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English Rendering of Annual Press Conference by External Affairs Minister (June 19, 2016)

June 19, 2016

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Friends from the media, good afternoon. It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the annual press conference. Thank you for taking time out on a Sunday to join us. I would also like to welcome Hon’ble External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, and Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. V. K. Singh, Foreign Secretary Dr. Jaishankar, Secretary West Ms. Sujata Mehta, Secretary East Smt. Preeti Saran, Secretary Economic Relations Shri Amar Sinha, Dean FSI Shri Amrendra Kathua and my other colleagues from MEA.

A lot has happened on foreign policy front during the last two years, and to brief you we have Hon’ble External Affairs Minister herself. She will be making an opening statement and will take questions after that. We have a total of one hour for the press conference and we have a full house so I would appreciate if you would restrict yourself to one question each and make your questions brief and to the point.

EAM will be making her remarks in Hindi so those of you who need simultaneous interpretation may please use the headsets provided. With that, may I invite Hon’ble External Affairs Minister to make her opening statement.

External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj: Namaskar Friends. On 26th May, our Government has completed two years of its term. I extend a warm welcome to you in today's Annual Press conference. I would like to briefly tell you about the achievements of the ministry during the last two years, the decisions and the initiatives that we have taken so that you get more opportunities to ask questions during this one hour press conference.

Each of my conferences begins with sampark and samvad, engagement and dialogue. Keeping this tradition intact, I would like to inform you that last year we had engagements with 101 countries and this year the number has increased to 140. But, this time there are some noteworthy aspects in our engagement.

The first aspect is our association with the African countries. In the past, two summits on Africa have been organized in India. But following the Banjul formula, only 17 countries were invited to participate in the Summit. For the very first time last year we invited all the 54 African countries to participate in the summit and I am glad to inform you that the representatives of all the 54 African countries participated in the summit and out of them Heads of State/Government of 41 countries graced the occasion by their presence. Indeed it was a grand engagement with the African countries.

The second important engagement that took place was with the FIPIC (Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation) countries. There are in total 14 countries located in the Pacific Ocean region out of which 2 countries are not even members of the United Nations. Even then we extended our invitation to all the 14 FIPIC countries. Many a times small countries feel that big nations do not give them due regard because of their sparse population. However we completely eradicated this feeling through the grand Summit organized in Jaipur. This was the second Summit between us. Last time the Hon’ble Prime Minister had held it in Fiji but this time we invited them to India and organized the event in Jaipur.

The third important engagement took place with West Asia. This included a number of high level visits. Our Hon’ble President paid a visit to Palestine, Israel and Jordan. I myself visited Palestine, Israel and Jordan and our Prime-Minister travelled to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar in just the last 10 months. In the meantime he also went to Turkey. It was for a multi-lateral meeting but he also held a bilateral meeting there. And you have witnessed how successful these visits have proved to be. It is a matter of pride for us that our Prime Minister was given the Highest Civilian Award in Saudi Arabia. It is for the first time in history that such significant engagements between India and West Asia took place in such a brief period.

The fourth important association is with the Arab League. Earlier, the cooperation with the Arab League existed in the fields of Education and Media. However for the very first time a Ministerial level conference was organized in Manama in Bahrain where I had the privilege to meet representatives of 15 Arab League countries. This was the conference of India plus Arab League, which was successfully held in Bahrain.

The fifth engagement I would like to mention pertains to SAARC. Till my last press conference we had not be able to visit all the SAARC countries, but this time we have made it possible to visit all the eight SAARC countries. The Hon'ble Prime Minister and I have visited seven SAARC countries. The Prime Minister was unable to pay a visit to Maldives, the last SAARC country. But, the President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen visited India and hence we can say that we have been successful in establishing an association and dialogue with all the eight SAARC countries.

Another thing I would like to mention here is our association with the Hindi speaking community of the globe through the World Hindi Conference. Perhaps the people of MEA beat media may not know much about it, but for us the association with the World of Hindi was quite significant. The 10th World Hindi Conference was held in Bhopal. The conference was organized on a very large scale and witnessed a record number of delegates.

In the same context I would like to inform you that as per our information there are 65 countries in the world which have not seen any Ministerial level visits from India.

Recently we had an HOMs conference. During the conference many of our ambassadors complained that there are many such countries which have not been visited by anyone from India. Keeping this in mind we have decided that we shall be engaging all these 65 countries at Ministerial level by the end of this year, i.e. December 2016 so that any country in the world shall not be left out. And for this I am seeking the support of all the Cabinet Ministers of the Government of India and all the Ministers of State having independent charges. We are together preparing a work plan so as cover the entire world by the end of 2016.

