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Transcript of Media Briefing by National Security Advisor on Meeting between Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan (September 29, 2013)

September 29, 2013


Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good morning friends and thank you for being here this morning and for waiting for our media interaction.

I have here with me on my right the National Security Advisor Mr. Shivshankar Menon, and on his right is the Foreign Secretary of India Mrs. Sujatha Singh.

The meeting between Prime MinisterManmohan Singh andPrime MinisterNawaz Sharif has just ended and we have requested the National Security Advisor to brief you. So, I will ask the National Security Advisor to make his opening remarks.

National Security Advisor (Shri Shivshankar Menon):Thank you Akbar.

As you know, the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met for a little over an hour just now. They reviewed the state of the relationship between India and Pakistan, and discussed what steps are necessary as we go forward.

They were both agreed that the precondition for a forward movement in the relationship, which they both desire, is really an improvement of the situation on the LOC where there have been repeated ceasefire violations and incidents. This was discussed at some length and they decided to task the DGMOs to suggest effective means to restore the ceasefire and a way forward to ensure that that remains in force and in place.

They also discussed various other aspects of the relationship.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of course mentioned terrorism and the need for effective action on bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to book.Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that that was indeed Pakistan’s intention, and now that the Judicial Commission has just returned to Pakistan after gathering depositions and evidence in India that there would be further progress on that.

There was also some discussion on the other aspects of the relationship, on the need to see that earlier understandings on trade, economic and other relations. But the basic understanding emerging from the meeting was that all that would be possible once we have dealt with the immediate issues and the immediate situation that we face today.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also mentioned other issues like Siachen and Sir Creek. All those I think are issues which are well-known.

Our overall impression from the meeting was that it was useful because it provided an occasion for high-level contact and discussion on the issues which are troubling the relationship, and this was necessary at this time. We will now see how both sides take it forward over the next few months.

I think I will stop there and maybe open this up to questions from your side.

Question:Any possibility of a concrete mechanism like a new Committee of DGMO and the Foreign Secretary or something like that?

National Security Advisor: What I said to you was the decision was to task DGMOs to come up with a clear plan to restore the ceasefire and to make sure that it is enforced and stays in place.

Question:Aapne kaha ki baat-cheet ke pehle aapne yeh spasht kar diya ki aatankvaad ke masle ko address karna precursor hai kisi bhi baat-cheet ki shruat ke liye. Toh aatankvaad ka mudda kis tarah se uthaya gaya Nawaz Sharif sahab ke samne aur usko Nawaz Sharif sahab ne address karne ke liye kya sujhaav diye, ya kya unka javaab tha?

National Security Advisor: I think it was clear from what I just said to you earlier that the issue of action on perpetrators of Mumbai, the issue of terrorism as a whole was mentioned. On the Pakistani’s side, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif mentioned the incidents of terrorism that Pakistan is also suffering from. But he also said that there would be action on the Mumbai cases and now that the Judicial Commission has been in India and has gathered depositions and evidence which they could use.

Question:You said the first thing that the Prime Minister agreed was to enforce ceasefire along the LOC in Kashmir. Was there any discussion towards restoring the peace process in its entirety? And was there a discussion to a commitment towards resolving the underlying cause of tension between the two nations?

National Security Advisor: My understanding is that both sides wish to see a better India-Pakistan relationship than we have today, and that in this meeting it was also clear that for both of us precondition is really to address the immediate issues that we have, which is to restore peace and tranquillity along the Line of Control. From our point of view an issue that is very important is to address the terrorism issue and we are making progress on that. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif mentioned many issues from the Pakistani point of view as well. But I think right now our effort is focused on making it possible to move towards a broader dialogue, and that stage has not come yet.

Question:Mulaqat bahut achhi rahi hamaare liye. Hum bahut khush hain ki hum phir se talluqat banaane ja rahe hain. Lekin India ki taraf se itni sakhti dikhaayi jaa rahi hai ki dahshatgardi se aage ki sochne ko taiyar nahin. Hamaare President toh chahte hain aage chalna, toh aap agar thodi si sakhti kum kar dein, kuchh lachak dikhaayen, narmi dikhaayen to yeh safar chalega. Aap ka kya kehna hai?

