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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (ER), JS (BM) and Official Spokesperson (August 26, 2016)

August 27, 2016

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Good evening friends and welcome to the weekly press briefing. Today I am going to begin the briefing with a special briefing on the forthcoming visit of the President of Egypt to India. You would have seen we have already put out a press-release on that. We look at this visit as a very important visit from a very important country.

President el-Sisi had visited India at the time of the India Africa Forum Summit. Earlier he had met PM on the sidelines of UNGA and I think, the two leaders have developed a very good chemistry as well. To brief you on this very important visit, which is happening very shortly, I have with me Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha and Jt. Secretary, rather soon to be Additional Secretary, WANA, Shri Satbir Singh. With that I give the floor to Secretary ER.

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha: Thank you JS (XP). Good afternoon every one. As you know there will be a State visit of President of Egypt His Excellency Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He will be in India from the afternoon of 01 Sep, 2016 to 03 Sep, 2016. Second day is the main day of meetings.

He is coming on the invitation of Hon’ble Rashtrapati Ji. As JS (XP) mentioned he was on a visit here for IAFS in October 2015, but this will be his first bilateral visit to India. He is accompanied by a high level delegation which includes Ministers, Officials, Media representatives and Business leaders.

During the visit he will be accorded the ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan on the morning of 2nd September. Rashtrapati Ji will hold a meeting with President el-Sisi and host a banquet in his honor. President el-Sisi will also lay a wreath on the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi.

Later Prime Minister Modi will have an extensive discussion with the visiting Egyptian President. He will also have a restricted meeting with him, which will be followed by delegation level talks, signing of an agreement and there will also be a Leader’s statement in the presence of the media. Prime Minister Modi will also host a lunch in honor of the visiting President.

In the afternoon, President el-Sisi is also expected to interact with the business leaders from both India and Egypt at an event being coordinated by FICCI. A meeting of India Egypt Joint Business Council is also expected to be held during the visit.

In terms of recent exchanges, there have been enhanced bilateral engagements between the two governments in the last few years with regular interaction at the leadership and ministerial level. As I mentioned earlier, this will be the third meeting between Prime Minister and President.

EAM had also visited Egypt, as you may recall, in August 2015 and had called on President el-Sisi. A special envoy of Prime Minister, Mr. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had visited Egypt in July 2015 to invite President el-Sisi and FM Shukri to IAFS. Again he had gone in November 2015 to participate in Islamic Conference, then Mr. Gadkari had represented India at the inauguration of new Suez Canal in August 2015 and was received by President el-Sisi.

Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawki Allam attended the World Sufi Forum in March this year. At official level, Foreign Office Consultations were held in December 2015 in New Delhi. A joint working group meeting on counter terrorism was held in January this year and the third Joint Trade Committee met in March 2016 in New Delhi. The sixth meeting of the India-Egypt Joint Defence Cooperation was held in April this year.

To give you a flavor in trade and investment, Egypt is a significant partner. We have a total trade of around 3.5 to 3.6 billion dollars with our exports at 2.3 billion dollars and imports being at 1.2 billion dollars. The top five Indian exports are meat, car, cotton rayon machinery and mineral oil, while our top imports are mineral fuels, mineral products, raw cotton, electrical machinery and agricultural products. Egypt is also an important destination for large Indian investments. Our companies have invested over 3 billion dollars in Egypt and there are nearly 50 Indian projects operating there in various sectors like chemicals and pvc. TCI-Sanmar is the largest investment with an investment of nearly 1.5 billion dollars. Then we have large number of garment manufacturers which are based there and utilizing the available Egyptian cotton. Then we have Carbon-Black, Asian Paints, Oberoi Hotels, which has been there for a long time. We are manufacturing toothpaste tubes, Kirloskar is manufacturing diesel engines and irrigation pumps. Marico Haircare, Dabur all these firms have presence and manufacturing facilities in Egypt and using Egypt as a launch pad for rest of Africa, North Africa and also some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In our development partnership we have close relationship because these are the commitments of India-Africa Forum Summit. We have set up the Pan-African e-network in 2007 under which an e-learning center operates at Alexandria University since 2009. We also have a tele-medicine center operating there since 2009 at the Research Center for Women’s Health & Development at Alexandria again. The program offers online medical consultations on various medical disciplines. Seven Universities and 11 Super Specialty Hospitals of India have been associated with this project.

Besides these we have a few other projects which we have successfully implemented like a Solar Project in a village called Agaveen, then there is vocational training center which is being upgraded and we are putting in computer aided machines for textile industry. Because of their garment industry, Egyptian government has welcomed it as a great contribution because the workers would be trained there and they expect the people graduating from VTC will get easy employment. We are also doing a Center of Excellence in IT, which is already there in AL-Azhar University and is doing very well. That is a model which we feel that Egyptian government will like to execute in some other institutes under Al-Azhar.

