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Transcript of Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (March 07, 2014)

March 07, 2014

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here this afternoon.

Usually I begin by making announcements on forthcoming visits both incoming and outgoing. Today I want to make an announcement of a different and that is relating not to visits, we are not having any visits in the next few days, but that does not mean to say that the Ministry of External Affairs is not busy at work.

What we are doing for the first time is having two very interesting outreach activities. These activities involve our work in very different ways. As you are aware, while we handle a lot of matters relating to visits, there are lots of other stakeholders who are involved in such visits. Therefore, for the first time we are having a meeting with stakeholders from across the country from our States.

For example, the Protocol Division of the Ministry of External Affairs is actively involved with various States in trying to work with them when visitors visit various destinations outside Delhi. So beginning from the 10th of this month, the Protocol Division is having a three-day conference for Protocol Officers from various other States so as to sensitise them to the requirements of foreign visitors and their protocol.

In addition and much more substantively, on the 13th of this month, the Foreign Secretary in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs is having an outreach to all State Governments and their Resident Commissioners here in Delhi. There will be officials of State Governments as well as Resident Commissioners in Delhi with whom the intention is to interact on a host of issues. That is because when the Ministry of External Affairs as well as our Missions work outside they deal with a variety of issues which have an impact on States, for example trade and investment, matters relating to welfare of Indian nationals, consular issues relating to despatch of mortal remains of those who may die, transfer of compensation for people involved in accidents etc., also matters relating to visits of state delegations to various countries, political clearances.

So, there are a host of issues where our Missions as well as the Ministry interact with various Departments of the States and Union Territories. The idea is to reach out to them in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, and understand from them their perspectives and viewpoints, and to explain to them how we function, what are the mechanisms available for them to utilise in promoting their objectives. This is the first of sorts and we thought we will use this time available to us in trying to address an issue which is of growing importance to the Ministry of External Affairs.

In addition, I have requested the Chief of Protocol to come a little later and brief you on protocol related matters and that we will do once we complete this segment.

This is the announcement I have. In case you have any questions on this or on anything else, I will be ready to respond.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson: Let me repeat. As regards protocol matters it is a three-day issue, 10th, 11th, and 12th of March.

Question:
…(Inaudible)…

Official Spokesperson:
In Delhi, in this very building. We will of course invite you to be part of some of those activities like we usually do. With the senior officials of the States it is on the 13th of March, again in New Delhi and in this building. That is in cooperation with our Ministry of Home Affairs which deals with several of these issues.

Question:
Could you talk to us a little bit about what transpired in the India-Pakistan Joint Working Group meeting on cross-LOC CBMs especially in the context of trade?

Official Spokesperson:
Yes. We had this meeting on cross-LOC trade and travel on the 4th of March. This was a meeting based on an Indian initiative. Our approach is to try and build on the existing confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan in terms of cross-LOC trade and travel, and to facilitate and enhance benefits to people of the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir.

At this meeting if I try and summarise what were the issues involved, I could say one were certain proposals we put forward, some of them are which have been in the public domain previously, for example to improve cross-LOC travel and connectivity. The Kargil-Skardu bus service, we reiterated this offer. The other suggestion that we had was to facilitate the movement of people from the State of Jammu and Kashmir. We suggested that they could have a booklet which can facilitate multiple entries. Currently they have a form which is a single-entry thing. Because there is now trade going on, they require more than one entry. So, a suggestion was made by us that if there could be a multiple entry booklet.

Then of course you are aware of the sad incident, narcotic smuggling incident where we have arrested a driver. It was our assessment that there was a failure to detect the narcotics coming to our side at the time of checking because this is a requirement. When the trucks travel they have to be checked properly before they leave one side and come to the other side. Therefore, issues of sealing of trucks and standard operating procedures which may entail that we need to ensure that there is nothing which is not specified in the cargo list is provided. So, there was a discussion of whether we need to strengthen the standard operating procedures in this regard, and what should be the measures to strengthen them.

Of course they did raise the issue of the driver who is currently in Indian custody, and we have explained to them that there is nothing in the standard operating procedures which will entail the release of a driver or anyone else who comes across LOC if he is involved in criminal activities.

We have reiterated our request to the Pakistani side to share details of their investigation on this matter with us including information about the consignor of this cargo whose details are provided to them. And we have assured them that he will face the law as far as we are concerned; and based on that and any information that is available with us from that proceedings, we are willing to cooperate with them to ensure that such incidents do not happen, because we are of the view that cross-LOC trade should not be held hostage to such incidents.

Question: Sir, this relates to Mr. T.P. Seetharam’s letter to the Finance Ministry on the Etihad deal. Do you have a view on why he had sort of gone ahead and written the letter and even written a draft note saying it should be cleared?

