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Transcript of Media Briefing on visit of Prime Minister of Malaysia to India and Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (March 30, 2017)

March 31, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Namashkaar. Good afternoon everyone and welcome to everyone.

Formally shuru karne se pehle aap sabko naye varsh aur naye samvatsar ki bahut bahut badhaai. Poore Bharat mein kai hisson mein hum isko manaate hain.

So I think every one of us deserves greetings on this occasion. Today this briefing is in two parts. For the first part we have a Joint Secretary South, Shri Jaideep Mazumdar. He is going to speak and then perhaps he will take two or three questions on the visit which has already begun i.e. of the Honorable Prime Minister of Malaysia to India.

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: Thank you very much. So as you all know the Prime Minister of Malaysia His Excellency Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, is visiting India between 30 March – 04 April 2017 accompanied by his spouse Datin Sri Rosmah Mansour. This will be his third visit to India as Prime Minister. He has been to India as a Defence Minister as well and it follows the highly successful visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Malaysia in November 2015.

It would be quite safe to say that our bilateral relations have never been as good as they are today.

The relationship encompasses a very wide canvas from economic and commercial to defence and security and the traditional people to people links that we have enjoyed.

This fact is evidenced by the fact that Prime Minister Najib’s delegation consists of as many as 10 Cabinet Ministers in addition to a large number of Senior Officials. He will also be accompanied by a large business delegation consisting of many of the top companies and businessmen in Malaysia.

The Malaysian Prime Minister has already arrived in Chennai today afternoon. He will be given a civic reception by Hon’ble Governor of Tamil Nadu in which the Hon’ble Chief Minister and other dignitaries will also be present. This is the Malaysian Prime Minister’s second visit to Chennai. This visit is also important since Malaysia is home to the second largest Indian Diaspora of around 2.7 million or so, of which the vast majority are Tamils.

This visit also comes in the context of the 60th Anniversary of establishment of Diplomatic Relations between India and Malaysia this year when we also celebrating the 25th Anniversary of our relations with ASEAN.

In Delhi, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. He will call on the Hon’ble Rashtrapatiji and Hon’ble Vice President in addition to his meeting with our Prime Minister. The External Affairs Minister will call on him. The Prime Minister will be hosting a banquet in honour of the Prime Minister of Malaysia and his spouse.

Several MoUs are expected to be signed during the visit.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia will also be travelling to Jaipur where he will meet the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Rajasthan, who will also host a lunch in his honour. Malaysia, as you may know, has bid for several road contracts in the state of Rajasthan amounting to US $ 1.2-1.4 billion.

Total projects being considered during the visit could amount to about US$ 5 billion.

The Apex Chambers in India will host a business summit on 3 April where more than 15 business agreements are expected to be signed.

The re-constituted India-Malaysia CEOs Forum, which comprises of several prominent Indian and Malaysian business representatives, will be meeting for the first time on the margins of this visit, and they will present their recommendations to the two Prime Ministers on April 01.

Malaysian investments in India are to the tune of US $ 6 billion or more and an additional US $ 6 billion in projects has been executed in India. Indian investments in Malaysia are around US $ 2.5 billion. So as you can see it is quite a significant economic relationship.

Our cooperation in the areas of Defence and Security including Counter Terrorism, Business and investment, Health and Indian traditional medicine, Education, Tourism and Culture etc. have strengthened, particularly after the successful visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Malaysia in November 2015. The presence of a very large Indian-origin community in Malaysia has only served to bring our countries closer. Malaysia sent the largest contingent to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru earlier this year.

On the Defence and Security front, India-Malaysia have strengthened these relations further particularly after our SU-30 pilots were sent to Malaysia between 2008-10 to train the Malaysian pilots. We held our first Joint Army Exercises in 2012 and our first Joint Naval Exercises in 2016.

Counter-terrorism is another area of close bilateral cooperation. We also signed the MoU on Cyber terrorism during PM’s visit to Malaysia in November 2015.

Overall this visit is an extremely important one from a country which has very close relations with India and from a leader who has contributed considerably to enhancing India-Malaysia bilateral relations. Its added significance is that it comes on the 60th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Thank you for your attention and I will take a few questions.

Question: How many of Malaysian business delegates are coming and is there anything between India and Malaysia on space cooperation?

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: The business delegation that will come is around between 80 to 100 member business delegation. We don’t have the full list of the individuals who will be here but they comprise a very large number of areas of the bilateral commercial relationship which includes areas like infrastructure, finance and mobile telephony and things like that with which we already have significant bilateral cooperation.

On the space cooperation front, yes we have been discussing between the two countries the frontier areas that we can cooperate in and we will take these discussions forward.