Foreign visits take place and they also prove to be successful. Yet a question that is asked frequently is that what does the Nation gain from these foreign visits? Can you specify any concrete achievement from these foreign visits? So in the very beginning I would like to satisfy your curiosity and brief you regarding the achievements from these visits.

The first achievement is increase in the foreign direct investment. I would like to inform you that during 2015-16, India has received a foreign direct investment (FDI) of 55 billion dollars or it can be said that an investment worth 369,000 crore rupees has been invested in India during this span. Thus there is a 43 percent increase in the foreign investment compared to the previous UPA government. One cannot receive FDI just sitting home. We need to work hard for it. The Hon'ble Prime Minister, Ministers of State and I lay emphasis upon FDI during our foreign visits. And it is a result of these repeated efforts that an increase has been registered in the FDI. This is our first achievement.

Our second important achievement is that we have invited participation of other countries in our Flagship programs. For example, the Smart Cities Program under which four countries have agreed to take up 12 cities of India - America, France, Germany and England have signed memorandums of understanding for building smart cities in India. As per this MOU each of the four countries will build 3 smart cities in India.

In the same way many Sister city agreements have been signed with Metropolitan cities. Under the Skill India program, we have signed 13 MOUs with Canada alone. In addition to this we are marching ahead with many countries through civil nuclear cooperation. We have also included Thames - Ganga project under the flagship program Namami Ganga. Japan and Germany have also shown interest. Thus the participation of other countries in our domestic economic development programmes has come about as a result of these foreign visits.

And the third important achievement which I consider to be quite important is that India is now shaping the global agenda and plays a prominent role in global issues.

When we travel for multilateral meetings we are no longer a silent spectator, or there to provide mute assent. In fact we take the initiative.

For example with reference to COP 21, we advocated the principle of Climate Justice which is closely related to the issue of Climate Change. We also made other nations see our point of view. There was an attempt to dilute the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility but we managed to preserve the same.

We have established an international solar alliance that is an international alliance in the field of solar energy. The secretariat of this alliance has already been established in India.

The UN Draft Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) originally proposed by India is pending since 1996. We revived it and put it back on the agenda and are a building a consensus around it.

During our foreign visits, Hon'ble Prime Minister and I have received endorsements of various countries on this important issue and we strongly feel that we would be able to get CCIT passed.

We have played a prominent role in deciding the Sustainable Development Goals.

177 countries supported our proposal of celebrating International Yoga Day and the United Nations accepted the same.

All this testifies to our important role and concrete achievements. Today the world listens when India speaks.

The fourth important achievement is the Indian Diaspora. You must have noticed that whenever such visits take place, large gatherings are organized. It has become our standard drill. You have witnessed the scale of the events at Madison Square Garden, Wembley and Dubai. As a result of these engagement with the Indian Diaspora, the morale and self-confidence of the PIOs has increased significantly. Today if someone says he or she is from India, he commands respect.

Not just morale, the confidence of PIOs has also increased. Now they are confident that if any crisis befalls them, the government is there to extend a helping hand.

During the last two years, we faced three challenges and we handled all of them successfully. We succeeded in evacuating Indians from Libya, Iraq and Yemen.

We evacuated more than 7000 Indians from Iraq and 3500 from Libya. From Yemen we evacuated around 4,500 Indians and around 2000 nationals of 48 other countries.

The India Diaspora today has trust in us. Apart from large scale evacuations we have also evacuated small groups from various places. Not only this we evacuated and extended our helping hand to individuals as well. There are so many stories of this from Geeta to Gurpreet.

You see this as a daily occurrence that when an Indian abroad is in distress, he or she seeks help. Now I may not be able to repair someone's refrigerator but if any Indian citizen is in crisis I have never lagged behind in helping him or her. This is a big achievement with respect to the Indian Diaspora.

I would also like to mention two important decisions in MEA with regard to the India Diaspora.

Firstly, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has been merged into Ministry of External Affairs. I was the cabinet minister of both the ministries and Gen. V.K.Singh was the Minister of State in both the ministries. We found that because of two different ministries, there was a lack of co-ordination and we were not able to take prompt decisions.

These ministries were merged so that prompt decisions could be taken and our experience has been that after the merger we are able to take decisions with regard to Indian Diaspora very quickly.

One more decision is that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which was being celebrated on 9th January only in India, now onwards would be celebrated by all our missions. This day would be dedicated to the Indian Diaspora and would be celebrated with them.

I would also like to talk about Passport services. This directly relates to providing services to Indian citizens. I am sure that you would have noticed or your family members would have told you that there is a noteworthy improvement in the services related to Passports.

