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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (September 15, 2016)

September 16, 2016

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Good evening friends and welcome to the weekly media briefing. I thought I will begin by briefing you on the meeting of the BRICS High Representatives responsible for National Security which has just taken place in Hyderabad House.

The BRICS High Representatives responsible for National Security held their 6th meeting in New Delhi on Thursday, 15th September, 2016. Shri Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser, Government of the Republic of India presided over the meeting.

The delegation from Brazil was led by H.E. General Sergio Westphalen Etchegoyen, Minister of State, Head of the Cabinet for Institutional Security of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil, Russia by H.E. Mr. Nikolai P. Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, China by H.E. Mr. Yang Jiechi, State Councilor, People’s Republic of China, and South Africa by H.E. Mr. Mbangiseni David Mahlobo, Minister of State Security.

Acknowledging the positive contribution of the BRICS grouping on important global issues, they deliberated on security issues such as counter-terrorism, cyber-security and energy security. They also exchanged assessment of recent developments in the West Asia and North Africa region.

In the area of cyber-security and information security they agreed to strengthen joint efforts on enhancing cyber security by sharing of information and best practices, combating cyber-crimes, improving collaboration between technical and law enforcement agencies, including joint cyber-security R&D and capacity building.

The High Representatives encouraged cooperation in exchanging best practices, expertise, information and knowledge on counter-terrorism issues. In this context they welcomed the first meeting of the BRICS working group on counter terrorism that was held a day before.

They also agreed to expand BRICS counter-terrorism cooperation further to include measures for denying terrorists access to finance and terror hardware such as equipment, arms and ammunition.

They underscored the need for a global legal regime to deal with the global menace of terrorism. They also agreed to regular energy dialogue between BRICS countries in order to discuss long term and medium term energy security issues.

While highlighting the need for resolution of outstanding disputes in the WANA region through dialogue, peaceful means and in accordance with international law and principles of the UN Charter, BRICS High Representatives also agreed to pool BRICS efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism emanating from the region.

The High Representatives concurred on a BRICS forum to progressively consolidate cooperation and exchanges among respective agencies in security related fields.

NSA, Shri Ajit Doval expressed his gratitude to his counterparts from BRICS countries for their active participation and contributions in making the meeting successful.

That concludes my only announcement, the floor is now open to questions.

Question: Sir, Kya NSA Dovalaur Chinese NSA ki koi alag se meeting hui?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Bilateral meetings ab dopahar ke session mein schedule ki gai hain to hum umeed karte hain ki jitne bhi NSAs aaye hain baaki BRICS deshon se un sab ke saath Shri Doval ki baat cheet hogi.

Question: Vikas, one finds that a lot of BRICS related meeting are taking place all over the country like in Vizag you had a thing with Mr. Venkiah Naidu and Chandra Babu Naidu yesterday and things are happening in different parts of the country. It would be great if MEA could consider putting out something about these on your website or if you could make some announcements so that the people who are covering BRICS or the foreign policy, they will find it useful?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I think it’s a useful suggestion. As you know we are holding a total of 101 meetings in the run up to the Summit, its more than a century! BRICS Film Festival has been held, a BRICS Youth Summit has been held, Women Parliamentarians have met, Policy Planners have met. Virtually everyday now we are seeing some BRICS forum or meeting taking place. So what I’ll do, I will speak to the MER division and ask them to consolidate all that has happened so far and all that is likely to happen and give you an IPL timetable kind of a thing.

Question: Vikas, this is about Vijay Mallya. He was supposed to make a personal appearance in the courts, but now he says that he is willing to return but his passport has been revoked. How soon can we expect the King of Good Times back to his motherland?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Our position in the matter is very very clear. Any Indian citizen who is outside India and who does not has a valid travel document, for any reason, only has to approach the nearest Indian Embassy or High Commission or Consulate and apply for what is called an "Emergency Certificate.”