In terms of diaspora, we have a small one there which is numbered at 3600 compared to other countries. Most of them live in Cairo with fair sprinkling at Alexandria, Port Said and Ismailia and these are generally professionals like bankers, IT specialists. Few students, 130 actually, go to Al-Azhar for studies and we also have a fair number of textile workers working in factories run by Indian entrepreneurs.

Cultural cooperation is a major aspect of our relationship basically because of history and the similarity. Bollywood is an absolute craze in Egypt, but besides that, we have been doing "India On The Nile” one of the largest annual cultural festivals. This has encouraged Egyptian government to reciprocate with "Egypt On The Ganges” event and present their cultural richness to Indian audiences.

We are expecting this visit will further strengthen our excellent bilateral relations with Egypt and it will also diversify our cooperation. I will stop here and I am open for questions now. How much time do we have?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: It depends entirely on how much interest our friends from the media have in this visit. As I said this is an important visit, I will not be entertaining any questions on the Egypt visit at my briefing, so here is your opportunity. Right now only questions on the Egyptian President’s visit are allowed. After that we will have a briefing on the visit of the President of Myanmar and after that we will begin the regular press briefing.

Question: Egypt is also facing a lot of problems because of ISIS. What is the cooperation with regards to Islamic terrorism? Are we moving towards some kind of agreement on that?

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha: Cooperation on counter terrorism and sharing of intelligence on terrorism has been an important element of our relationship with most of the countries in North Africa and increasingly in East and South Africa also. Here we have had meetings, there is a working group about this and we are hoping more views will be exchanged. I think he might be accompanied by some of his key security officials and we will have discussions. That is an important issue that we keep our focus on and we obviously have a lot to talk about terrorism and I guess Egypt too. There has been a recent spate of attacks there including some high-profile attacks in their tourist destinations, shooting down of a Russian aircraft etc. So that will also be high on their agenda.

Question: During Hosni Mubarak’s time, the relationship between the two countries went into some kind of freeze. Mr. Sisi and Mr. Modi are going to meet for the third time. Would you say the kind of relationship that now exists between India and Egypt, rather between these two leaders is almost comparable to the one that existed between Nehru and Nasser? Secondly, there have been incidents of suppression of freedom of press, a lot of journalists have been arrested. How do you look at it? Have things settled down now and things are back to normal in Egypt?

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha: I would not compare, these are two different eras, the context is different hence I wouldn’t compare it with Nehru-Nasser era, that was completely different. I think the glue was anti-colonialism and independence happened all around it. In the modern context, I think, it is very close and as I said we are economic partners. Obviously the economic content of our relationship has also moved substantially and Egypt is an important partner in that region. This visit will also be used for exchanging assessment for what is happening in the region, in Syria, with various splinters of Al-Qaida, which seems to be operating in various areas in that region. I would leave it at that.

I really sympathize with the journalists, but I really don’t have updated information, but we have not seen any reports of any continuing problems there, right now.

Question: What has been Egypt’s stand in OIC on the issue of Kashmir?

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha: That is an issue that we will raise with them. You see, most of our partners, they have very good relations with us, but when it comes to OIC, they allow somebody else to run the agenda, so that is something that we are trying to change because we would want our friends to take a stand. They have to look at the issue and understand that OIC has no locus standi absolutely on Jammu & Kashmir, it’s an internal matter and they appreciate that. They take a public posture, but what they tell us privately, there is slight gap and we would like that what they tell us privately, they should also say publicly and take a stand.

Question: When was the last Head of State visit from India? As I remember, last time in 2013, President Morsi had visited India and this is again a Presidential visit without any return visit from India.

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha: May I request JS (WANA) to look at his notes. You have asked the question and obviously it has been a long time as I have also for forgotten.

Joint Secretary WANA, Shri Satbir Singh:
You remember the Sharm el-Sheikh statement? Our Prime Minister was there in 2009. Thank you.

Question: Is President el-Sisi looking for more investments from India? What is the assessment of the economic environment in Egypt at the moment? How do we weigh prospects of more investments? Are we looking at some big ticket investment projects, are there any proposals?

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha:
First part of the question, Yes he is obviously looking for more investments from India. That is why he is addressing the Indian business here. Most of these investments are by private investors. We are also making a pitch on behalf of our industry that the playing field should be levelled out, like there are some regulatory issues which need to be sorted out for example there are some restrictions on export of milk, wheat from India.