Question: How much ISIS is going to be a part of the talks given the fact a lot of Indians live in Malaysia and there is a lot movement between Malaysia and India. So are you going to have talks on the security issue and any special agreements on these lines?

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar:
Certainly, we have a very robust cooperation between India and Malaysia in the area of counterterrorism. A very real-time exchange of information happens between agencies on both sides. Certainly, world international terrorism and terrorism in our region will be an important subject in the bilateral discussions between the two sides.

Question: The past two decades has seen a fair amount of discord between the two countries. Malaysia was a strong critic of India on Kashmir and then they had problems in treating their own Tamil minority which was raised in our Parliament also. So have the two countries moved beyond that are all these issues still on the table?

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: As I said right at the beginning of my presentation to you, I think that the relationship today is better than it has ever been before and we are now looking only to the future because there is a tremendous amount that we can both do together and there is a realization on both sides of this potential.

Question: Of these 2.7 million people of Indian origin living in Malaysia most of it is a very prosperous community but they are not allowed to have their own companies. Under the Bhoomiputra arrangement they need to have a sleeping partner, a Malaysian citizen only then they can hope to do any kind of business in the country. The Prime Minister is preponing the elections and is hoping that this 7 to 8 percent of the electorate which is of Tamil and Indian origin will support his party. Has this issue ever become a subject of discussion between the two countries, do you have any plans to take this up at this point of time? Thanks.

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: As you yourself said, the Indian origin community in Malaysia is prosperous and doing very well and they contribute considerably to the Malaysian economy and they are appreciated for that purpose. That’s all I can say at the moment.

Question: Any fresh agreement in defence sector for expanding defence cooperation between the two countries?

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: We are looking to take forward what was discussed during Prime Minister’s visit to Malaysia in 2015. So we are looking at a couple of areas that were identified at that time but it would be premature for me to say that this has been done already. We will let you know on 1 April when they are concluded.

Question: When Prime Minister went to Malaysia, there were several agreements and MoUs regarding infrastructure sector and as far as I remember there was one MoU on making a huge convention center in Delhi also. So do you have any idea how many of them have fructified and what in the progress on that?

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: Yes, there were several projects that were discussed both in India as well as in Malaysia and one of them as you have rightly pointed out was the construction of a world-class convention center in India. We are working to see how to involve a Malaysian companies in construction of such a complex in the NCR region and the discussion is progressing.

Question: Can you provide any update on the discussions regarding Nellore airport?

Joint Secretary (South), Shri Jaideep Mazumdar: The Nellore airport is something that the Malaysian companies are looking at and they will carry forward the discussions during this visit.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: With that let me thank JS (South) Shri Jaideep Mazumdar for a very comprehensive opening statement and answers to your questions. Here we conclude the first part, we will pause for a minute so as to allow a JS (South) to exit. Thank you very much.

Today I don’t have any announcements to make so I am open for your questions.

Question: In these last few days there have been attacks on Nigerians, there have been attacks on Kenyans. Now how has the MEA been involved in this because the Nigerians have been coming to you, the Kenyans have been coming to you? What kind of assurances have you given to people from these countries and the diplomats from these countries, also Africans?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
Let me respond to several aspects of what has been raised in the question. As it has been made very clear that such criminal acts are completely unacceptable and we condemn them. You have seen the statement that was put out the day before yesterday, if I recall correctly.

The External Affairs Minister had spoken to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and MOS Shri M J Akbar had spoken to the High Commissioner of Nigeria. We have been in touch through the diplomatic channels both in Delhi and in Nigeria. Our High Commissioner to Nigeria Shri B N Reddy had a meeting in the Foreign Ministry of Nigeria and basically what we have conveyed both to the Nigerian diplomats here in New Delhi as well as in Abuja is that the government remains committed to ensuring safety and security of every foreigner but of course in this particular instance, the Nigerians.

The local authorities as you would know have taken very effective actions, they have launched investigations and certain people have been arrested. A large number of people are under close watch. The district authorities have had meetings with the local welfare Association as well as the students who represent the Nigerian community there. So all in all we have taken a number of steps in this regard, we have assured the students that we will remain committed to their safety and security and we will continue to take action against all those guilty and they will be prosecuted in accordance with the law.

Question: Would you categorize this as a racial attack?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
Pending the investigation it is not correct for me to go into the nature and the reason of what triggered this particular criminal activity. So let us await the outcome of the investigation and then perhaps we’ll be in a better position to understand.

As far as the Kenyan reported incident is concerned, I think I could share with all of you that the Kenyan High Commissioner has had a meeting with the concerned Joint Secretary in MEA today and it has been clarified to us that the understanding of the Kenyan diplomats is that this particular incident is not an attack on the woman concerned so therefore I don’t think that this incident has anything to do with the violence of the type that came to be associated with it.

