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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (December 08, 2016)

December 09, 2016

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Good evening friends. Before I begin my regular weekly press briefing I have the pleasure of announcing two important visits which are going to take place to India next week and that is why I have with me two of my very dear colleagues, Jt. Secretary (South) Shri Jaideep Mazumdar and Jt. Secretary (Eurasia) Shri G V Srinivas.

My first announcement is regarding the visit of President of Indonesia. His Excellency Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia will make a State visit to India from December 12 – 13, 2016 at the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

This will be the first visit of President Joko Widodo to India after assuming power in October 2014. President Widodo will be accompanied by his spouse, Mrs. Iriana Widodo, several cabinet ministers, senior officials and a 22 member very high level business delegation from Indonesia.

My second announcement pertains to the visit of the President of Tajikistan to India.

The President of the Republic of Tajikistan His Excellency Mr. Emomali Rahmon will be on a State visit to India from the 14- 18 December, 2016. This will be the sixth visit of President Rahmon to India. During his last visit to India in 2012, the two countries elevated their bilateral relations to the level of a long term strategic partnership.

Bilateral relations span cooperation in a wide spectrum of areas - political, economic, health, human resources development, defence, counter-terrorism, science & technology, culture and tourism. President Rahmon will arrive in New Delhi on 16 December after visiting Kerala. His official engagements would be on 17 December in New Delhi.

President Rahmon will have meetings with the Indian leadership including President Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The President of India will also host a banquet on 17 December in honor of the visiting President.

So these were my two announcements. Now because the first visit will be that of President of Indonesia, I turn to my colleague Jaideep Mazumdar to brief you on this very important visit and after that I will request Shri G V Srinivas to brief you on the visit of the Tajik President. Jaideep, the floor is yours.

Jt. Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: Thank you Vikas, good evening friends from the media. As Vikas has mentioned, His Excellency Mr. Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia will visit India on a State visit from 12 to 13 December, at the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

This will be his first visit to India after assuming power in October 2014. He will be accompanied by Madam Iriana Joko Widodo and several Cabinet Ministers which includes the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Industry, Investment, Health and also a very high-level business delegation which includes the President of Kadin, the premier business chamber of Indonesia.

The visiting dignitary will first inspect a Guard of Honor at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the morning of 12 December. He will also lay a wreath at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi. He will meet the Prime Minister of India for restricted talks as well as delegation level talks on the forenoon of 12th of December and the Prime Minister will also host an official lunch in honor of the visiting President and his delegation.

Vice President Shri Mohammad Hamid Ansari will call on President Joko Widodo in the afternoon. Rashtrapati Ji will receive the visiting President in the evening and also host a State Banquet for the visiting President. The Chief Executives Forum, which is a forum of top business persons, business leaders from both sides, will meet on the 12th and submit their report on the meeting to the visiting dignitary on the 13th.

There will be an interaction with a cross-section of business leaders from India in the thrust areas of our cooperation - Pharmaceuticals, IT and Infrastructure.

Leaders of both countries had earlier mandated the setting up of an Eminent Persons Group to draw up a vision document 2025 to serve as a blueprint of our bilateral relations. After three sittings of this Eminent Persons Group which included five members from both sides, the report is now ready, it covers five areas of strategic engagement i.e. Defence and Security Cooperation, Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Cultural and People-to-people links and Cooperation in Responding to Common Challenges.

Between India and Indonesia there have been as many as 10 bilateral visits at the highest levels since 2000 and now and this is an ample testimony of the intensification of our bilateral engagement over the last 15 years or so and the recognition of the potential between the two countries.

From the Indonesian side the last visit was by President Yudhoyono who visited India in 2012. In his earlier visit in 2005, both countries had signed the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries. From our side, the last visit was by then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2013 and he had also earlier visited in 2005 and 2011. Our President Smt. Pratibha Patil had visited in 2008 and recently External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj had visited in 2015.

In Naypyidaw at the margins of the East Asia Summit, the two leaders had met i.e. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo. They had a very substantive meeting on that occasion where they reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and identified the actions that have to be taken forward.

India and Indonesia, as you know, enjoy a long standing shared historical affinity and close cultural ties. Indonesia is our strategic partner since 2005 and an important trade partner in the ASEAN. Our trade with Indonesia is the largest among all the ASEAN countries, at $ 16 billion last year (2015-16) and also Indonesia is the largest target of our outward Foreign Investment, totaling about $ 15 billion to date.

