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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (August 04, 2017)

August 09, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Mitron Namashkar! Good afternoon to all of you, a very warm welcome to everyone to this briefing. Before we move on to the questions from the floor, I have a couple of opening announcements to make.

The first is regarding the 15th meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the BIMSTEC countries which will be held in Kathmandu on 10-11 August, 2017. The second announcement is about the India- ASEAN Youth summit which will be held in Bhopal from 14-19 August, 2017.

As regards the 15th BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers meeting on 10 and 11 August in Kathmandu, Nepal, the External Affairs Minister will be visiting Nepal to attend this meeting. She will depart on the morning of 10th August and will return to New Delhi on the evening of 11th August.

In addition to the BIMSTEC meetings, the External Affairs Minister will also be holding bilateral meetings with other leaders. The meeting of the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers would discuss progress of the implementation of the agenda of action agreed at the Leaders Retreat and on all other agreed areas of cooperation in the run-up to the 4th BIMSTEC Summit which is proposed to be hosted by BIMSTEC Chair, Nepal later this year. BIMSTEC is observing its 20th anniversary this year and it has seen a renewed momentum since the Leaders Retreat hosted by India in Goa in October last year.

My second announcement which relates to the India-ASEAN Youth Summit in Bhopal, it is in connection with the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN dialogue partnership which is this year i.e. 2017. The India-ASEAN Youth Summit, as I mentioned, will be in Bhopal from 14th to 19th August. This event is being organized in collaboration with ASEAN secretariat and the India Foundation on the commemorative year’s theme which is "Shared Values, Common Destiny.”

The speakers will include the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the External Affairs Minister, the Minister of State for External Affairs etc. We feel that this forum will enhance people-to-people contacts between India and ASEAN countries. It will debate and generate new ideas in further strengthening our relationship with ASEAN countries. As I mentioned, it acquires special significance in the context that this year we are observing 25th anniversary of the India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership. So those were my two announcements, now I am in your hands for questions.

Question: The move to sanction Azhar Masood has once again been stalled. How does India look at this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Well, you are aware of our position regarding Azhar and the terrible acts of terrorism he has been involved in and his outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad, of which he continues to be the leader. They have perpetrated terrorist attacks on our soil against Indians, but they have also been involved in fomenting terrorism in other countries, in other parts of the region as well. So we can only hope that all those countries which share our concern regarding the menace of international terrorism will cooperate in fighting all forms of terrorism.

Question: This is with regard to the stand-off between India and China over Doklam. EAM has yesterday in the Rajya Sabha once again stressed that diplomacy is the only way out to resolve this issue. So in that sense has there been any sort of suggestion from the Ministry of External Affairs for a pull-back of troops or to replace the troops with Bhutanese troops to create an environment where diplomacy can work?

Question: China has claimed that India was informed of the road building plans in Doklam on 18th of May and again on 8th of June, would you confirm it and what was India’s response to those intimations by China?

Question: The 15 page document which has been released by Chinese government says that India has reduced its troops from 400 to 40 something, so did we really reduce the troops and what is the situation?

Question: Is there any indication that China is reducing its troops or has any plans to withdraw and why is their rhetoric escalating, if so?

Question: Kya wajah hai ki China baar-baardhamki de rahaa hai aur dhamki par dhamki de rahaa hai. Videsh Mantri ke bayaan ke baad bhi, aajsubah ek dhamkiaaii hai ki Bharat apanisenapeechhehataa le, ise Bharat kitnigambheerataa se le rahaa hai?

Question: The Deputy Assistance to the US President, Lisa Curtis was in the city and she met Foreign Secretary and Mr. Doval. Was this issue discussed with the Americans?

Question: 15 page ka jo factsheet aayaa hai China ki taraf se, usmeinaankadonmeinbataayaagayaa hai, teen aankade hain jismein troops ke baare meinbataayaagayaa hai. Shuruaatmeinitane they jobadhkar 400 ho gaye aur ab 40 ho gaye, pehle baat to ye hai. Aur aaj fir se aarop ye lagaayaagayaa hai ki apani seema mein troop movement karaayaagayaa hai Bharat ke dwara aur sadak bhi banaayaajaa raha hai us ilaakemein, Bharat ki dwara ye prayaas ho rahe hain. Is bayaan par aap kya pratikriyaadengen aur khas-taur par is baat kolekar ki kya hamaare troops abhi wahaan par vartmaan hain jaisepahle they aur unki sankhyakyaa hai?