Regarding the investment climate, the reports that we have got from our Mission indicate that our companies are doing very well, which is a good sign. If they are making profit, the investment climate is fine. I think they are growing at around 5 percent or something, which is not something which you can scoff at, at a time when many are struggling to have any growth.

Question: How many business people are coming with the President? What are India and Egypt doing in the agro sector?

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha: I have not seen the exact list of delegation as yet, but for the Joint Business Council 30 of their top businessmen are expected to come. Of course all the Indian companies which are already invested there would also be part of those meetings.

Regarding agro sector, only recently we have exported rice, part of it was export and some part was humanitarian assistance. It was done during the Ramadan, actually they had made a request that they were facing rice shortage. Besides that, our wheat exports have had difficulty though there is tremendous potential because perhaps Egypt is the largest importer of wheat but we have problems because of this Karnal-Bunt issue. Further regarding milk, they have adopted EU standards, there is a chemical used which is called Aflatoxin, which is unique and EU standards are extremely stringent which goes well beyond US and others, so we have some difficulty there. We are going to raise these issues that if they could look at those standards, whether they are really necessary.

Question: Sir, I wanted to ask you about the Special Economic Zone which was coming up next to the new Suez channel. Has that been set up and have Indian companies have evinced an interest in setting up manufacturing bases there or anything like that?

Secretary Economic Relations, Shri Amar Sinha: I really don’t have the answer for that, whether that SEZ has come up. Our companies, right now, are invested outside of SEZ, but I guess if the terms and conditions are right then that would be a selling point that he would make a pitch here.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: This concludes the press briefing on the visit of President el-Sisi of Egypt. Thank you all.

We will now have a briefing on the visit of the President of Myanmar. I would like to thank Secretary ER and Jt. Secretary WANA for sparing the time for us.

May I now invite Sripriya Ranganathan, our Jt. Secretary dealing with Bangladesh and Myanmar to join me on the stage and to brief you on another very important visit. External Affairs Minister just recently went to Nay Pyi Taw where she met both President U Htin Kyaw as well as State Counsellor Madam Aung San Suu Kyi. Now we are having a visit by His Excellency Mr. U Htin Kyaw, the President of Myanmar. It’s a very important relationship, as you know, we share a very long border with Myanmar and we have been important partners in Myanmar’s developmental cooperation. To brief you on this very significant visit, I now give the floor to Sripriya Ranganathan.

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan: Thank you sir. Good afternoon to all of you. We are going to be welcoming the President of Myanmar U Htin Kyaw in India. The visit starts tomorrow actually because he is coming in to Bodh Gaya. He will move on from there to Agra and then finally come to Delhi.

The Official component i.e. the discussions with our leadership will be on Monday. He will be accompanied by his wife, he will also be accompanied by few ministers, the Minister for Labour, the Minister for Immigration and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. This will be his first State visit overseas since he took office as the President of Myanmar at the end of March 2016.

We are intending to make this a really substantive visit with a series of discussions as well as signing of a few agreements which we hope will stand us in very good stead, going forward.

As JS (XP) has just mentioned, this is following very closely on the heels of the visit of EAM to Myanmar earlier this week. We also had Foreign Office Consultations earlier this month. In the previous month we have had discussions between the respective Home Secretaries and we also had a few commercial delegations going back and forth in April, when the new government effectively took office.

We expect this visit will allow us to take stock of where we stand on various bilateral issues, help us to understand what the priorities are of the new government, because it is a brand new government with a very clear perspective of what it wishes to do for the people of Myanmar. We are looking to them to tell us how India can partner them with this task they have ahead of them.

Again, as JS (XP) has already mentioned that Myanmar is a very very important neighbor. It is a friend. It is a country with whom we share 1600 km border and it is a country in whom we have invested a great deal in terms of development cooperation. Going forward we hope to take the commercial aspect of our relationship to a completely new level which has been, somewhat, lagging behind because of various issues relating to sanctions imposed by the US and others which have now been gradually phased out. So we see this as a time for a lot of change in that aspect of the relationship as well.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: The floor is now open for questions on the visit of the President of Myanmar.

Question: My question is related to aspect of connectivity. Can you give us an update on India-Myanmar-Thailand highway and the second part of this is, there was a proposal of bus service between India and Myanmar. Do you see any progress in these two issues?

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan: As far as the trilateral highway project is concerned, there are two elements of what India is supposed to be doing. One is the up-gradation and construction of 69 bridges on various points along the highway and second is up-gradation of a particularly bad stretch of road between Kaleva and Yargyi. Both of these are now on track, our Development Partnership Administration has got the requisite approvals and now they are moving towards project implementation phase. My understanding is that the entire project will be complete by 2020. That is a fairly clear commitment that we now have in terms of our time-frame for completion.

