned about Sir Creek. These are issues which are there and they cannot be pushed aside. But a step-by-step approach which we have been advocating, which I advocated two years back which was totally rejected, and this time around I think Pakistan has accepted that and they also believe that a step-by-step approach is the most rational one for both the countries to adopt. As again the Prime Minister in one of his press conferences said, we are not afraid of the word Kashmir. We are willing to talk about Kashmir also. But for that, you need the right atmosphere for the issues to be discussed. And I think we are willing to approach Pakistan for a dialogue on any subject that they wish to.

Question: Sir, the Pakistani Foreign Minister said, "Let us not look back in the past”. Then you echoed that sentiment that we will not look back in the past, we will not be held hostage to history. That statement can be construed that you are willing to overlook 26/11. Is that exempt from 26/11? Are you not forgetting 26/11?

External Affairs Minister: There is no question of bypassing 26/11. When we said this we mean the wars that were fought and various other developments. But what happened in the immediate past in the last three years, we just cannot forget about it. We cannot gloss over it. It is very much on the table.

Thank you very much, and I hope you have had a good stay here in Islamabad.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much.


September 8, 2012

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