The President’s visit to Delhi will provide an opportunity to reaffirm and strengthen our bilateral relations. It will also strengthen our pursuit of a closer and enduring partnership with a close maritime neighbor, a pluralistic democratic nation with which we have much in common civilisationally in the present global context and most certainly in the future. A strong multi-dimensional relationship with Indonesia is a very vital element of our Act East policy. Thank you.

Jt. Secretary (Eurasia), Shri G V Srinivas: Thank you. The strategic partnership between India and Tajikistan that was established in 2012 was further strengthened last year when the Prime Minister visited all the five Central Asian countries including Tajikistan in July 2015. Thereafter this year in June, Prime Minister again had the opportunity to meet President Rahmon on the margins of the SCO Summit in Tashkent on the 24th of June.

Our Minister of State Mr. Akbar, when he went to Bishkek yet again for the Heads of Government Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the month of November he had called on President Rahmon, and had met the Prime Minister of Tajikistan. And just recently as late last month Secretary (West) Sujata Mehta when she visited Dushanbe, then she had called on the Foreign Minister of Tajikistan.

All these interactions and visits have added content and vision to the visit which is going to now happen from 14 - 18 of December, 2016 when the President comes to India. As Vikas has just pointed out, this is the sixth visit of the President, indicative of the very dynamic relationship which we have in all areas. Just down the line, our Ministry of External Affairs had led the business delegation also to Tajikistan.

I’ll take up some highlights of the relationship. Of course what is going to happen during the visit will be something which I should not speculate, a very good ambitious agenda is there on the table, but at this stage it is for me to just refresh memories of all of us on what has happened thus far in the 25 years of diplomatic relations with Tajikistan. All the CIS countries including Tajikistan would be completing 25 years of diplomatic relations, so we also wish to commemorate them in all the spheres of our bilateral collaboration.

The program itself has the all-important meeting with the Prime Minister, the call by the Vice President, call by the External Affairs Minister, interaction followed by a working lunch with the Prime Minister, call on the President followed by the banquet that we already referred to. There are various consultative mechanisms between India and Tajikistan. Some of which I can refer to are Foreign Office Consultations, Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, Inter-Governmental Commission, Joint Working Group on Defence. Defence collaboration, as has been pointed out, is one of the mainstays, main strength of our cooperation.

There are many projects on the ground wherein we tried to partner with Tajikistan in the areas of development. For example we have India-Tajikistan Centre for Information Technology. Just early this year we were able to supply computer labs to 37 schools in Tajikistan. In this small fashion we wish to collaborate wherever we can.

In the area of training, there is a very dynamic one, on-ground training is happening. For example we have an on-site training team from our armed forces for selected fresh cadets who will be able to then come to India and join NDA and IMA so that then they can undertake this training. We also have an Entrepreneurship Development Centre established in Tajikistan.

ITEC is one of the favorite programs that Tajikistan appreciates so much so that when President Rahmon visited last, the number that we were assigning to them had been raised from 100 to 150 and is practically used in each and every area of their interests i.e. Technology, Diplomacy, Banking.

We have a hospital which our Prime Minister himself had visited and had actually seen it functional i.e. India-Tajikistan Friendship Hospital, which treats not only the defence personnel but also the civilian population.

The geographic importance of Tajikistan need not be overstated, we all know where it is located and how crucial it is to India.

One of the areas which will be of great importance to us, which somehow we are yet to capitalize on, would be the hydel-power potential that Tajikistan has. Incidentally, Tajikistan and one other country in the Central Asian region are the two which together have 90% of the water resources in Central Asia and a huge untapped hydropower potential which exists, which we need to tap.

And last to add to what we can do together with Tajikistan is in the area of natural resources. We already get some amount of natural resources, ores etc. from there, but a lot more can be done. A final point on the tourism element. We have a five-star hotel, Sheraton, which is actually pride of the whole town. It is owned by an Indian and there are direct flights also to Dushanbe supporting tourism, but I can’t say everything had been achieved, a lot is yet to happen. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Thank you GV. I think you have got very comprehensive briefings now on the two visits. If you have any questions pertaining to the visits by the Presidents of Indonesia and Tajikistan, this is the opportunity to ask, I will not be addressing those questions in my usual briefing.

Question: Could you elaborate on the visit to Kerala, please, before he comes to Delhi?