As far as the bus service is concerned, this is a matter on which we have been discussing with the previous government of Myanmar for quite some time now. I believe that there was some hesitation on the part of the Myanmar side mainly because the condition of the road, which they felt was not good and therefore it would not really be a sustainable service. Now that we have a clear game plan for execution, we are hoping that going forward we will be able to launch this service.

Question: Ma’am, recently, we heard about local BJP leaders being kidnapped near Indo-Myanmar border by insurgent groups and there was some speculation that he might have been taken across the border itself. Has this been discussed over the last few days, has the government got some information and what are the talks that we are going to have about insurgency and about the problem of terrorism, specifically?

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan: Regarding this specific incident, I am not privy to any conversation with the Government of Myanmar on this. If this is being discussed with Home Ministry, then it is something you need to check with them. But border management in general is something which will be very much there on the agenda for our discussions. Also on that is the aspect of activities of insurgent group along our border – that is something which is very much on top of our mind.

Question: Earlier there was cooperation between India and Myanmar where India used to help Myanmar to develop its agriculture. Can I know, how far this project has progressed? Next question is, Myanmar grows pulses and India is short of pulses. Do we expect an agreement regarding pulses?

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan: Agriculture is indeed an area where we have focused a lot of our energy in our development cooperation partnership. There was a commitment that was made in 2012, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had gone to Myanmar that we would help them in setting up an advanced center for agricultural research and education.

I am happy to tell you that that commitment has been met, that center has been set up. A related facility that we had promised to set up was the Rice Bio-park, where the methods of using rice and its various by-products could be undertaken, and this also has been set up. I believe just the last few bits and pieces of machinery are yet to go, but both the institutes are up and running.

We have also been extending our support to the government of Myanmar in this field by way of capacity building. A lot of our ITEC slots are actually going to the agricultural scientists to enable them to train in Indian institutions.

Coming to the pulses aspect, we see this as really being an opportunity because where there is a need in the Indian market for supply of pulses, there is a need in Myanmar for the Myanmar farmers to have a steady market for the supply of their pulses.

The difficulty that we have encountered is really that unlike our system where we have canalizing agencies, which are government agencies typically, Myanmar does not have such assistance. So we are trying to see what kind of an innovative mechanism we can come up with wherein we can do a blend of market led and government supported systems. This is still work in progress, maybe a few months down the line we will have something more concrete to tell you.

Question: I was there in Myanmar during the last government. Indian businessmen were complaining that they are not given proper treatment as Chinese business get. There is no level playing field as far as Chinese and Indians are concerned. Has there been any talks or is there going to be some talk like this? Any planning for border trade in offing vis-à-vis India and Myanmar?

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan:
I really don’t know who you have been talking to, but I have also lived in Myanmar. I have served in Embassy there for three and a half years.

I really cannot say that the government of Myanmar is putting Indian businesses on a lower footing apropos Chinese businesses or any other country for that matter. The problem has been more, a sense of, reticence on the part of Indian industry because there have been many complications involved in doing business with Myanmar, which has held back many of our companies in investing the kind of time and attention and money which is required to do business in a country which is still fairly traditional in its ways of doing business.

I think there is, in a sense, a shared understanding on the part of the new government of Myanmar and the Indian government, both the ministerial set up and the business circles, that the time has come to really escalate this to a new level and make the commercial aspect of our relationship as strong as various other elements of our relationship.

Border trade is happening. There are two points from where border trade is currently taking place. I would say that all the tradable commodities are being traded across these points.

Question: You know there have been reports that the Indian Army has recently crossed into Myanmar’s territory for the second time. Has there been any diplomatic reaction that has been lodged by Myanmar? And b), I know that you said border management will be an issue, but there are apprehensions that the ethnic tension along the Myanmar border is on the rise, spilling into North-East. What is your assessment of the ethnic conflict there at the moment, along the border?

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan: As far as the allegations of the crossing over by Indian army is concerned, we have checked this with our authorities i.e. the Ministry of Defence and it has been conveyed to us quite categorically and clearly that the Indian army did not cross over. So I think in the first place we must set this to rest.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: And the Myanmar government has already issued a denial of this also.

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan: This information is also corroborated by the government of Myanmar that it appears that there is some effort on the part of possibly some local elements to create trouble where none exists. I think there is a very clear understanding on both sides that we operate on our respective sides of our border and to the extent possible, we try to coordinate so that the activities of anti-social elements on both sides can be kept in check.