Question: Was this incident a fabricated one? Has the lady presented a different picture from what actually it was?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: At this point I will only say that the local law enforcement agency and the authorities have also spoken to the media and they are conducting the investigation. Let us await the result of the investigation also but in the meantime I’ve shared with you what has transpired when the meeting took place between the Kenyan High Commissioner and our concerned officials.

Question: On the question of Lalit Modi, he has come with an official statement where he says that the Interpol, actually presents a document which says that the he does not have that red corner notice against him. So is the Indian government really going to do anything about it, has the MEA taken cognizance of this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Well I don’t have any information regarding what you have said and perhaps you might wish to direct your query to Enforcement Directorate and CBI-Interpol.

Question: The Sri Lankan Minister Sajith Premadasa has been in town. Has he had any bilateral meetings with the any of our officials and ministers?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I don’t have information on that. I need to come back to you.

Question: There was a report in one of the newspapers about the Ministry of External Affairs asking the Department of Fertilizers not to go ahead with the Chabahar project. Do you have any details about it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I have seen the report. First of all let me tell you that Chabahar Port is a matter within the domain of the Ministry of Shipping and it’s an infrastructure project which seeks to increase connectivity between India and Iran and through Chabahar with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

As for the report that you mentioned I think it is completely misinformed. India and Iran’s bilateral relations stand on their own. You would be aware that after the Prime Minister’s visit to Tehran last May in 2016 a number of decisions were taken which have reinforced the relationship, which have reinforced our cooperation in the areas of energy in particular and also connectivity for example the Chabahar port. So we will continue to develop those vectors of our activities and consolidate our cooperation in all areas.

Question: Has the African union launched any formal protest like they had done earlier about these recent incidents involving the Nigerians and the Kenyan lady? And just a small clarification on your reply a short while ago, am I right in understanding that it was the Kenyans who conveyed to the MEA that it was not an attack on their national or was it the MEA saying so?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
To your first question about the African Union raising this matter with us, my answer is no. I’m not aware of any such action.

On the question regarding the Kenyan lady, I mentioned that a meeting took place earlier today between the Kenyan High Commissioner and our concerned Joint Secretary and the Kenyans diplomats conveyed to us that their understanding is that the reported nature of this incident is not correct.

Question: International community has expressed concern on recent developments in Maldives. How do you view those political events in Maldives?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Which particular recent incidents are you referring to?

Question Contd.: In the Maldives Parliament where the speaker was removed and Maldives army was called in to prevent the voting in the Parliament?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
I think I would refrain from commenting on those developments at this stage.

Question: Just coming back to the Nigerian issue. You have outlined the various law and order steps that we’ve taken and that UP police has also promised to take but beyond that on a diplomatic front are we planning to also perhaps engage more actively with the African diplomatic community to see how such events and such things can be either prevented or minimized in the future. Is there any roadmap for a much broader approach to the subject rather than just a law and order approach?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
Thank you very much for that question. I think you’re very right, I could tell you that there is a wider engagement, there has been a wider engagement. Our engagement not only related to the recent incident but we have a very wide ranging and engagement with Africa as a whole and with all the African countries. African nationals, people from African countries including from Nigeria have been welcome in India. They have studied here, they have worked here. Indian’s have taught in Africa and there has been this two-way communication and interaction through the decades and in fact centuries between the two continents.

So our efforts are that we remain engaged with our African friends and partners.

These type of incidents which happened, of course these are serious incidents but I would also say that they perhaps represent the acts of misguided and misinformed few, a very very small number of people and they should not reflect on the wider cooperation between India and between the wider creed and the motto that we continue to believe, both the government and the people, which is "Vashudhaiv Kutumbkam” the whole world is a family. So the African people including the students and youth will continue to be welcome here because they are our valued partners.

Question: Saniur Rahman, a 28-year-old Bangladeshi blogger spoke to NewsX yesterday and he has been living in India since 2013. He has been seeking asylum from India. We just wanted to know what the status of his application which he says is in process?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
I am afraid I don’t have information in this regard on this particular case. In any case the asylum would be a matter which should be dealt with by the Ministry of Home Affairs. I might refer you to them.

Question: Donald Trump after coming to the office has spoken twice now to Prime Minister Modi but we’ve only seen those readouts coming from White House, the bare minimum readout, nothing really been added from the Prime Minister’s Office. Could you add a little bit more as to how long was the conversation or did India raise the issue of the Kansas shooting? When you are talking about Prime Minister visiting later this year, is there a time frame that one can share at this point in time, pre-July or post-July?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: You have seen the statements obviously which you have referred to. I don’t have any specific details of the kind that you asked about the duration and the specific issues raised. What I do understand in general terms is both the leaders touched upon the very strong India US relationship that has developed over the past years and we all are working for consolidation of this relationship.