Jt. Secretary (Eurasia), Shri G V Srinivas: The President of Tajikistan comes to Sri Lanka first. This will be the first the leg of his visit as he comes out of Tajikistan. From Sri Lanka he comes to Kerala. We are not probing what exactly is the program there because we are leaving it to their comfort.

I am sure that the President is very happy with the great place that Kerala is, with all sorts of Ayush and the tourism potential which it has, but we have official engagements only in Delhi on 17th of December. The other engagements we are leaving to the comfort of the visiting dignitary.

Question: Can you elaborate on the defence partnership between India and Tajikistan because you know Tajikistan has offered Ayni airbase to India for its use?

Jt. Secretary (Eurasia), Shri G V Srinivas: This ground has been covered in earlier briefings also and which had been clarified very clearly that our engagement with Tajikistan is more in terms of training, as I just pointed out to you, and of course not to also miss out on that whole creation of infrastructure, bringing back that airfield of Ayni to such a position that it is one of the best airfields now in the region, so that is the engagement with that country.

Question: We have had some more extraditions in the past through Indonesia. Are we looking at strengthening our relationship with regard to tackle organized crime and other such agreements that help nab all these people?

Jt. Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: Yes, we already have a robust framework of cooperation in terms of agreements in place and we have been cooperating on a wide area of cross-border crimes with Indonesia and we have had very satisfactory cooperation.

Question: This is with reference to India-Indonesia Defence Cooperation. Could you elaborate a little bit on that in terms of the maritime space, the South China Sea, you know, any common areas of agreement on that, especially now that there is a question mark over the US pivot to Asia which may or may not exist, the Chinese influence?

Jt. Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: Let me confine my remarks to India-Indonesia. So we have a very vibrant cooperation in the defence field and especially in the maritime - naval as well as the Coast Guard fields. This is a long and old engagement that we have. We have coordinated patrols with the Indonesians in the Andaman Seas for 14 years now so this is the 28th session of that we had in October. It happens twice every year, once in March-April and the other in September- October.

Besides this, we have an exercise called Garuda Shakti which we have been having with them and the 4th such Garuda Shakti–exercises were held in March this year. We also, recently, had the Trilateral Coast Guard exercises with both Indonesia and Japan, off the coast of Indonesia in October this year. So that is as far as the naval engagement goes.

We have a very strong air force engagement as well. Besides participating in each other’s courses, we have exchange of visits of Chiefs of Air Staff and also in the field of the army, which we want to now take forward.

So we have a defence cooperation agreement in place which is expiring at the end of this year, but you will find some announcements to be made as to the future of our defence cooperation during the visit. Thank you.

Question: It is for Mr. Srinivas. Sir, could you just elaborate on whether we are planning to upgrade this Ayni air base? There has been a lot of speculation in the past decade that it is basically an Indian air base in Tajikistan. So what are the specifics on the Ayni air base? Are you looking at an expansion and upgraded Indian presence there?

Jt. Secretary (Eurasia), Shri G V Srinivas: The Ayni airbase is of Tajikistan and as a strategic partner they have requested earlier for some resources, for example this ALS system which was to be replaced, which we did. As and when any such proposal comes to us for helping them out and making it functional, we would be more than happy to do that, but I don’t think that we are going in the direction which you are suggesting.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I think that has exhausted all the questions on these two visits. I will not then detain my two colleagues here any longer. We can now resume our usual dialogue.

Question: The Russian ambassador had written to the MEA regarding the demonetization and complaining that they are not just getting enough money and that something needed to be done. Now he has been awaiting a response from the MEA, has that response gone? Apart from that other embassies too have complained.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well, I agree. The Ministry of External Affairs has received communications from some Embassies about the problems they face in the context of the demonetization of high value notes. With a view to avoid inconveniencing their operations, the Ministry has been in discussion with concerned authorities in the Government on this matter.

The Finance Ministry, as a consequence, is being asked to issue directives to banks to allow Embassy officials with identity cards to withdraw money on a priority basis.

Additionally, Foreign Secretary has met the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps today. They discussed the issues raised by Foreign Missions and how best to address them.

We appreciate learning from the Dean that the vast majority of Foreign Missions understand that the demonetization exercise is being conducted to combat the menace of black money and tax avoidance. We are confident that the Missions would bear with the temporary difficulties that arise in that process, even as we seek to address their concerns.