I didn’t quite understand what your second question was? What ethnic tension are you referring to? In fact, on the contrary I would say that cross border ethnic linkages are very strong. For example, you will find the people of Mizoram have very strong bonds with the people of Ching state and there is inclination to celebrate festivals together, they have same kinds of traditions. I would see it as being an opportunity and not really as being a threat.

Question: My question is regarding the Rohingya muslims that we host. Will the repatriation of these refugees also figure in the talks?

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan: When it comes to the issue of refugees then again it is something that we don’t handle. That is something which falls within the ambit of Ministry of Home Affairs. So we don’t really have that as an active element of our agenda.

Question: Till recently there used to be 400,000 stateless Indians living in Myanmar. Has that issue been sorted out? How many more are left to be given citizenship? Second, is Aung San Suu Kyi likely to come for BIMSTEC?

Jt. Secretary BM, Sripriya Ranganathan:
Very happy to respond to the last question on a very positive note because I have positive answers for both questions.

One, as far as the problem of people without papers, which was a problem that we had identified in Myanmar a few years ago. Over the past year or so, there have been a series of drives by the government of Myanmar at the request of government of India and various other community groups to identify and actually give papers to these people, so the numbers have come down now. The latest figures that I had from the mission was just a few thousand, certainly not in five digits. That is a very natural thing because the identity documents are given to citizens when they turn 18 so you will always have a set of people who will be reaching that stage and it will be a continuing process.

As far as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit is concerned, we have received confirmation from the government of Myanmar that she will be representing Myanmar at the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: That concludes the briefing on Myanmar. Thank you Sripriya for a very comprehensive briefing, thank you for sparing your time.

Now we get down to the business of the regular weekly briefing. I will begin with a couple of announcements.

The 2nd India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) will be held in New Delhi on 30 August 2016. Minister of External Affairs Smt Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce & Industry Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman will co-chair the dialogue on the Indian side along with US Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry and US Secretary of Commerce Ms. Penny Pritzker. The co-chairs will be accompanied by a high-level inter-agency delegation on both sides.

The S&CD is the most comprehensive mechanism to discuss and deliberate the entire gamut of cooperation between the two countries. The decision to elevate the India-US Strategic Dialogue into a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue was taken during the visit of US President Barack Obama to India in January 2015. The inaugural S&CD was held on 22 September 2015 in Washington DC.

The forthcoming Strategic & Commercial Dialogue will also review the progress made in the implementation of the various decisions taken in the recent Summit held in June 2016 in Washington D.C. and identify possible areas for future cooperation.

My second announcement pertains to the visit of the President-elect of the upcoming 71st session of UN General Assembly.

President-elect of the upcoming 71st session of the UN General Assembly Ambassador Peter Thomson will visit India on Aug 28 – 29, 2016 at the invitation of Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs. During his visit Ambassador Thomson will also call on Hon’ble Prime Minister.

The United Nations General Assembly comprising all 193 member states, acting as sovereign and equal states, has a very special place inside the UN system. It plays an important role in shaping the global agenda. India, therefore, attaches a lot of importance to the leadership role performed by the President of each session of the UN General Assembly.

The visit of Ambassador Thomson will provide us with an opportunity to hear from him about his plans and priorities for the 71st GA. Indian UN Officials will also be briefing the PGA-elect about India’s priorities in the forthcoming UNGA, particularly on those issues that directly pertain to the functioning of the UN General Assembly. This includes strengthening the international legal framework to combat terrorism for which the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) is important, providing further impetus to the ongoing Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) process on United Nations Security Council reform, revitalizing the functioning of the UNGA itself and implementation issues pertaining to Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The theme chosen for the 71st UNGA is "The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform Our World.” In this context, Ambassador Thomson will also be meeting Vice-Chairman, Niti Ayog.

Ambassador Thomson is presently the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations, a country that has a special place in our hearts and with whom India enjoys excellent bilateral ties rooted in history.

India has contributed $ 250,000 to the Trust Fund of the office of the PGA-elect and has been encouraging other countries to contribute as well.

We are looking forward to this important visit.

This concludes my two announcements, the floor is now open for questions.

Question: Talking about the India US Strategic Dialogue, what will be India’s primary focus? Are we also going to talk about Kashmir, terror emanating from Pakistan? And we have so many high level officials coming from the US, are there going to some one-on-one important meetings as well?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: As you know, this dialogue is called Strategic and Commercial Dialogue so anything which has strategic importance for both the countries, obviously, will figure. We expect a very substantive discussion on all aspects of bilateral relations, on important regional issues and of course important global developments.