National Security Advisor:Lachak!

That is your interpretation. What I am saying to you is the sense that I came away from the meeting. I am not going to comment on what you have said.

Question:There was a lot of ice on this meeting in terms of questioning what it can achieve and whether it can take even the composite dialogue, which has been stalled for many years, forward. While you have talked about terrorism and the discussion on it, what steps do you…(Inaudible)…how Pakistan and India could really get back on track to that higher level? And is that likely at all in the next one or two years?

National Security Advisor: As I said, I think both sides want a much better relationship, and the composite dialogue was one of the means towards that. But in order to get there I think today we are at the stage where we need to address the issues that we face today. We have incidents on the Line, we have ceasefire violations, we need to deal with those. We have terrorism related issues also, we need to address those. And then we hope to move it forward. But I am not an astrologer. I cannot tell you the future whether it will happen in a year, two years or quicker. But the desire was clearly there on both sides to have a better relationship than we have it today.

Question:You described the meeting to be useful and necessary at this point. Would you say that assurances you have got Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on terrorism were satisfactory? Did they address specific Indian concerns especially with groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Hafiz Saeed? And is there any agreement on when to meet again?

National Security Advisor: There was no decision on another meeting at this stage. As for how useful and how productive the meeting was, I think the only proof will be in the months to come.

Question:You mentioned that for talks to progress between India and Pakistan terrorism needs to be tackled first. Could you please elaborately specifically what steps bringing the culprits responsible for the Mumbai attacks, and what actions need to be taken for us to see talks progressing?

National Security Advisor: I do not think we are going to negotiate this in public through the media. I think both sides know what the issues are. We also know what we have to do, each of us. I think India and Pakistan know each other well enough that I am not going to go through giving you a list of steps that must be done, must not be done, and so on.

Question:Did Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extend an invitation to Prime Minister Singh?

National Security Advisor: He did.

Question:When will the meeting take place?

National Security Advisor: I think he invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit India. They both accepted the invitations. No dates have been set yet.

Question:Were there any takeaways at all? What specific takeaways for India?

National Security Advisor: I thought I have given you all the takeaways.

Question:Like what? The specifics.

National Security Advisor: A common understanding that we will address the specific issues that we have today in order to be able to move forward on the dialogue and to improve the relationship.

Question:When the Prime Minister met with US President Obama, the specific issue of the funding of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa by the Punjab Government, something Mr. Sharif’s party actually runs, was brought out. Was that specific issue brought up when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif?

National Security Advisor: It did come up in the course of the conversation.

Question:Yeh kaha jaata hai ki donon Vazeer-e-Azam ki mulaqaat mein donon mulqon ke daakhili haalaat ka asar tha, aur khaas taur par Bharatiya Vazir-e-Azam par. Jab ki BJP is mulaqaat ki mukhaatib kar rahi thi aur Prime Minister ke liye badi mushkil thi. Kya aap samajhte hain ki is mahaul jis mein jismein guftagu hui hai, uska asar aapko vahan dikhaayi diya donon taraf, aur khaas taur se Indian Prime Minister par?

Aur savaal aapse yeh karna hai ki kya Balochistan ki situation discussion mein aayi jiske baare mein aapko evidence Sharm-al-Sheikh mein Pakistan ke then Prime Minister ne diye the interference ki?

National Security Advisor: I think we are two sovereign states dealing with each other. And the principle on which we at least act is not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. We are neighbours. And as the Prime Minister has said, you can choose your friends, you cannot choose your neighbours. You have to deal with these issues that we face in the relationship, and we will continue to do so.

Balochistan was mentioned. I think Prime Minister has made it clear in the meeting and also in other contexts that there is no question of India interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs in any way. If there is any evidence of this, we have not seen it. We will be happy to look into it if it were given to us.