When I took charge of the MEA, everything was in a mess. There was a shortage of 5 lakh passport booklets. But today I am very happy to share with you that we have issued 98 lakh passports last year and 1.3 crore passports this year. During the UPA tenure, the highest figure was 85 lakhs for a year.

During last year's press conference, I had made a promise to open passport offices in all the North Eastern States. I am very happy to say that we have fulfilled our promise and now all the North Eastern States have passport offices.

We have simplified this process too. The issuance of passport used to get delayed because of Police Verification. Now we have decided that if you submit 3 documents - Aadhar Card, Pan Card and Voter ID card along with your Passport application, the department would issue the passport at the earliest and the police verification would be done later.

I feel that I have spoken about the various initiatives of MEA, our programs and achievements. I had said in the beginning that I shall be short and I feel that I have kept my word.

If you have questions I am ready to take them.

Official Spokesperson: It looks like we have forty plus minutes for Q& A.

Question: The government seem to be investing a lot of diplomatic capital to get the NSG membership despite the fact that we already have a 2008 waiver. What are you hoping to get from the membership and what happens if we don’t get that membership? Can you please elaborate on that?

External Affairs Minister : You are right. We got waiver in 2008 but we are pursuing to become a member of NSG because it is the difference between sitting inside the room and sitting outside it. We are outside the room despite the waiver we got. When you are in, you are a part of the decision making process. You asked that why are we pursuing now? I would like to tell you that we are associated with the NSG for the last 12 years and the discussion is on for our membership for the last 5 years. This year when we announced our INDCs in Paris, we promised that by 2030, 40 percent of our energy would be from non-fossil sources. If we want to achieve our target of 40 percent of non-fossil fuel energy, around one third of that would need to come from nuclear energy. The investors who invest in the country want a predictable environment. For that predictability we should be a member of NSG. If we become a member there would be no uncertainty and investors would come forward to make investments. This is the reason that we are making efforts to get the NSG membership this very year.

Question: Maam, you didn’t answer my question - What if we fail to get the membership?

Answer: You must know that when we contest Lok-Sabha elections we do not hear such questions. When you are making efforts for something, you need to be focused and we are working with a focused mind. This is the reason that I couldn't hear your question properly.

Official Spokesperson : This time we are going to group questions. So first I am going to ask are there any questions pertaining to NSG?

Question: Has India in any sort of way, told the Chinese, who definitely remain the biggest stumbling block here that in-principle you will agree to entry of other countries including Pakistan, if they do want to come in to the NSG, to clear the way for India?

The Foreign Secretary has just returned from China. He had discussions with Chinese Officials. Whether China has given any commitment to India regarding this?

Question: The fact is that China has been talking and speaking for Pakistan. Isn’t it time that China de-hyphenates India-Pakistan on the whole issue of India’s bid to Nuclear Suppliers Group?

External Affairs Minister: See I would like to give a consolidated reply to these three questions. Firstly, China is not opposing our membership. China is only talking about criteria, process, etc. and with respect to the membership of Pakistan, we do not have any role to play as we are not a member of the NSG. But, I would like to make it clear that we would not oppose the entry of any country. What we would like is to decide each application on merit. As far as the question of our membership goes, we got a waiver in 2008, that waiver already decided the criteria. The process was determined before we got the waiver. It is clear that we got the waiver on that criteria only. So, instead of criteria, it is better to speak of credentials. People should talk about our track record. I am very happy to say today that we have not only honoured the commitments that we had made in 2008 at the time we got the waiver, but we have moved a step ahead. When our foreign secretary went to China he also said that the credentials of India should be discussed and not the criteria.

As far as the question of likely outcome is concerned, I think there are still some days to go before the 23rd and I am hopeful that we will be able to convince China. I have personally spoken to the representatives of 23 countries. One or two countries had some queries but 21 countries supported our bid directly. I feel that consensus is emerging and no country should break that consensus and we would be able to get the membership of NSG this time.

Question: Hon'ble Minister, there are so many concerns regarding our neighboring countries. Six months have passed since Pathankot attack. Are you satisfied with the investigation and do you think that if the results are the same as of the Mumbai attack, it would be difficult to talk to Pakistan.

Question: On the question of Pakistan, what is the way forward? In the last two years, you and Prime Minister Modi have emphasized meaningful dialogue, comprehensive bilateral dialogue was initiated, but there have been hurdles. Do you think there are elements within Pakistan who create these hurdles and what in your opinion is the way forward? How will you crush this terror? How will Pakistan crush this terror and Prime Minister Modi has repeatedly emphasized that UN should define terror. He has spoken in Brussels, spoken in UN, spoken in US about this. How do you convince the world about this and are you talking to regional capitals also about the menace of terrorism from Pakistan?

