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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson, March 14, 2013

March 14, 2013

Official Spokesperson: You may like to ask any questions, those who have not asked any questions before.

Question: Hi, I am from AFP, I would like to know about the Italian Mariners and the recent Supreme Court order. There is one thing we would like you to clarify as the Ambassador enjoys the diplomatic immunity. So, what difference does it make and can we restrict its (inaudible)

Official Spokesperson: What is your question?

Question: Because if he enjoys diplomatic immunity, how does Supreme Court’s order makes sense?

Official Spokesperson: I would suggest you please read the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and indicate to me what aspect of that has been impeded. So, we have not heard from anybody else except from you that there is some element of the Vienna Convention that may have been impacted on. Unless you specify to me which aspect has been.

Question: The question our bureau has been asking

Official Spokesperson: Please tell me which aspect, let us be very specific, I have here with me the Vienna Convention.

Question: For instance, if he wants to leave tomorrow.

Official Spokesperson: For instance, I do not answer to hypothetical questions

Question: The Italian Foreign Minister has issued a statement or answered a question saying that they have solid reason to proceed in direction of international arbitration that the Indian government has been consistently and amply apprised of all its needs to know about our reasons as do many of our partners. Your reaction please.

Official Spokesperson: As far as we are concerned, you know, the first step in terms of inter-state relations or public international law is that agreements ought to be respected and we expect that Italy too respects the agreements that their Ambassador voluntarily submitted to the highest court in India. That is the issue at stake. Everything else takes secondary importance because for us agreements need to be respected or abided by and we look forward to Italy as a country with a history to ensure that agreements are abided by, agreements which they have provided to us through solemn assurances.

Question: Sir, Article 32 of the Vienna Convention says that if a host country in which a diplomat enjoys diplomatic immunity initiates legal proceedings, then he cannot claim diplomatic immunity from the conduct …of that particular place. In this particular case, does it fall under this particular Article?

Official Spokesperson: You have quoted the article that your friend was raising and I think I am grateful to you for having responded to her question because she did not know the article. That is the answer to her question.

Question: Sir, as far as MEA is concerned…

Official Spokesperson: Please this is not as far as MEA is concerned – this is being adjudicated by the highest court of India. Please understand and I am certain, they are aware of all the legal niceties. It is not for us to decide on this. They take into cognizance every aspect of law both international and domestic and as you just explained the rationale stems from what you have explained is the basis for decision making on their part.

Question: I believe that Ambassador has been asked to reply by March 18, 2013, so will you wait for their reply or will New Delhi have a dialogue with Italy?

Official Spokesperson: As part of our ongoing efforts following what the Prime Minister has said in Parliament yesterday, we have initiated a study of our interactions with Italy. At the end of that internal process, we will take further action that is appropriate taking into account all aspects of our relationship.

Question: Kerala government sarkar ne seedhe seedhe aap par aarop lagaya hai ki ya aapka failure hai. Uchchtam Nyayalay ne aadesh de diye aur aapke paas the dono, uske bawjood aapne jaane diya aur ab aap wapas nahi laa paa rahe hain dono ko. Aura ab aap ye kahte hain ki ye durbhagyapoorn hai, kootneeti ke hisaab se. Kyon nahi us time, jab who aapke paas the aap na jaane dete. Ye seedhe seedhe is desh ki ek sarkaar, keral ki, poochhti hai aap se. Aur ab Pradhanmantri kehte hain poore Sadan mein, to aakhirkar kahan pahuchenge aap. Kya is desh ko haq hai ki nahi ki hammare yahan ke do logon ki hatya ho jaate hai aur jo log aapke law ke hisaab se aapke paas the, aapne unko kaise jaane diya?

Official Spokesperson: I will try and answer it in English as all of you know, I am not very fluent and cannot capture the nuances of an answer in Hindi. Waise main Hindustani bol sakta hoon, but Durbhagyanpoorn baat hai ki aapke is pecheeda sawal ka Hindi mein jawaab nahin de sakta kyunki isme kuchh pecheedigiyaan hain.

I think you have to understand that as an executive authority, we abide by the rulings of court. Our views on this matter were expressed to the court and we abided by the outcome on that. It is not in our nature to get involved in inter-ministerial or centre and state disputes because that is not the way the Ministry of External Affairs works. We represent India in its totality and therefore, we will not get involved in inter-bureaucratic disputes. So, may I request you and anybody else in future please desist from asking us inter-Ministerial questions! What you have raised is an issue which was discussed extensively in the Supreme Court. All the record is available. I would suggest that you please have a look of who took what position and satisfy yourself on that basis. But I do not think, this is neither the occasion nor am I the appropriate person to respond to intra-mural views on a matter of national importance.

Question: inaudible.

Official Spokesperson: All I said was that we have initiated a study which reviews in a comprehensive manner all aspects of the bilateral relationship and based on the outcome of that study and as the situation evolves you will see our response. The first step we have taken previously was in responding quite clearly reaffirming the views of the Supreme Court of India and assurances that were provided by the Italian Ambassador himself. If there are other further steps, these will be the outcome of what I have indicated to you, is an ongoing process.

Question: If you could just explain the technicalities. The Supreme Court’s decision of asking the Ambassador not to leave the country. Now, will he be not allowed to leave the country if he wants? Will he be stopped at the airport?

Official Spokesperson: I have answered previously that we do not get into hypothetical questions. That situation has not arisen and therefore, I am not at liberty to respond to a hypothetical question which may lead to something. I have indicated to you clearly and I would reiterate that no aspect of the Vienna Convention has been impacted on. Therefore, at this stage everything else is moot. We would not like to further get into hypothetical assumptions or hypothetical situations. As and when situation develops, of course, you will be the first to know about it.