Question:Given all the questions that were raised over the meeting by the terrorism, Pakistan also having some reservations, both Prime Ministers said that there is going to be a movement forward with it, as you have just mentioned. But how many steps can they take? Can they take more steps than what it is now? Or can they go backwards?

National Security Advisor: As I said, my impression of the meeting was it was useful, it was constructive, but you need to deal with the issues as we face them, and we need to fix what we have right now and then move on to see. But there was clearly desire on both sides for a much better relationship. And that goal I do not think is in question. So, I am not sure that we can talk of it going backward. I think what we need to do is to do the hard work on the relationship in the next few months.

Question:Did the situation in Afghanistan figure in the dialogue? If it did, what specific issues were discussed?

National Security Advisor: Only in passing.

Question:You have mentioned the unfinished agenda of trade earlier. Was that issue taken up? Was there discussion on granting India MFN status finally which they had promised last September and moving forward on other issues of trade?

National Security Advisor: There was some discussion of the MFN issue, of the opening up of the border to increase trade. There was a roadmap which had been agreed earlier, you remember, which has been paused as it were. And there was some talk of how we could hope to move towards that. But no timetable set now.

Question:Mera saval yeh hai ki, aap vahan bhi rahe hain jaante hai, is dauran-e-muzakrat kisi bhi …(Inaudible)… par Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh ne Pakistan ke Vazir-e-Azam Nawaz Sharif ko appreciate kiya, …(Inaudible)… unhon ne stand diya hua hai, kyunke isi stand par, misaal joh hai Pakistan mein Vazir-e-Azam joh hai phasi ke …(Inaudible)… pahunchaaye gaye hain yaa overthrow kiye gaye hain, kahin in muzakrat mein defense budget rejection ki baat ayi toh Prime Minister kehte rahe hain pichhle teen dinon se, Pakistani Prime Minister.

National Security Advisor: There was not any mention in this meeting of the defence budget. But it is clear that both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke of their desire for a better relationship, but they also were very conscious of the difficulties and the issues that stand in the way of realizing that. And that was discussed in some detail during the meeting.

Question: How long did the meeting take place? And Prime Minister Singh talked about the epicentre of terror in Pakistan. There are many people in Pakistan who would have serious concerns about the epicentre of terror in India. Is there any way India can address the concerns of both people of Pakistan?

National Security Advisor: I certainly have not heard of any of such concern. If somebody has any evidence, we will be happy to look at it. I have said this before. But there is no proof. There is absolutely no proof of any export of terror from India. I wish I could say the same in reverse.

Question: Aapne apne opening statement mein kaha, cross-border violations ke baare mein zikr kiya aur aapne mein bataya ki is mein DGMO level ki baat-cheet ko ab majboot banane ka offer hua hai. Main aapse se poochhna chahta hoon ki haal mein rishton mein jo …(Inaudible)… aayi hai, voh joh LOC par violations hue hain unko lekar aayi hai. Kayi Bharatiya sainik maare gaye. Defence Minister ne Parliament mein kaha ki Pakistan Army ka role raha hai. Kya is issue ko PM ne raise kiya? Aur kya Pradhan Mantri Nawaz Sharif sahab ne is baat ko sveekar kiya, maana aur is par koi kadam uthane ka assurance diya hai, kisi karravayi ka assurance diya hai?

National Security Advisor: I think I started the briefing by saying exactly that that was discussed, that both sides agreed that they need to deal with that issue first, that peace and tranquility on the LOC is a precondition for further movement in the relationship. Bothagreed on this and both have tasked the DGMOs to do so, to restore the ceasefire and to prevent incidents and to suggest how we do that

Question: Is there any timeline set for the two DGMOs to come out with suggestions for effective measures?

National Security Advisor: No. But we would like it as soon as possible.

Question:Nawaz Sharif is baat-cheet se pehle kehte rahe ki nayi shuruaat ho sakti hai. Toh Bharat ki kya pratikriya hai? Kuchh nayi shuruat maanenge is ko?