An Emergency Certificate is specifically meant to provide a travel document to an Indian citizen to return to India. This facility is available to Shri Vijay Mallya should he wish to avail of it.

Question: There are going to be meetings with the Nepalese Prime Minister tomorrow. What is going to be the prime focus, what are the agreements that are going to be signed, will India be focusing on constitutional amendments to include Madhesis in the constitution? One more question about Indian Prime Minister going to SAARC, any decision on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: You are permitted only one question so decide you want to ask the SAARC question or you want to ask the Nepal question.

Okay the first question.

Well, this is the problem. Media always wants tomorrow’s news today. The meeting is going to be held tomorrow, who am I to foreshadow what the Prime Minister of India will discuss with the Prime Minister of Nepal, what the Prime Minister of Nepal will raise, but yes you can make an educated guess.

Primarily the reason for this visit is for us to meet and greet the new Prime Minister of Nepal and to understand from him firsthand, what are the priorities of the new Nepalese government in terms of development and re-construction. As you know we have offered them considerable assistance i.e. 1 billion dollars in earthquake reconstruction assistance itself has been granted to them, of which very little has been utilized.

So the idea is for us to meet Mr. Prachanda, to convey to him our continued interest in the stability and peace and prosperity of Nepal and to learn from him firsthand what are his developmental priorities, which are the areas he wants to focus on and where Indian assistance can provide the maximum benefit to the people and government of Nepal.

I think you have to wait for less than 24 hrs. Tomorrow, the meeting between Prime Minister and Prime Minister Prachanda will be held and I am sure after that there will be a joint statement and there will be definitely a read out given to you on what all was discussed.

As far as the constitution making process that you have referred to, I would say this is an internal matter of Nepal, we have never been prescriptive in this regard. It is for the people of Nepal to decide what is in their best interest.

Question: In the context of counter-terror cooperation among BRICS member countries, did India raise the issue of banning terrorist organization operating in the region so that BRICS countries cooperate better in this field?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well, this is something which is well known, I don’t think this is something which is flagged at every meeting. The whole world is very well aware of our position on this. There is a UN mechanism on this which is called the 1267 Committee, whose primary task is to identify and list and proscribe global terrorist entities and organizations which are indulging in terrorism.

We have been saying from the beginning that there should not be a segmented approach in dealing with this issue. It should not be governed by political considerations. A terrorist is a terrorist and should be so identified.

Question: Just to take the question forward. You said they will pool resources to counter terrorism and extremism from the region. Can we have some details or is it more than just sharing of information?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: As of now the idea is to express concern over terrorism emanating from this particular region and to see how best all the five BRICS countries can collaborate, can pool their information, resources or counter intelligence efforts.We all know when we talk about the WANA region, ISIS is the prime perpetrator of terrorism from that region, the idea is how we can counter that threat and more importantly the de-radicalization process, as that is very important because we are seeing lot of youngster getting misguided and start joining such outfits, so what we can do to prevent such misguided youth from going and joining there and to ensure that we have in place the appropriate structures so that those terrorist attacks do not start impacting our region.

Question: Sir, President Ghani has just concluded his visit to India. Would you say that up-gradation or ramping up of the defence ties would be the biggest take away from the visit?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I think that would be a totally incorrect inference. If you look at the joint statement that was issued yesterday, you would see how much of space had been devoted to the all-round India-Afghanistan cooperation in fields such as capacity and capability building. If you look at the sectors we have identified such as agriculture, water, infrastructure, energy, health, education and in fact so many other sectors have been identified in that joint statement. Landmarks of this partnership are also well known. After all, the Prime Minister recently inaugurated the Stor Palace, earlier we had inaugurated the India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam and the Afghan Parliament. In comparison there are some who have given Afghanistan only bloodshed and violence. I think every patriotic Afghan appreciates and supports India’s development partnership with Afghanistan and I think that is what it is, it is a development partnership.