So certainly we expect all major issues on the strategic side, on the bilateral side and definitely on the commercial side to figure because the two principals from both sides includes the Commerce Ministers, who have a full view of what are the impediments to further trade and commerce between Indian and the United States.

Simultaneously, with the visit of the two high officials from the US, the India-US CEO’s Forum will also be meeting which again will provide a substantive impetus to further trade and investment between India and United States.

Question: Sir, UP se ek Member of Parliament, Shri Virendra Singh, jinhe American Department of Agriculture se invite mila tha, unhe kaha gaya ki aap pagadi utar kar pahle visa ke liye photo khichao aur aap jab US aaoge to bina pagadi ke aapko aana hoga. Unhone mana kar diya. Aap isko kis roop mein lete hain?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup:
Humne bhi abhi-abhi unki tippani dekhi hai jo television channels par chal rahi thi. Maine, hamare jo Sanyukt Sachiv hain America se jo deal karte hain, unse baat bhi ki hai. Abhi tak ye issue hamare saath adhikarik taur par nahi raise kiya gaya hai. Jab kiya jayega to avashya hi amriki adhikariyon se baat karenge, samajhane ki chesta karenge ki kis ground pe visa deny kiya gaya hai aur unke rules aur regulations, photograph ko lekar, kya hain?

Question: My question relates to the Iran oil payments, till now all PSU oil companies paid about 375 to 400 million dollars to Iran. So this question is in three parts. First, when do you think these payments will be cleared? Second, has there been a change in the payment mechanism and third..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I think we will just confine ourselves to the two parts that you have immediate information on. My information is that the payment mechanism has already been negotiated and agreed by the two sides, part payments have already been made and to the best of my knowledge, the system is proceeding because, you know, the payments in Euro are now being accepted through a particular banking channel which was not there earlier and that is why the payments were held up. As far as the commitment of the Indian banks to pay the money that they owed to the Iranian oil companies, that was never in doubt. My impression is that the system is proceeding well, but in case there is a further update then I will brief you in the next press briefing.

Question: Pakistan has reacted to the Indian Foreign Secretary’s letter to Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and expressed regret that India is not ready to talk to Pakistan over the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. What is your reaction on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: First of all, I would like to confirm that Foreign Secretary has indeed responded to his counterpart’s letter of August 19, 2016 regarding the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir.

In his letter dated August 24, 2016 Foreign Secretary has conveyed that the Government of India seeks a result oriented dialogue on the subject. As Pakistan is aware, the intended result at issue is the early vacation by Pakistan of its illegal occupation. Foreign Secretary has reiterated that the basis for further discussions are the Simla Agreement of 1972, the Lahore Declaration of 1999 and the Joint Statement of 2004.

Foreign Secretary has underlined that as far as terrorism is concerned, not just India but the larger region is acutely aware that Pakistan is actually a prime perpetrator. A recent example of Pakistan’s policies is the apprehension in India of a LeT-trained Pakistani terrorist, Bahadur Ali.

Foreign Secretary further made it explicit that the agenda before India and Pakistan today is clearly to put an end to cross-border terrorism and incitement to violence from Pakistan. Foreign Secretary conveyed his readiness to be available to engage any time at mutual convenience on these issues. However, he mentioned that justifying terrorism and interference in the internal affairs of India is hardly a serious basis for a result-oriented dialogue.

Foreign Secretary hoped that the Government of Pakistan will reconsider its approach and show sincerity towards promoting good neighbourliness and peaceful co-existence. This will also send a larger message to a region which is deeply troubled by the policies that emanate from Pakistan.

So that is the gist of the communication that Foreign Secretary has addressed to his Pakistani counterpart and we hope that makes it very very clear how we are looking at the dialogue with Pakistan and what are the issues of central importance in the relationship.

Question: At exactly the same time, SAARC Finance Minister’s meeting is going on in Islamabad. Perhaps our Finance Minister has not gone there, what are the reasons and what is going on?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: It’s not perhaps, he has definitely not gone there. I can officially tell you that Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs Shri Shakti Kanta Das is the Indian representative at the SAARC Finance Minister’s Conference.

Question: If you have anything about the SAARC Finance Minister’s meeting..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well, it is happening as we speak, I can hardly brief you about a meeting which is continuing at the moment.