Question: The statements that are coming from Pakistan, whether of the foreign secretary or of the spokesperson, they are pointing fingers at us and blaming India for no dialogue. They say that India doesn't want dialogue. They say that Joint investigation team was constituted on India's insistence. The team went to India. I mean, now Pakistan is questioning India and our stand.

Question: You have been engaged in communication with Pakistan for the last two years. You and PM Narendra Modi did not heed domestic politics and tried to build good relations with Pakistan. But, in response we got terrorist attacks, cease-fire violations and Pathankot incident. Now what is your opinion about Pakistan?

Question: My question also relates to Pakistan. We tried to forge close relations, engage Pakistan on terrorism but they always raise the issue of Kashmir and talk about UN Resolutions. How are we moving forward with Pakistan?

External Affairs Minister : See all questions are interrelated and I would reply to all of them. You asked that whether the Pathankot attack investigation would meet the same fate as the Mumbai trial. But, you can clearly see a difference and the difference is in the attitude of Pakistan. Earlier, after every terrorist attack, Pakistan used to outrightly reject its involvement. It used to say that our allegations were baseless. But for the first time after the Pathankot attack, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif called up our PM Shri Narendra Modi. He did not deny (Pakistan’s involvement) and assured our PM that he would take action if we provide him evidence.

The second thing which you said was about the relationship.It is true that the issues connected with Pakistan as you mentioned, UN resolutions and Kashmir, these are quite complicated and to expect that we can work out a solution on this overnight or after 2-3 rounds of discussions is impractical. But it is important to have good relations to solve issues, and I would like to state that, unlike earlier there is a spontaneity and warmth in the relationship between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. It is so spontaneous that on his way back to Delhi from Kabul, the Prime Minister of India wishes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and Nawaz Saab in turn tells him that Lahore comes in between Kabul and Delhi, I am in Lahore, there is a function being hosted at my place, why don't you come over? And without any preparations, without any previous announcement, the Prime Minister of India reaches Lahore. This is the ease with which relations are being conducted.

When Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff leaves for England for his open heart surgery he calls up Prime Minister Modi the night before the operation. This is the warmth of the relationship that they share.

At the same time, I would also say that the closeness of the relationship does not mean that we lower our guard or become careless. We are fully alert and cautious. You must be following the statements of our Home Minister, our Defence Minister, both of whom are executing their responsibilities in the best possible way, but as I said that to solve problems there must be relationships. This relationship is being formed between both the Prime Ministers. It is true that there are forces which want to destroy this bonding, those who do not want to see good relations prevailing between India and Pakistan. We have to decide whether we want to go with those who want to destroy the relationship or those who want to solve issues.

Firstly let me tell you our policy towards Pakistan which will answer all your queries. Soon after we formed the Government, we adopted a three-pronged policy towards Pakistan. First, we would like to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue. Second, there will be only two parties in this dialogue, India and Pakistan. No third country or group can be a participant in this. And third, talks and terror cannot go hand in hand.

All our actions till date, you can evaluate on these three criteria. We want to resolve all issues through dialogue and for this we had invited Prime Minister Nawaz Shraif to the oath taking ceremony of Prime Minister Modi and he too came. In the bilateral the day after it was decided that foreign secretaries would resume the dialogue, which was endorsed by Prime Minister Modi. And the foreign secretaries decided on a date and place then and there itself. The first criteria was thus met.

The second criteria is that there will be only two participants in the India Pakistan dialogue. Four days before the Foreign Secretary level talks, the High Commissioner of Pakistan called in Hurriyat leaders for a session to which we said that if he holds talks with Hurriyat then the Governments will not be able to hold talks. Yet, he went ahead with the talks and so we had to cancel the FS level talks. So we we applied the second principle in this case.

Third, terror and talks cannot go hand in hand.The composite dialogue, as it was called then, was held up due to this. We said that the issue of terror needs to be addressed first before we could begin our dialogue. So you saw how according to the understanding reached at Ufa, the National Security Advisors of both the countries first met in Bangkok, had a extensive discussion on the issue of terrorism. After that I went to Pakistan on 9th December and when we had our bilateral talks on the sidelines of Heart of Asia Meeting, the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue emerged from it.