Question: Vice President is going to Venezuela today. What is the agenda?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Looks like you are not visiting the MEA website, a press release has been put out there which lists the various issues that are likely to come up during the NAM Summit. India is a founding member of NAM and looks forward to active participation and to shaping the agenda of NAM as it gears up to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Question: Sir, with the current state of Indo-Pak relations, yesterday the two nations clashed at Geneva and raised the issue of Balochistan. Given this climate, will PM Modi be going to Pakistan for the SAARC Summit?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: This question has been asked to me in the previous or prior to that press briefing as well, my answer remains exactly the same. You can look at the transcript.

Question: Sir, today Minister tweeted regarding two persons rescued from Libya. When they will be coming to India and why there was so delay?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Let me give you a little background. As you would recall, the Ministry has been continuously following up on cases of Indian nationals who have been abducted in Libya. The matter has been discussed, not only with the authorities in Libya, but also with neighboring countries with Libya. It was raised even during the visit of President Al-Sisi, when he was here recently.

I am happy to inform you two Indian nationals, Shri T Gopi krishna, who hails from Andhra Pradesh and Shri C Balram kishan who hails from Telangana, who were in ISIS captivity since 29 July, 2015 in Sirte city have been rescued by the Misrata forces fighting the ISIS in Sirte.

At our embassy’s request, both of them were facilitated to speak to their family in India about their well-being and welfare. Our mission is in touch with the Misrata authorities regarding their further exit to India from Libya.

Now you asked why it took such a long time. Well, as I mentioned in a previous press conference, we do not have diplomatic relations with ISIS. These things take a long time. These are complex processes, we have to work with local authorities. Libya itself, as you know, is divided into various governments who are competing for influence. Our own embassy is in fact located in Djerba in Tunis. We have only a few officials working in our embassy in Libya, but our ambassador has been visiting from time to time to follow up on this. As a result of this continuous follow up that we did with the local authorities, with the Misrata forces that now we have managed to secure the release of these two Indian nationals.

Following the release of Shri Gopi Krishna and Shri Balram Kishan, only one Indian national Dr. Ramamurthy continues to remain in captivity. Our efforts continue to secure his early release as well.

As I said, we are in touch with authorities in Misrata, right now they are in that region, now we want to bring them to Libya and we will of course make their onward travel arrangements to India, but it depends on how soon they are able to travel from there, how safe the area is for them to travel. I think we have to wait for just a little bit. Important thing is they are now safe and sound and they are in touch with their families.

Question: Sir, would you please tell us who is leading India’s delegation to UNGA?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I am in a position to confirm that the Indian delegation to the 71st session of United Nations General Assembly will be led by Hon’ble External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj. She will deliver the address at the high level segment. As of today her address is scheduled to happen on 26 September.

Question: Sir, Pakistan has dropped charges against Lashkar-e-Taiba Zafar Sufiyan in Mumbai attack case. Is Pakistan is not serious in this case?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well, as you know that the Mumbai terror attack trial in Pakistan has not progressed expeditiously although it would soon be eight years since that dastardly attack.

In order to bring the guilty to book our Foreign Secretary has recently written to his counterpart in Pakistan suggesting ways in which the trial could be expedited through cooperation through the legal channel.

He wrote this letter on the 6th of September, it was delivered by our High Commissioner in Islamabad on the 9th of September. So that is where we are.

Question: Sir, Bharat ne UN mein Balochistan ka mudda uthaya hai, kyaa age bhi Bharat is mudde ko UN mein uthayega?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Dekhiye jab tak Balochistan mein repression rahega, jab tak wahan ke naagrikon ke fundamental rights violate kiye jayenge, tab tak Bharat is mudde ko uthayega.

Question: Sir I have a question and a very important clarification if you allow me?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Certainly.

Question: India and China held talks and a day after Chinese came out with a statement to firm up their position on India’s entry to NSG and they continue to follow the two step approach, so do you have any response to this?