Question: There are reports that emerged last evening from the press in Pakistan which clearly mention that Sartaj Aziz had spoken at the Senate, where he mentioned about Kulbhushan Jadhav and the investigation and has said that there was insufficient evidence, but minutes after that the MOFA came out with a statement clearly stating the opposite, they said that the investigations are very much on.

Where do we stand on this, have we got any hope that there will be consular access? And also the MOFA spokesperson has just spoken on the Heart of Asia, where he says that there was complete negativity from the Indian side on the entire, final Amritsar declaration. How do you react?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Look, as far as the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav is concerned, you yourself have just confirmed that there have been conflicting media reports on this issue and this is a pattern we have seen in the recent past as well. Government has always maintained that Pakistan's allegations against Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national and a former Indian Navy officer, were completely baseless.

Even after more than nine months of keeping him wrongfully and illegally in custody, Pakistani authorities have not found a shred of evidence against him.

We demand immediate consular access to him in accordance with relevant international conventions and his earliest release from wrongful confinement. Let me also tell you that we have issued eight Note Verbales in this regard to the Pakistan authorities.

Question: Vikas, it seems that Sartaj Aziz has gone as an unhappy man from Amritsar. He has been complaining that you didn’t give him access to Golden Temple and that Indian Government had been ungracious. Would you like to comment on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Look, you can fault us on many things but definitely not on showing discourtesy to our visitors. You know that is something we take great pride in. The first point to appreciate is that Janab Sartaj Aziz sahab came to Amritsar to participate in a multilateral conference. The multilateral conference was on Afghanistan. We ensured the Pakistani delegation’s full and complete participation in the conference. Let me also inform you that special privileges were extended to the Pakistani delegation in order to facilitate their visit to the conference, including extended tarmac access, provision of armored cars, additional rooms and other conveniences keeping special security requirements in view. This was done despite last-minute changes of program and advancing the arrival in Amritsar of Mr. Sartaj Aziz’s special flight by more than 12 hours. A rare exception was made to allow arrival and departure by air at Amritsar which is not a designated airport for entry and exit for Pakistani nationals.

Now in terms of anything that happened outside the conference, you would appreciate that if demands are made to us at short notice adequate security arrangements are required to be made keeping in view the specific security requirements of each delegation. So I will confine my remarks to that.

Question: From Heart of Asia to the heart of Delhi and from issue of terrorism to the issue of demonetization. Our time tested friend Russians are speaking the same voice as Pakistanis. How do you see this development?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I have not seen a public letter from the Pakistanis on the demonetization…Look, I have already responded to that question. Today Foreign Secretary had a very useful and constructive meeting with the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. We had a very detailed discussion on the kind of issues the diplomatic missions are facing and what we could do to minimize the inconvenience to them.

We have taken already one step which I have just announced. We have also agreed now to see what more we can do to minimize the inconvenience, but we were greatly heartened by the comment of the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps that the vast majority of missions do fully understand and appreciate the decision of the Government of India, its long-term benefits and I’m sure they would bear with us the temporary inconveniences that have arisen as a result.

Question Contd.: The question was Russians being cozy with Pakistan.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: In what context? The Heart of Asia conference was a multilateral conference on Afghanistan. Russia is a very important partner there and so are the other 40 countries which were represented at the conference.

Question: Sir, Nehal Ansari jo ki Pakistan ki jail mein band hain, unke parents bhi Amritsar aaye they, usko lekar ke koi update ho toh batayen.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Dekhiye hamara mission is maamle par dhyanpoorvak karyawahi kar raha hai. Is baare mein Pakistan Videsh Mantralay ko 42 Note Verbale hum issue kar chuke hain. 15 November ko humare naveentam Note Verbale ke jawaab mein humein 25 November ko Pakistan dwara ek Note Verbale diya gaya hai, usmein unhone kaha hai ki unke sambandhit adhikari Shri Hamid Ansari ki prati apni jimmedari ke baare mein sajag hain, woh surakshit hain aur poori tarah se swasth hain. Fir bhi ye ullekhneeya hai ki Pakistan ne abhi tak hamare consular adhikariyon ko Shri Hamid Nehal Ansari se milne nahi diya hai.

Our Mission is closely following up this matter and has issued as many as 42 Note Verbales to the Pakistan Foreign Office. In response to our latest Note Verbale dated November 15, Pakistan responded on November 25 stating that concerned authorities in Pakistan are "mindful of their responsibilities regarding Mr. Hamid Nehal Ansari who is safe, secure and in good health”. However, it must be noted that despite India sending 42 Note Verbales we are yet to receive consular access to Shri Ansari.