So the 3 principles set by us - all issues to be resolved through dialogue, only two participants in these discussions, and terror and talks not to go hand in hand - we have proved ourselves on these three criteria. You have bought up the topic of talks between the Foreign Secretaries. The discussion has not been called off, neither from our side nor from their end. You have seen that during the Heart of Asia conference in Delhi when their foreign secretary Aijaz Saab came, he had a separate discussion with our foreign secretary but you'll agree that after an incident like Pathankot the expectation of the government and the country is that there should be concrete action from the Pakistani side and this expectation is neither irregular nor unnatural. Therefore we are awaiting a concrete investigation to take place from their end. And then when you say that they have come and gone, what have we done? JIT has taken leads from here. When Aijaz Saab and Jaishankar Saab were holding their talks, our Foreign Secretary conveyed the need to hold a review meeting. Subsequent to this our High Commissioner raised this matter twice and they said that they are still investigating the leads provided by us, analyzing them and wanted some more time. So, they have not said no to an NIA visit, only sent a message that they want some more time. Thus, I feel that I have satisfactorily answered your queries.

Question: Ma’am, since you mentioned SAARC, I just want to go back to when Mr. Modi came to office there was very clear thrust lent to relations with South Asia and the region - that they will come first. He set a tone by going to Bhutan first. There has been a lot of progress in foreign relations over last two years, but Ma’am it seems to me that most of the achievements or the efforts have been made in priority areas like energy, investment as you mentioned and now the NSG membership.

I have a feeling that over these years, South Asia thrust, that he came to power with has somewhat taken a back seat. There is also growing mistrust of India, notably in Sri Lanka and Nepal and yes a lot has been achieved. Land agreement with Bangladesh. Yesterday Mr. Modi was on video for the Jaffna stadium but I feel that the achievements have not been proportionate to the energy with which South Asia relations were announced. Since you mentioned SAARC Ma’am, wouldn’t you say that in this new more dynamic Indian Ocean region and given the problems with Pakistan that SAARC is somewhat of a defunct organization? Thank you.

Official Spokesperson : Any other questions pertaining to our neighbors, Neighbours First policy?

Question: Bangladesh. Recently, there have been numerous attacks on Hindu soft targets and secular and progressive people. I would like to know your take on these attacks. I mean do you think this is a failure of incumbent government and will it enhance the Hindu influx into India. What’s your take on that?

Question: Madam few days ago the Ramakrishna Mission situated at Dhaka had received a threat letter to the priest, did you people do anything in that and if then what steps have been taken?

Question: There is a feeling in some of the sections of Bangladesh that India’s policy of granting visas to Hindus of neighboring countries is encouraging the exodus of Hindus from there and these recent killings as well as Ramkrishna mission threat and other intimidations are the fall out of this particular policy of this government. Do you agree with this and whether you have taken any special interest for the protection of the Hindu minority of Bangladesh?

Question: What is the status of the Teesta water sharing agreement? What will be your policy on this?

Question: I have a follow up question on the refugees issue. Is it a policy of your government that only Hindu refugees from Bangladesh or Pakistan will be given citizenship in India and what if you have refugees from other countries of other religious faiths and whether economic refugees are not accepted? Thank you.

Question: What is the policy of this government on the attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh? Are you looking at them as foreign citizens and isn’t it the government of Bangladesh ultimately which will have to ensure their security or is there any approach beyond that since they are Hindus. Indian government is involved definitely beyond its call of duty, so I would like some clarity on that.

Official Spokesperson : I think we have enough questions now on the neighborhood.

External Affairs Minister : First of all I will tackle the question related to the neighboring country. All other major questions are on Bangladesh and one of the questions is on migrants.

I don’t agree when you say that in our quest for NSG and energy we have forgotten SAARC or that South Asia is not our proirty any more. This is a wrong notion. The MEA is big enough to multi-task. To cite an example if we consider our neigbouring countries separately, our relations with Bhutan, with Bangladesh post LBA have grown exponentially. We have just provided them with 100 megawat electricity in Palatana. With Nepal also, our relations have developed on the basis of culture, geography and historical ties. Yes, there may have been some misunderstandings, which were cleared during visit of Prime Minister Oli, and I am not saying this, Prime Minister Oli has said so himself. With Pakistan too, there is a new warmth in the relationship which was not there earlier. Here I would like to mention that if you see our activities in the last 2 years,and if you only see our neighbourhood policy, which we term as Neighbours First policy you will see that India has emerged as first responder in crisis to its neighbours. Be it the earthquake in Nepal, floods in Sri Lanka, the water crisis in Maldives, the first country to come forward to offer and send help is India. And you have also mentioned about the speech of our Prime Minister yesterday at the Jaffna stadium where he said that our neighouring countries should also get the benefits of progress made by India. When you have a country which thinks that its neighbouring countries should all get the benefit of its progress, how can one accuse such a country of being unmindful to its neighbours in the first place. So whichever way you look at it, you will find that Neighbours First policy is a priority for us and we have never ignored any of our neigbouring countries.