And important clarification is that Prime Minister Modi at G20 and the East Asia Summit said that there is only one country which is exporting terror, as in absence of clarification even Pakistani are feeling that they are being blamed.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Look, if someone suffers from myopia, I have no answer to that. Let me answer the question that you raised about India-China dialogue on non-proliferation issues which was held very recently.

As you know the two sides have had a substantive and pragmatic exchange on the issue of NSG membership which is a priority for India because of our plans for civil nuclear energy.

On certain issues such as development and clean energy, there should not be differences between the two sides. The two sides are agreed that we should approach these issues with mutual sensitivity to each other’s concerns and priorities.

The exchange was useful, enhancing understanding of each other’s perspective and will be continued. The two sides were also of the view that a process has been set in motion after the Seoul NSG Plenary on the issue of membership and they should support this process.

This can demonstrate to the whole word that India and China approach such issues with strategic maturity and are working together to narrow and resolve any difference of view. So I believe this is urgent and timely.

Question: This is regarding the NSG discussions again. The Chinese side, after the meeting, issued a statement in which they said that the issue of non-NPT state’s membership is not a bilateral one, but a multilateral one. What is your take on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: See, on issues such development and clean energy or terrorism for that matter, given the positions that have been taken, there is a strong bilateral dimension. That is why we had this dialogue.

The understanding of the two sides is that this is both a bilateral and a multilateral issue and we don’t see any contradiction.

Question: Sir, you have mentioned that FS has written the letter on September 6. What prompted this and what are the suggestions that have been made?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: What prompted this letter is the total delay that has been happening in bringing to book the persons responsible for the Mumbai Terror Attack. As you know the entire attack was planned from Pakistan, was perpetrated by Pakistani nationals, all the evidence is in Pakistan, yet we find that eight years have passed and still the trial is progressing at a snail’s pace. So FS has written a letter in order to, first of all it shows that our continuing focus is on terrorism, and we want to bring the Mumbai case trial to an expeditious conclusion and we are prepared to offer suggestions on how this can be done through the proper legal channel.

Question: Sir, the letter had been written ten days ago, has there been a reply?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Not yet.

Question: There is a suggestion from United Nations Human Rights Commission that a special team should visit Jammu & Kashmir. Why is India blocking that suggestion?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well, haven’t you seen our press release? We have already answered this question. There was an all party meeting on 12th of August which took a unanimous decision that given the internal checks and balances that are inherent in Indian democracy, the fact that we have enough safety valves to address any legitimate grievances, the fact that we have an independent judiciary, which protects fundamental rights and freedoms, we have an active civil society, we have a fiercely independent media, hence we do not need any external intervention at this point in time. We are more than capable of handling it ourselves.

Indian democracy is all that is needed to resolve such problems. As you know it is not the first time that we have had such a problem. We have had such problems in the past as well, in other regions of the country and every time Indian democracy is the one which has triumphed.

People who were at one time outside the democratic framework have contested elections and have won. So to say that Indian democracy is not resilient enough to withstand this latest challenge, I think, is completely unjustified.

Question: Kya sujhaav diye gaye hain patra mein?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Nahin, har cheez to main public domain mein nahi daal sakta hoon. Patralikha hai, usme in humne kuch sujhaav diye hain,dekhate hain un sujhaav pe woh amal karte hain ya nahin karte hain. Agar woh serious hain ki Mumbai case trial ko sheeghra se sheeghra samapan pe laya jaye to unhen un par amal karna chahiye.

Question: Regarding the NSG conversation that we had with the Chinese recently, when the negotiator came here, you mentioned that both side agreed that a process has begun and that should be supported by both sides. There seems to be some difference of opinion about what the process is because the Chinese seem to feel that process involves first, setting up a set of criteria for Non-NPT members and then looking at specific issues whereas we believe that it needs to be a case by case approach.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: No, we believe that process is already in motion. That was the decision taken at the Seoul Plenary. That is the process we want to be supported.

Since I see no other questions, this press briefing comes to a close. Thank you all.

(Concludes)

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