Official Spokesperson:
Shrinjoy, you have been covering the Ministry of External Affairs for several years and I am certain you are aware of the practices that all our officials involve. Let me try and put it to you. Indian diplomats on a daily basis interact with a variety of interlocutors in their places of work. We deal with numerous issues from trade and investments to counterterrorism. We deal on matters relating to cyber security as well as matters relating to energy security. We deal on matters relating to development projects as well as on matters relating to children’s rights, women’s rights. We also deal with matters relating to disarmament, to defence. So, there is an entire area on which our diplomats interact on a daily basis.

It is normal for Indian diplomats when they interact in the countries where they are posted, to obtain information and assess it and then send it in a manner which is understandable to our senior officials at home. This is the normal way that diplomats work. They get the information, they assimilate it, and they send it along with their views to senior officials in India so that they are aware of what is happening, what are the views that are being expressed, and what are their suggestions in accordance with Government policy on this. Our Ambassador in Abu Dhabi was doing exactly this.

The reference that you mentioned was in the context of a visit by a leading investment delegation from Abu Dhabi to India and the information provided was to flag to Indian authorities what is the thinking there, what are the issues that have arisen there, and how he assesses from his perspective what should be our approach. This is normal. There is nothing amiss about it. I would like to clarify once and for all that this is the normal thing for us as diplomats to do.

Question:Meerut mein ek incident hua hai. Vahan kuchh students ko university ne nikal diya hai. Aur voh Kashmiri students hain, unko Pakistan ne offer ki hai scholarship, kyon ki voh ek cricket match mein vahan par pro Pakistan naare laga rahe the. Iske baare mein Videsh Mantralay kya sochta hai?

Official Spokesperson: Dekhiye, aap jaante hain ki mai Dakshin Bharat se hun aur meri Hindi kuchh tooti-phooti si hai. Lekin mujhe ek muhavra yaad aaya aur shayad is muhavra aap ke savaal ka javab ban sakta hai. Voh yeh hai ki, sheeshe gharon mein rehnewale doosron par pathhar nahin phenkte. …(Inaudible)… Samajhnewale samajh gaye hain iske baare mein. …(Inaudible)… Koshish kar raha hun main aap logon ke saath rah kar.

Question: Sir, there was a delegation from Pakistan which had come to talk about power projects with India. Could you say something on that?

Official Spokesperson:
Yes, there was a delegation which had a meeting on the 5th of this month. As you are aware, there have been talks going on on this matter. This was in continuation of those talks. You are also aware that previously when the Chief Minister of Punjab in Pakistan Mr. Shahbaz Sharif had come he had specifically wanted this matter to be pursued. This follows that discussion. They had a good discussion with our officials and have taken back our views on the subject. We will now wait for them to respond to see how this matter progresses further.

Question:
Is there any likelihood of the Prime Minister travelling to Nepal?

Official Spokesperson: When Prime Minister was at the BIMSTEC Summit in Nay Pyi Taw just a few days ago this was a matter that was raised both with him as well as with our senior officials on the sidelines of that meeting. You are aware of the strong bonds that bind India and Nepal and any such request that is made to us, and it has been made to us, will be given due and serious attention. So all I can tell you is, yes there has been a request made and this is being given due and serious attention as is required by us to do so in cases with countries who we have such friendly and close relations with.

Question: Sir, there are some reports that Indian Shipping Ministry has given a proposal to Bangladesh to open Calcutta-Chittagong sea lane on a regular basis for transportation of goods. Do you have anything on that?

Official Spokesperson: I am afraid I do not have a readout on that, but I will try and find it out and respond to you.

Question: Yesterday Sri Lankan Minister was in Delhi. What is the process for UN Human Rights Commission stand from India? More importantly, the first meeting was held between the fishermen communities and the next meeting is going to be held on March 16. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankans have very clearly said that the fishermen will not be released. Is there any process that has been taken by the External Affairs Ministry?

Official Spokesperson: You are aware that there was a recent meeting between Prime Minister and President Rajapaksa in Nay Pyi Taw, and this issue of fishermen did come up. Prime Minister did emphasise that this is a matter that needs to be treated as livelihood issue and needs to be dealt with in a humane manner.

As regards the UNHCR resolution, there was no substantive discussion in that meeting on this matter. However, we agreed that we will be in regular touch because we have Missions in Geneva and they will be in regular touch on this.

As regards our approach to that, this is only something that we have received just now. Our officials are right today examining this matter and we will take into account all aspects of the matter before we take a view on this. But as you are aware, this is an evolving situation and there are continuing discussions going on in Geneva and we will take it from there.

Thank you.

(Concluded)

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