The questions which have come from Bangladesh are mostly about the attacks on Hindus.There are different questions in this, is there a threat letter which has come to the Ramakrishna Mission and what is their government doing? See these attacks which are being carried out are very unfortunate and also very painful for us. We are holding talks at the highest levels on this matter,but I would like to add here that the Bangladesh government is leaving no stone unturned to resolve the situation. They are dealing strictly with the people who are carrying out these attacks. Over three thousand people have been arrested in this regard and Sheikh Hasina is taking stringent action against them. But a good thing that I found is that the Islamic religious heads in Bangladesh have also universally condemned these attacks and have issued a fatwa calling them un-Islamic, and one lakh Maulvis have countersigned it. This shows that both the government of Bangladesh and the general public are against such activities.

When you talk about refugees it is not about Hindus only,if you see our statements, we have spoken about all persecuted minorities. This includes Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains. When you speak about the persecuted minorities then you are not just talking about the Hindus. Therefore our policy towards refugees is for all persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries.

Third let me tell you that we have already concluded the LBA. However, Teesta could not be decided because it has three stakeholders - India, Bangladesh and the State of West Bengal. Therefore we can move ahead on the Teesta issue only after we have evolved an internal political consensus on this issue. As Ms. Mamta Banerjee was busy on account of state elections we could not hold discussions with her last year. She is in power for the second term and is available now. And you must have seen that she tries to maintain very good relations with Bangladesh. She had also invited Sheikh Hasina for her oath taking ceremony. I think now is the right time, when we can be successful in evolving an internal political consensus on Teesta.

Question: I will restrict my question to India-U.S. economic ties. We have seen our PM going there four times and we have seen the bonhomie between both the leaders but when you talk of economic ties, they still complain of the tariff barriers that India has. We have not been able to move on the bilateral investment treaty. We have taken them to WTO for a number of disputes, recently the Commerce Minister said that probably will file as many as 16 WTO disputes against them and they still list India in one of black listed countries when it comes to trade barriers and ease of doing business and investment. Can you throw some light, what we are doing on that?

Official Spokesperson : Any other questions on India-U.S. relations.

Question: Do you think this government has redefined Indo-US relations as they existed not just during UPA years but also over the last seventy years?

Question: Mam Minister, during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Washington, the U.S. has elevated India to the status of a major privileged defense partner. What are the implications of this? What kind of sensitive technologies can we expect in the coming days and linked to that is, U.S. has again reiterated support for India’s Security Council bid. Out of the five permanent members only China has not clarified its stand on India’s membership UN Security Council. What is the latest on that? Thank you.

Question: During the visit by Prime Minister to United States, South China Sea issue was not mentioned though both countries expressed consent before. DO you think India changed the policy about South China Sea issue and is it in exchange for the NSG membership negotiations with China?

Official Spokesperson : One last question on India-U.S. relations. Okay, we have exhausted the questions on India-U.S. relations. The floor is yours.

External Affairs Minister : As far as the relations between India and America are concerned, your saying that America is becoming an obstacle in our financial activities, they oppose us in the WTO, they don't talk about easing out business relations, this is not fully correct.

As far as the issues of WTO is concerned, it is not necessary that all countries are in agreement. There are different ideas put across by different people, but the important thing is that despite having good relations with America we have never scarified our national interest, to the contrary, we stand by our positions rather firmly.

What needs to be seen is whether India is redefining its relationship with the US. Is this in the interest of the nation? Wherever we have felt that US is playing a role which is detrimental to India we have firmly stood against them. Whoever we redefine our relationship with, we redefine in national interest.

What you said about major defence partner, it is significant that they have declared us their major defence partner. Once the agreement is finalised then only we will transfer of technology take place. Such items cannot be defined in the agreement itself, but yes they have designated us as their Major Defence Partner.

As far as the question of defence alliance is concerned between India and America, people say with the agreement which you have made have you distanced yourselves from NAM?

No, we have not distances ourselves from the non-alignment movement in the process of redefining our ties with the US. Rather we will follow what our Prime Minister has clearly stated that Non-alignmnet is our heritage and we will never end it. Neither have we overlooked the interests of the nation.

It is true that our relations with America have become stronger then what it has been before, but that does not imply that our relations with our traditional partners, our relations with Russia have been overlooked. Neither with China. We haven't done this in the process of redefining our relationship,neither have we overlooked our nation's interersts.We have become more closer to America, our bonds have become stronger, but not at the cost of national interest.

We have a clear policy on the South China Sea and also on all sea related disputes - we try to solve them in a peaceful manner.And if it is not getting resloved in a peaceful way then there is a process of taking it up, an international process according to UNCLOS. When our foreign secretary recently visited China, there was no discussion related to the South China sea.

Question: You had said that OCI and PIO card, will be merged by 30th June,but the diaspora group is of the opinion that this timeline is too strict so is there any possibility of extending it?