Question: It is related to Tamil people who are convicted in Qatar actually. Any updates on those cases, is the Central Government going to appeal in the Supreme Court regarding those people?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: The latest update is as follows that Mr. Subramanian Alagappa and Mr Chelladurai Perumal continue to remain on death row. The third convict, Mr. Shivakumar Archunan, his case was reviewed by the appeals court and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

We had filed a case in respect of all three because we believe that the penalty is too harsh. We understand that the next hearing is on January 2, 2017. Our Embassy in Qatar continues to closely monitor this case in association with the lawyer who has been appointed for all three accused.

Question: Vikas, is there any forward movement on the next SAARC summit? Is Pakistan going to do it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: The ball is entirely in Pakistan’s court. As you saw the comments from the current chair which is Nepal, Pakistan is supposed to host the next summit. As long as they do not decide to give up that particular mandate, it is for them to reschedule the summit. You know also the reasons why the summit had to be postponed, because all the SAARC member countries expressed their view to the chair that the current environment is not conducive for the heads to meet. So the ball remains very much in Pakistan’s court on that particular issue.

Question: Do you have any message on 21st anniversary of SAARC?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well, our message is very clear. I would refer you to Prime Minister’s message of 2nd December in which he has addressed this particular issue. India’s commitment to SAARC remains undiluted. We are all for regional peace, prosperity, stability and most importantly connectivity. We all know why SAARC has not made progress because one standout country has consistently opposed all our efforts and initiatives towards promoting greater regional cooperation and connectivity.

Prime Minister has also outlined that terrorism remains a very serious threat in our efforts to promote regional cooperation because terrorism derails all possible initiatives that we can take. So unless cross-border terrorism is addressed, unless a mindset which opposes all connectivity initiatives is reversed, I’m afraid that the situation will pretty much remain the same.

Question: Sir, although the dates are not yet announced, but both India and Bangladesh were working on Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Sheikh Haseena’s visit from December 18-20. Now we hear it from Bangladesh that the dates may be deferred. You have anything to say on that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: You see, there is a particular reason why the dates are not announced. Dates are not announced because the schedules have not yet matched. A visit can only take place when the incoming dignitary and the receiving dignitary you know, they are on the same page in terms of the schedule of engagements. And that is why so far we have not announced the visit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Of course there is an outstanding invitation to Sheikh Hasina. We want the visit to take place as soon as possible. The two sides are in very close contact to work out the schedule of the visit and the dates and as soon as that is finalized I can assure you Sheikh Hasina will receive an extremely warm welcome in India.

Question: Sir you have just mentioned that on the issue of the demonetization that the foreign diplomats have been allowed to withdraw money on the priority basis but what about their core demand that this cap of Rs. 50,000 be increased?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: That was reiterated today in the meeting that the Dean had with the Foreign Secretary. As I said, we have agreed to look into that request. We will take it up with the Finance Ministry and then see what can be done about that.

Question Contd.: And this recommendations of this Inter-ministerial committee that you had mentioned few weeks ago, what are they, have the come out with a recommendation, what have they suggested?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Recommendations will be made public only once they are accepted.

Question: Just wanted to ask, in the Senate House hearing in the US, the head of the India Caucus representative Ed Royce has actually said and I will just quote. He said that the Indian bureaucracy has been dogmatic, referring especially to the case of Compassion International. How do you respond to the US taking such a strong stand on what is essentially an internal issue for India?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well I would say that the hearing that you are referring to is based on a limited understanding of India, its society, our Constitution and our laws.

There is a well-established legal framework for NGOs to conduct their operations in India. This is borne out by the presence of over three million NGOs in the country, one of the largest NGO networks anywhere in the world. India welcomes lawful operations of foreign NGOs in India.

India’s credentials as a vibrant democracy and pluralistic society with a strong civil society are well-known and need no reiteration. The Government is fully committed to the Constitutional principles which underpin this nation of ours of 1.25 billion people as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society with an abiding commitment to inclusion and tolerance.

Government of India looks forward to continuing to work with the U.S. Congress and Administration to foster mutual understanding and deepen India-US bilateral relations.