As to the question of the timing of the visit, as you know I’m not able to comment on that. Those things will be decided as per mutual convenience, when we have that we will let you know.

Question: India invested a huge deal of efforts a couple of years back on organizing the India Africa Forum Summit and I think about 44 countries participated in that. 54, I stand corrected. So what I want to know is that the African students are feeling rather discouraged from coming to India in this kind of a scenario. Are you going to engage with the foreign students and Dean in various universities? I think in 2013 an African student died in Punjab after he was very brutally attacked by some people and some people got imprisonment and his family had to come all the way and nurse him here but he died.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay:
Look I have just said a few minutes ago here that we remain engaged very strongly with all the African countries because our partnership with Africa is an extremely valued partnership. The outcomes of the India Africa Forum Summit, especially its third edition, they have been very rigorously followed. Of course the results of them are visible for both African partners as well as for us.

As far as your question about the African students being discouraged is concerned, I do understand why you are asking this question, the context is the incident that you mentioned but that was 2013 and I can’t speak about that. The current incident I had mentioned few minutes ago what we are doing both at the law and order steps and also in the wider context. I can’t say if there is an empirical basis to say that they are feeling discouraged but in so far as their concerns are concerned, and in many cases these concerns should be addressed and we are very willing to engage with the Nigerian students or any other African students who are there and who give constructive suggestions in this regard.

We ourselves have taken a number of steps which are not confined to immediate law and order steps, like talking to the students union and asking them what could be done to reinforce their sense of security, not merely reinforce their physical security.

Question: Mausam ke badalte hi Kashmir ghaati mein ek baar fir se aatanki gatividhiyaan badh gai hain, doosari taraf aaj Pakistan ne aarop lagaayaa hai ki India uske internal matters mein interfere kar raha hai aur financing terror activities ke bhi aarop lagaye gaye hain. Mera sawaal hai ki ye jo aarop lagaye gaye hain, aaj hi press conference mein Nafis Zakaria ne kaha hai ki India Pakistan mein terror activities ki funding kar raha hai, to Pakistan ki taraf se jo international forum mei ek baar fir se is tarah ke aarop lagaye jaa rahe hain to aap kis tarah se unka jawab denge?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Sau baar dohraane se koi jhooth sach to nahi ho jaataa.

Question: Any engagement cannot be one sided affair. As you said that we are engaged with African countries on this issue and specifically with the Nigerians. There have been several complaints since last year that the behavior of some of those is not in accordance with the law of the land and also that they have been engaged in certain activities that was not fairly treated and accepted by the society where they were living.

So had this sense been conveyed to the African diplomats in any meeting? Last year the External Affairs Minister also had said about a sensitization campaign about Africans in India. So what are the efforts that have been done so far?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: In the context of what you said, generally speaking you are right that the engagement is a two-way street as there are occasions when certain questions have been asked, concerns have been raised by the residents, local authorities who deal with these matters have obviously looked into them.

Wherever required the Ministry of External Affairs has given its inputs, has given its suggestions and advice and as you rightly mentioned the External Affairs Minister had mentioned about the sensitization. So all these things are being undertaken.

The thing really is that those people who are guests in our country and who are here for a legitimate purpose and are engaged in activities which promote cooperation between the two countries and strength in the interaction between the peoples of the two countries, they should feel secure and they should feel welcome and that is where our efforts are directed.

Question: Senior officials from the Nigerian Foreign Ministry today basically asked for deterrence, asked for exemplary punishment for the mob attackers. So have you received any input from the UP government whereby you can actually assure the government of Nigeria that the punishments and the prosecution process will be such that such attacks in future will be completely impossible?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I will only point out that the law enforcement authorities of the district concerned acted with efficacy and acted very expeditiously. The External Affairs Minister as I mentioned earlier herself spoke to the Chief Minister.

I mentioned today also that a number of people have been arrested and the investigation is still not complete. This investigation is ongoing, people are kept under watch and of course the law of the land will take its course.

Question: India Pakistan cricket match hone ki koi sambhavanaa hai? There was a small incident in Gurugram in Oppo mobile company which is Chinese. What is the reaction from your side?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: On the India Pakistan cricket match I have nothing at the moment. I would suggest you enjoy the Indian series victory over Australia for the time being.

On the question of the Gurugram incident that you are referring to, I think you’re referring to a particular Chinese national insulting the Indian national flag in some way, I think that the national symbols should be respected everywhere in the world and that of course need not be stressed. In this particular incident, the law-enforcement authorities have taken the necessary action. Please also note that the Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued a statement and the company concerned has also taken certain steps in this regard.

With that we come to end of this particular interaction. Thank you very much for your patience and being here. Look forward to seeing you again.


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