External Affairs Minister : I am in agreement with the Diaspora. As I said earlier post the merger between the two ministries, decisions are being made quicker. Therefore we could take this decision quickly; I myself was under the impression that this change will not be possible by 30th June, so we have decided to extend the date to 31st December. We have extended the deadline to 31st December, however I'd like to mention, that this conversion till 31st December will be free of charge. After that it will be on payment basis, so it will be better if the people who want to convert their PIO cards into OCI cards utilize this timeline. We have now extended it by a good margin till 31st December and we wish to see the PIO-OCI conversions are completed by then.

Question: India has good relations with UK, the visit to UK was good as well, so why are we not getting any support on the extradition of Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi. Vijay Mallya has claimed that he was called by Suhel Seth for a book inauguration and the Indian High Commissioner was present there as well.

External Affairs Minister : The first question of yours on why we are not getting any help in the extradition, we have not sent any letter of extradition to the UK. The ED is yet to send a letter of extradition in the case of Lalit Modi to us. The day we receive it we will forward the same. In the case of Vijay Mallya, they had sent a request; our CPV division has suggested a few changes after examining it thoroughly, which has been re forwarded to the ED. As soon as we hear from the ED on this, we will forward the instructions for his extradition.

I have said earlier too that the UPA government spoke about deportation and never about extradition. Extradition was considered for the first time by the present government, so as and when we receive instructions from ED on the two of them, we will forward them.

The incident which you were asking about which took place yesterday, the High Commissioner is in no way to be blamed for it. If Suhel Seth has invited somebody on his own, how can the High Commissioner know about it? There were two types of invitations which were sent, one for the inauguration and the other for the reception by the High Commissioner. The first type of invitations were sent by LSE. LSE has confirmed to us in writing that they did not send any invitation to Mallya, but there was an open invitation as well. They had to fill a hall which could accommodate 400 guests; the students were off for their summer vacations, so they had announced an open invitation that whosoever wishes to join can be a part of the occasion. Mallya was definitely not sent an invite for the reception. So neither did he get an invitation on behalf of LSE nor from the High Commissioner. And you know that when the High Commissioner saw Mallya in the hall, he left within 5 minutes. I don't understand how this has become an issue? If we see the list of invitees and the response of the High Commissioner then it doesn't deserve to be an issue at all.

Question: You had mentioned in your initiall speech that we hope to get CCIT approved, but we have also seen that we are still unable to ban the chief of Jaish-e-mohammed, China has shown resistance against it.With so many differences of opinions in the matter of definition, how come you are so postive on this subject?

External Affairs Minister :
See we are talking mainly on the issue of definition. We want that that there should be no differentiation between good and bad terrorists. Don't say ‘your’ or ‘my’ terrorist. A terrorist is only a terrorist, and he doesn't just commit a crime against a country, but against humanity. This was put forward by me in the RIC meeting, which has only Russia, India and China as members. I had stated this publicly and told China not to oppose the designation of Masood Azhar under the 1267 committee or the action against Lakhvi. This universal designation that we are doing, it is a worldwide fight against terror and such actions hinder that fight. And this is what we are trying persuade our partners. As I said the Gulf nations such as UAE and Saudi Arabia have indicated as much in the Joint Statements issued with India. The Gulf countries that were not willing to subscribe to this definition till now are ready to do so and this is a big support to the CCIT. Almost all countries have begun to agree to this definition that we should not differentiate between good and bad terrorists and not only the terrorist but also the ones who provide them financial support, the ones who provide them with sanctuary, all fall under this definition.

Question: Nowadays we have a question that Prime minister had gone for a visit to Saudi Arabia and Minister of State too have gone to visit Saudi Arabia many a times. In the last press conference too you had mentioned that we will try to get an increase in the Haj Quota. So is there any development on this?

External Affairs Minister : Yes earlier too we had put in an application to increase the Haj quota, but now as Haram Sharif is being renovated they have not made an increase in the quota, but whenever they decide to increase the quota, India's quota will also be increased.

Question: Can we say that Japan is now a permanent member of the Malabar exercise?

External Affairs Minister : Yes very much so, it is true. Till now India and the US used to be a part of Malabar exercise, at times Japan used to participate, but now we have decided to include Japan as a permanent member of the Malabar exercise.

Question: 39 Indians, who were abducted, captured by ISIS, what’s the update on that because their families are still waiting for them? Judith D’Souza in Afghanistan has been abducted, a priest in Libya has been abducted, what’s the update? And if I may ask, there is a lot of talk of cabinet reshuffle, do you enjoy yourself here or any preferences?