Question: You said it is not in our nature to get into inter-Ministerial. Which is the other Ministry?

Official Spokesperson: It was not a Ministry. He was mentioning about the Kerala Government. Ultimately the issue is these are between two organs of a state. We in the Ministry of External Affairs represent India as an international entity. Therefore, we will not get into disputes or differences or views. It is normal in any organization or any state that different people have different views and those views finally are reconciled and a decision is taken by those who are authorized to take that decision and in this case it is the Government of India. That Government of India was represented by a lawyer who represented several Ministries. He did not represent ‘A’ Ministry by itself or ‘B’ Ministry. Ultimately the Union of India that took that decision and I represent, as far as I am concerned, the external aspects of that decision.

Question: External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid said that after the notice of the Supreme Court, the Ministry will do everything possible to comply, to guarantee that notice will be respected, is it like that?

Official Spokesperson: Of course, who in the Government of India is going to say that I will not abide by the decision of the Supreme Court of India. After all the Supreme Court is the epitome of our superior judiciary. The question of anyone not abiding by it does not arise. So, I hope that is clear to you and to everybody else here. As of today, I have again said, we do not see any impact on the Vienna Convention. As regards whether somebody has to travel, there are different Ministries and different organizations of the government of India which handles these aspects and our aspects, we will handle.

Question: When is Mr. Basant Gupta expected to arrive in Rome?

Official Spokesperson: If he hasn’t taken off from here how will he arrive in Rome. He is very much here in Ministry of External Affairs, I also indicated to you we are thoroughly reviewing the entire expanse. A study is underway of the situation as it is today is being examined carefully.

Question: Does the diplomatic immunity cover the offences of deception and fraud and contempt of Court?

Official Spokesperson: I don’t know whichof those things that you listed is an offence and under what sections etc and I am not the right person to get involved in an interpretation of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code. As regards diplomatic immunity at this stage I have responded what the Supreme Court orders stems from which is that if diplomatic agents willingly submit to the jurisdiction of the court, then that jurisdiction applies and that’s what he was mentioning in the article that he was referring to. As regards anything further we will take it as it happens. We will all go by, as you are aware, as a country which has signed the Vienna convention.

Question: So far any communications received by SriLankan Govt regarding the arrest of 60 fishermen today at Pachkedu?

Official Spokesperson: Yes, I have news that I can share with you and that is, it is not 60 fishermen let me try and recollect the information. They were 19 fishermen in four boats who were arrested yesterday and they were taken to Talaimannar and our Consul General in Jaffna, he is right now in Talaimannar, is trying into gain Consular access to them.

Separately, in another incident today, 34 fisherman with five trollers have been apprehended and these were apprehended, by my information, at a different place and that is Delft islands.

We are now talking to the Sri Lankan authorities on that matter. Separately, based on these two incidents the Ministry of External Affairs did summon the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner today and has emphasized the following:

That they should be treated in a humane manner; The Sri Lankan authoritiesshould exercise restraint. There should not be any violence against them and as per our understanding we hope that swiftly and expeditiously these fishermen, as there is an arrangement between Sri Lanka and India, are returned to India.

Question: You are saying that submitted the jurisdiction of the Indian court then that immunity does not stand and on the other hand you are saying that the Vienna Convention has not been impacted. So what slipped between…..(inaudible)

Official Spokesperson: There is no slip because you are not looking at the other aspects of the Vienna Convention that your other colleague has looked at. I would suggest please read the Vienna Convention, the answers are available there and that’s why I am confident in saying what I am saying, the aspect that he referred to relates to jurisdiction. There are other aspects relating to enforcement etc. I would suggest that you have a look at that those executional elements. And look I am not an international public lawyer, however my idea is to try and explain to you the broad contours of the situation and that I would suggest please read those aspects of the Vienna Convention that some of your colleagues may have read and understand this.

Question: Is India satisfied with the cooperation received from the Italian authorities on the investigation into August Westland Deal?

Official Spokesperson: I do not have an update on that but we have previously said that of course we would want assistance, we would want more information, we would want as much information as possible so that we try and pursue this matter at our end. This is something which we have said previously and I don’t see a change in that as yet.

Question: In Nepal the ten month long political stand off apparently seems to have ended with formation of Chief Justice led Government. So as a close neighbor and as country that has a huge interest in Nepal, how do you respond to that political development. And given the situation, the division of the political parties regarding this Chief Justice led Government, do you see possibility, prospect of election held a second time?

Official Spokesperson: Modern technology has its perils. I am waiting for a response so if you give me a minute I will walk out and come back and answer your question. There is an answer available but I am not able to access it.

Sometimes it is better to use the traditional and conventional methods.

Yes, on your question, I would like to say that the GOI welcomes the formation today of the interim election govt. led by the Chief Justice of Nepal Rt. Hon. Khil Raj Regmi. We commend the people of Nepal and the political parties representing them of finding a way out of the impasse of the past few months. The formation of the Interim Election Government in Nepal comes at a critical juncture in Nepal’s quest to hold constituent assembly cum parliament elections which is essential to consolidate the democratic gains made by its people and institutionalize a strong multi party democracy in Nepal. We hope that the Interim Election Government with the support of all the political parties and the people of Nepal will move forward in the spirit of the political agreements reached with regard to the election. India stands behind the people of Nepal in their efforts to build a stable democratic and prosperous Nepal and will continue to extend all possible cooperation to the people and Government of Nepal in accordance with their aspirations and priorities and shortly we will release the statement that will be available on our website.

I think with that we will end this discussion.

New Delhi
March 14, 2013

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