National Security Advisor: I think the meeting itself, as I described the results to you, shows that we have had a high level exchange. We have actually achieved a new stage. We now have some understanding of how we can move forward. And I think that in itself is an advance on where we were one-and-a-half hours ago.

Question: Do you see Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a good partner to work with for peace?

National Security Advisor: As I said, both sides wanted a much better relationship and I am not going to get into characterising the Prime Minister of a neighbouring country.

Question:Yeh batayiye ki donon ki …(Inaudible)… agree huye hain yaa offer hue hain ki DGMOs milenge. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sahab ne offer ki thi ki akwaame muttahida …(Inaudible)… joh Indian violation hui hain, India ne violation ki hai, Pakistan ke ilaqon par bambaari ki. Agar akwaami muttahida se iski tehkiqat karaayi jaaye to …(Inaudible)…

National Security Advisor: As I said, we need to find a way to prevent incidents. There is no question that today we have these incidents happening, we have ceasefire violations. Let them come up with a way of stopping this. Let both the DGMOs meet and find a way of doing this.

Question:Following up with what Ashish just asked you, did you all come away with the impression that Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, actually has control over his army?

National Security Advisor: I…(Inaudible)… with Pakistan, as I said to another question, about their internal affairs. We do not interfere in their internal affairs.

As…(Inaudible)… said, there is no awkward questions, there would not be awkward answers. And you are not going to get one back.

Question:Both countries have signed…(Inaudible)…in December. People-to-people contacts are really important to bring the two countries together. Did they discuss an open-visa regime?

National Security Advisor: I think we have liberalised the visa regime within the last six months actually. In fact we have taken steps and both sides have done some things unilaterally and some things I think we have agreed between ourselves. But today that did not come up.

Question:Do you think that this particular meeting was very heavily influenced by the act of Mr. Rahul Gandhi trailingupon that Ordinance and plus the international election campaign of both the parties in India and due to that Pakistan has been made a punching bag of all these extremist statements?

National Security Advisor: Short answer: No.

Question:Pakistan kayi saalon se hamaare Pradhan Mantri shasakon ke saath baat karte rahe aur aap uske gavah rahe. Mera prashn yeh hai ki, kya yeh meeting un meetingon se kuchh alag thi, aur aapko kuchh ummeed hai ki is mein se kuchh nikalega?

National Security Advisor: I think each such meeting is different. It is not only because the context is different but because the state of the relationship is different. Each one of these meetings that we have seen, and you have been at many of these, I think in each of them it is different. Today’s meeting dealt with the situation that we face today in the relationship and the condition of the relationship as it is today. The common factor of course is that the idea is to get out of the unsatisfactory relationship that we have and to try and find a way forward. That is true of all meetings. But what exactly we agree on, what we do, how it works out, has bearing from meeting to meeting. Today I think we have naturally to deal with the overwhelming issue of what is happening on the Line of Control, on issues like terrorism. Pakistan raised some of their issues. I think but we have dealt with the immediate task of actually getting these up and going. That is what we are concentrating on.

Question:In the Indo-US joint statement there was a mention of dismantling terror infrastructure in Pakistan. Did you get any assurances in terms of a timeline or a roadmap how Mr. Nawaz Sharif plans to do that?

National Security Advisor: In a one-hour meeting!

Question:I am just wondering, so close to the elections can this Indian Government deliver something or is it…(Inaudible)…practical for both sides to actually wait until the elections to see how to go forward?

National Security Advisor: I do not think that is really a factor. When Prime Minister Vajpayee went to Islamabad for instance, it was how many months before an election? It was three months before an election and less than a month before the campaign started. I do not think that is a factor. The fact is that we are neighbours; that is not going to change. We have a relationship: that is not going to change. And that is something we have to deal with. So, I think we have dealt with it in good times and bad, and we will go on doing that. So, we will make the effort certainly.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this interaction.

(Concluded)

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