Question: Vikas, ek chhota sa clarification chahiye, abhi EAM ne ek sawal ke jawab mein kaha ki, "Abhi is par faisale ka intezar keejiye” jab puchha gaya unse ki kya POK ke pravasiyon ko bhi Pravasi Bhartiya Sammelan mein bulane ki koi baat ho rahi hai. Hum aapse jaan na chahte hain ki kya is par kisi tarah ki koi charcha ho rahi hai, kya ye consideration mein hai? Doosra, Pravasi Bhartiya Sammelan ka jo agenda hai, uske tahat ye fit baithata hai ki POK ko lekar abhi Pradhan Mantri ne jo All Party meeting bulaai thi……

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Dekhiye main apni pichhali press varta mein ye spasht kiya tha ki Pradan Mantri Ji ne All Party Meeting ke baad, Videsh Mantralay ko kuch nirdesh diye the, woh nirdesh sarv vidit hain kyonki Pradhan Mantri ka jo vaktavya tha All Party Meeting mein, woh website par laga hua hai, sab log dekh sakte hain. Lekin maine ye bhi kaha tha Videsh Mantralya un directives ka kis tarah nirvah karega, woh hum abhi spasht nahi karna chahte hain aur na hi hum abhi spasht karna chahenge. To mere khyal se, jaise ki Videsh Mantri ne aaj aapko bataya hai, aapko intezar karna padega ki hum aage kya karte hain.

Question: Kya karan hai ki Arun Jaitley ji Pakistan nahin gaye?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Karan main kaise bata sakta hoon? Main Videsh Mantralay ka pravakta hoon.

Question: I want to ask you a question about Balochistan. Today they are marking the tenth anniversary of Nawab Akbar Bugti, who they say is the father of Balochistan and the Baloch struggle. Since the Prime Minister’s statement there are several killing that have taken place, the Balochistan Republic Party has said that there are at least 40 people that have been killed and 150 have gone missing from Dera Bugti after the Pakistan army’s operation. So how does India look at it and also what are the plans because there are a lot of expectations globally?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup:
I would say that India has a strong human rights record at home and we are naturally concerned at the gross violations of human rights in the area that you have mentioned. How this is expressed in our diplomacy is something that you will have to wait and see.

Question:
Has the list of delegation going to Rome for canonization been finalized?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Yes, I am in a position to share with you the delegation which will beaccompanying the Hon’ble External Affairs Minister who is going to the Vatican for the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa.

As I had already mentioned, the delegation will be led by Hon’ble External Affairs Minister. Apart from her, the government delegation comprises ten members. These members are:

Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hon’ble Minister for Food Processing Industries
Prof KV Thomas, MP, Lok Sabha
Shri Francis D’Souza, Deputy CM of Goa
Shri Jose K. Mani, MP, Lok Sabha
Shri Anto Anthony, MP, Lok Sabha
Shri Conrad K. Sangma, MP, Lok Sabha
Justice Kurian Joseph, Judge, Supreme Court of India
Shri Harish Salve, an eminent Lawyer and former Solicitor General
Most Rev.Theodore Mas
carenhas, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, and
Shri KJ Alphons.

So this is the official delegation that is accompanying External Affairs Minister. Besides this, two delegations led by Chief Ministers had also sought political clearance from MEA to go for the canonization ceremony, and those political clearances have been granted by the MEA.

Question: Who are these two Chief Ministers?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: To the best of my understanding the two Chief Ministers who are going are Hon’ble Chief Minister of Bengal, Mamta Banerjee and Chief Minister of Delhi, Shri Arvind Kejriwal.

Question: We have done away with the Planning Commission, but we still finance Bhutan’s five year plans. So how are we going to proceed to financing Bhutan’s Five Year plans?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: The budgetary support that we provide to Bhutan is done through the Ministry of External Affairs and that will continue as earlier. You will also note that our budgetary support to Bhutan has been coming down progressively as more and more power projects come up in Bhutan for which we are paying to purchase the power from Bhutan and that is why that is seen as a win-win partnership.

Bhutan today is a proud, independent, sovereign nation which is economically very viable. They have power which they can export to India. India is power deficient, we need to import power from Bhutan and that is why it is seen as win-win partnership and progressively the percentage of our direct budgetary support to Bhutan has been coming down. I don’t see how the creation of Niti Ayog will interfere with that particular process. Our developmental partnership with Bhutan remains very much intact and Bhutan is a model neighbor as far as we are concerned.

Question: This is about the UNGA’s President-elect’s visit. What is the status of the ongoing inter-governmental negotiations on UN Security Council reforms? The permanent seat that we are seeking, is that going to happen as the Prime Minister is keeping himself away from the New York till this session, does that indicates this issue has been put on the back burner or what?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: As far as we are concerned, this issue is very much on the front burner. As you know, we are in partnership with three other countries, Germany, Japan and Brazil as part of the G4 which has been campaigning relentlessly for UNSC reforms.