External Affairs Minister :
The two questions are completely different, but you asked both of them making use of your opportunity. One is about hostages in Iraq and the other is about Judith. We are making all out efforts on Judith and hope to solve the issue soon. As far as the question of Indian hostages in Iraq is concerned, I do not have any proof to confirm that they are dead, apart from the statement made by Harjit Masih. And now there are Indian Express stories doing the rounds on this statement of Masih, where you have seen that the relatives have themselves rebutted it. One of the hostage's brother said that he had spoken to him on 21st of June. As per Harjit Masih all of them had been killed on 15th of June, so how could he speak to him on the 21st? Many people ask me why I am giving false promises? I am not giving any false promises, if I had confirmation of them being dead, with folded hands I would have sought forgiveness from their relatives, and told them that they are no more. Because of the prevailing situation in Mosul or Iraq, no one would have put the blame on me if anybody was dead in such a situation. But try to understand one thing - that when I say that they are alive, I take up a greater responsibility on myself to search for them. I have been in search of them for last 2 years. We have got to know that they are alive, not from any commoner, but from two Heads of State who have told me and have told the Prime Minister as well and the President too that they are alive. No one apart from Harjit Masih has said that they have been killed, so I feel it will be an injustice on my part if I say that they are dead. Since I do not have any proof about them being dead, and as I have to take up this responsibility, I will take it up and I feel that in the last 2 years you may have seen and are confident that I have not abandoned any Indian citizen. They may be alone, in groups or in captivity. In the case of Father Prem Kumar, we could solve it only after 8 months but we did it and bought him back alive. At present Father Tom is in captivity, Judith has also been detained, these 39 people are also held as hostage. My efforts will be to bring back each and every Indian citizen, whether they are stuck or they are held hostages, eventually, sooner or later.

I have only one thing to say about cabinet reshuffle: it is special prerogative of the Prime Minister, who has to be assigned to which Ministry, whose department has to be changed. So I would not like to comment on the special prerogative of the Prime Minister.

Question: This is to ask you that India’s stand against ISIS is very definite. What would be India’s stand with regard to Syrian President Bashar Assad because the western powers do want to remove him from power as a matter of re-arranging that region?

External Affairs Minister : Not only in Syria but we have a clear policy in all the places where there are incidents occurring due to internal conflicts, where matters like these are coming up, they should be solved on the negotiating table, political solutions should be attempted. It should be solved through discussions. And the talks which are going on in Syria, they had a session in Vienna too, they had meetings later as well. We would like a political solution rather than a military solution. India has always advocated for political solutions rather than military solutions.

Question: Mam I would like to ask you about two major issues the entire world seems to be grappling with. First is the possibility about Britain’s exit from the EU and also the possibility, a real probability of Donald Trump becoming the President of the U.S.? So I just want to ask, what is your take on these issues and what kind of challenges you see these will pose to India’s Foreign Policy?

External Affairs Minister :
First and foremost you have asked about two independent countries. As far as Brexit is concerned, we have our belief and also said many a times that Britain is the gateway to EU. But the decision lies with its citizens. They would decide considering the pros and cons of this issue, India has no role to play in it. The same is our stand on the US elections. It is the right of the Americans to choose whom they want. But I can tell you this that now when Prime Minister Modi had gone there, he was not welcomed by the parties separately. All the political parties were eager to welcome him, so for us to say who we should be with, who we should not be with, what will be the challenges, this is for the Americans to decide on whom they want to see as their President and what type of elections do they want.

Official Spokesperson :
Now this will be the last question.

Question:
Last year the Yoga Day was celebrated with much fanfare,you had called a press conference seperately, we are not seeing anything like that this time.It is being publicised only in India.Have any of our ministers gone abroad to work in this area?

External Affairs Minister : Let me tell you that as far as foreign countries are concerned, it is more actively pursued there than in our own country. United Nations has 193 countries, 191 countries are hosting Yoga Day, barring Libya and Yemen. As you know about the prevailing situation in Libya and Yemen. It is being celebrated in 191 countries, Joint Secretary (External Publicity) is monitoring it himself and the participation is more than before, means at every place it is almost twice as before. As far as visiting a country abroad is concerned for International Day of Yoga, I myself was supposed to leave for Poland, we had decided on Poland, but had to postpone it due to my ill health, therefore I couldn't go.

Official Spokesperson : I would like to thank Hon’ble External Affairs Minister for taking all those questions. As you have seen from the range of questions, we have indeed covered a lot of ground in the last two years and we have tried to capture these achievements of the ministry in the form of a couple of booklets. First I would like to invite External Affairs Minister, Minister of State and Foreign Secretary to release the booklet titled "Mapping New Frontiers” i.e. "Naye Aayaam Nai Dishayen”

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