Question: We spoke to the Mongolian envoy yesterday and he said that he has requested the MEA to raise the issue of China imposing hiked up tariffs on transit following the visit of the Dalai Lama. Is there a response to that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Look, in so far in Mongolia’s relationship with China is concerned, it would not be appropriate to comment on that. However, I can make some observations about our own very strong relationship and partnership with Mongolia.

We are aware of the difficult budgetary situation that Mongolia is facing due to various factors including high cost of servicing of debt raised by them in the past.

As a close friend of Mongolia, which regards India as its ‘third neighbor’ and ‘spiritual neighbor’, we are ready to work with the Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty. You are also aware that during the visit of Prime Minister to Mongolia in May 2015, Prime Minister had conveyed to the Mongolian leadership that India will extend support to Mongolia in diverse fields.

We had announced a credit line of US$ 1 billion during the visit. The Mongolian leadership was highly appreciative of this gesture and conveyed that it would help them in obtaining investment and financial resources from their other partners.

We are closely working with the Mongolian government to implement the credit line in a manner that is deemed beneficial to the friendly people of Mongolia by its leadership.

Question Contd.: The envoy specifically said that India must speak up against what China is doing, otherwise we will consider it as tacit support?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I think you are misconstruing the Mongolian Ambassador’s comment. We are very committed to supporting Mongolia through their monetary crisis.

The credit line of 1 billion dollar is available to Mongolia to utilize in whatever manner they deem fit. If, as a result of whatever has happened, they are facing certain monetary difficulties, this credit line of $ 1 billion is available to them to assist them in this hour of crisis.

Question: Coming back to the demonetization. You said you haven’t received anything from Pakistan. Pakistan had said, it’s High Commissioner has said that its diplomats had difficulty withdrawing their salaries and were asked for a declaration of purpose by the bank. Do you have any comment?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Look, as I said this is a generalized concern that is shared by many diplomatic missions and which has been conveyed to us quite clearly by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps who represents more than 150 foreign missions in Delhi. Those concerns have been taken note of, now specifically by the Foreign Secretary himself in the meeting that we had today. We have told the Dean that we will work with the Ministry of Finance to see which of these concerns are readily addressable. So as I said, the ink is not yet dried on this, please wait for further developments on this issue.

Question: Sir, ye demonetization ki wajah se Nepal aur Bhutan mein bhi kuch problem aa rahi hai aur uske liye yahan Bharat Sarkar ki taraf se kuch official procedures hone baaki rah gaye hain. To us baare mein unki jo shikayte hain, usmein hum kya kar rahe hain?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Dekhiye, Bharat ki mudra jahan par bhi legal tender hai, wahan par toh unke jo Rashtriya Bank hain woh hamare Reserve Bank ke saath sampark mein hain aur dono Finance Ministry bahut gahan sampark mein hain. To mere khyal se us front par abhi is tarah ki koi chinta nahi hai. Hamein poora vishwas hai ki dono deshon ke jo vittiya vibhag hain woh aapas mein mil baith kar iska ek rasta nikal lenge.

Question: You said that unless the Pakistan changes its mindset and cross-border terrorism, situation will be the same in context of the SAARC. So, does it mean that there will be no SAARC unless Pakistan changes these things?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Well, you saw the letters that were written. Please read those letters very carefully once again. What do those letters say, that the present environment is not conducive in which one particular country is promoting cross-border terrorism, one particular country is blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

Now it is for you to judge, has the cross-border terrorism stopped, has the blatant interference in the internal affairs stopped? If it has not, then the conditions for holding a SAARC summit remain the same, in which case the SAARC summit will not happen.

So the choice is Pakistan’s. Pakistan has either to change course or say we decide not to hold the SAARC summit, we are ready to give it up to whichever other country wants to host it, then things can move forward.

Question: Yesterday, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps actually invoked a Vienna Convention in terms of demonetization. Was this raised again in today’s meeting?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: No, he did not raise specifically, but it’s a fact. The Vienna Convention clearly says that foreign diplomatic missions are to be allowed to function unimpeded. So, certainly he has raised it in the context of the Vienna Convention and we have given a very sympathetic hearing.

Today the meeting was very constructive, very cordial and it’s a partnership. We have agreed to refer his concerns to the concerned quarters. The inter-ministerial Task Force had already referred some of their concerns and let’s see now how far we can address them.

I see no other question in which case this press briefing comes to a close. Thank you all.

(Concludes)

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