We have actively participated in the IGN process, which is now chaired by Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxemburg. The immediate round of consultations are now over, the second phase is about to begin and we remain hopeful that sooner rather than later, the entire international community will recognize the logic of UN Security Council reform. The world cannot remain mired, the United Nations Security Council, which is the pre-eminent body mandated to maintain international peace and security, cannot remain hostage to the geo-politics of 1945. It has to recognize the new and rising powers, which are making an active contribution on the world stage.

India, as you know, is among the largest troop contributing countries to the UN. Whether it is our civilizational legacy, whether it is our economic might or our economic heft and what we contribute to UN processes and activities. I think, our credentials are well known and as and when the world body is in a position to move ahead with the process of UN Security Council reform, I think, we stand a very good chance.

For anyone to say that this has been confined to the back burner is definitely not true. We continue to remain engaged with the IGN process and I did outline that when Ambassador Peter Thomson comes here that will be one of the important issues on the agenda. We want to ask him how he intends to give a fillip because when Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa was the PGA, under him a lot of impetus was given to the process of UN Security Council reforms. Ambassador Courtenay Rattray, the then Chair of the IGN, in fact produced a document which was adopted by the General Assembly, which gives broad direction on how UN Security Council reform needs to proceed and we remain wedded to the blue-print which will eventually lead to the creation of new permanent seats in the UN Security Council.

Question: Essar Oil and Russia’s Rosneft oil deal has hit a roadblock that is largely due to objections from US due to security concerns. Is there any mechanism being worked out to resolve the issue as a lot of bank loans are stake?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I have absolutely no readout on this. As you know, this is an issue pertaining to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, but I can speak to my colleague there, Mr. Sanjay Sudhir, and get you an update in the next briefing.

Question:
UN has confirmed six addresses of Dawood in Pakistan. What do you have to say on this and will you be taking it up with the... (inaudible).

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: The UN, as you know, has a 1267 Committee which keeps a global database of internationally designated terrorists which are already approved by the 1267 Committee and then they also have a Monitoring Team which periodically updates the records of the global terrorists on its database.

This information regarding Dawood Ibrahim that you are referring to is the result of the latest updating of the records pertaining to Dawood Ibrahim by the 1267 Committee Monitoring Team. Let me make four broad points, which have emerged as a result of this latest update.

The first is that Dawood Ibrahim continues to remain on the designated list as a global terrorist;

Point number two, the 1267 Monitoring Committee continues to retain his Pakistani passport as a valid document;

Point number three, the UN has also confirmed that he resides in and has properties in Pakistan; and

Four, that the UN continues to keep a regular watch on him.

The very fact that this record has been updated means that they have been tracking what he has been doing, where he has been moving and things like that. Besides the fact that his Pakistan addresses have been verified, some other records have also been updated as a result of information provided by India. Now added to his listing are information pertaining to his wife’s name, his father’s name and several of his aliases because he has been travelling under various assumed names as well.

India continues to maintain that it is incumbent upon Pakistan to extradite this global terrorist to whom they have provided sanctuary for a very long period of time, to face justice for his many crimes. We hope Pakistan will heed international opinion on this issue.

Question: Sir, this relates to this Scorpene data leak issue. I understand MoD has said that it has been taken up with the French government directly and our diplomatic channels have been triggered. Have you got any response and how are you approaching this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I can confirm that it has been taken up with the French side. The two defence establishments are in touch with each other. I understand an investigation has been launched. We await the results.

Question: About the delegation that is going for canonization of Mother Teresa, there is also some contact with Italian government during that stay there?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: As is normal during such visits, when you go to a country, even if it’s for a multilateral event, a bilateral interaction also happens. So I would not be surprised if there is a meeting between EAM and her Italian counterpart.

Question: Ahead of the G20 Summit, the Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is stopping in several Asian countries. I wonder if there is any planned visit to India and if there is could you offer some details?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I cannot confirm at this point in time. I know something was in the works, but I am not in a position to confirm at this point in time.

Question: Just one more question on Pakistan. Looking at the series of developments and with the exchange of letters, the language that we are using against each other and comparing it with the particular season that we witnessed last year and today we don’t have the Finance Minister in Islamabad attending the Finance Minister’s Conference. Do you think we are in the process of sacrificing SAARC, as the summit is coming?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: What I would say is that terrorism and providing support and sanctuary and safe havens to terrorists and making the distinction between good terrorists and bad terrorists has posed enormous risks to peace and stability in our region. And it is important for Pakistan to recognize that reality, to not remain in denial on the impact of cross border terrorism on the bilateral relationship. I think the sooner Pakistan recognizes this central and important fact, the sooner India Pakistan relations can make progress.

I do not see any other questions. This concludes the press briefing. Thank you all.

(Concludes)

 

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