Question: The Chinese embassy DCM has said that specifically they have counted that there are 48 Indian soldiers present there. Can you tell us what is the number, if it is correct or incorrect?

Question: Dokalm par America aur Russia ka kyaarukh hai?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Ye sawaalbahutaasaan hai, sabse pehle isi ka jawaab de deta hoon. Aap America aur Russia se poochhlein.

For the benefit of our colleagues who do not understand Hindi, the question was, what is the position of the United and Russia on the Doklam issue. My answer was, it’s better perhaps to ask those countries.

Let me start with the question about diplomacy and the channels being used and whether this is being used to reduce deployment and de-escalate the situation. You very rightly referred to the External Affairs Minister’s statement in Rajya Sabha yesterday. It was part of the debate on foreign policy, foreign affairs and all those issues. It was a very long debate and minister’s replye was very comprehensive.

So frankly I do not have much to add to it except to point out that what she mentioned is that we will continue to engage with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels to find a mutually acceptable solution on the basis of the Astana Consensus between our leaders. We have, on earlier occasions, referred to these elements that diplomatic channels remain available, they are available. We have referred to the approach of government of India in this regard that is based on the Astana Consensus, both the elements and we have referred to them time and again.

As far as the questions regarding deployment are concerned, these are operational matters, whether on our side or the other side and I would not like to specifically go into them in this forum.

There was a question related to both deployment and road construction and I would say that the government remains prepared. Its government’s responsibility to ensure the security of its citizens and territory and we remain prepared but External Affairs Minister also said yesterday that war is not an answer.

As far as the construction of road is concerned,the development of the border areas, in fact any part of India is a legitimate matter for government as well as its responsibility.

I would like to also mention that there were some questions asked about the specific statements from China or Chinese officials, I would mention two things in this regard. First, that we have already issued a statement, I think day before yesterday, about the document issued by the Chinese authorities, what you describe as the 15 page document. In that statement we had said that our position has been mentioned in great detail in the statement of 30th June and we also said that the peace and tranquility in the border areas we consider as a pre-requisite for smooth development of bilateral relations between India and China. So that was our response to what was put out and that remains our response to any subsequent statements coming from China or Chinese officials as well.

The second thing which I was going to mention is that the External Affairs Minister in her statement also pointed out and I am sure all of you have also seen that the Chinese Foreign Ministry also has expressed its commitment in maintaining peace and tranquility on India-China border areas.

Dhamki wale sawaal ka wojawaab ho gayaa ki humko jo kahnaathaa wo humne parson ke aur 30 June ke statement meinkehdiyaa hai. Videsh Mantri ka kalhuibahas ke dauraan jo bahutvistratvaktavyathaausmeinkah diya hai.

Question: ……….. Inaudible……………

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Hamaaristithimein koi parivartannahi hai, jo Videsh Mantri ji ne kahaa hai wo hamaari approach hai, wo hamaarisoch ko poori tareeke se reflect karataa hai.

There was one more question regarding the meeting of two US officials, they are ranking officials of the US Administration, they had come to India in the context of the US-India Forum which is a track one point five event which was held earlier this month. So they met their counterpart in our ministry and they also had a meeting with the Foreign Secretary. So I think it will not be proper for me to characterize the discussions that they had with the government officials.

Again, I think it is not correct for me to characterize the contents of diplomatic interactions and again our approach and what we had to say in this regard had been contained in great detail in the press-release issued on 30th June. Our concerns emanate from Chinese action on the ground being in close proximity to the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China.

Question: Unhone aapka intimate kiyaathaa before they went for making road there, other than Bhutan they intimated India also.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Yes, I have read that statement but I don’t think it is correct for us to go into every detail of diplomatic interaction.

Question: China has specifically informed India that the road construction was to take place, is that correct?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: This question was asked in Hindi by a colleague and my response to it was that perhaps it is not correct for me to go into details of diplomatic interactions. I would not like to characterize diplomatic interactions.

Question: This is related to the same question. I want to know that if India is notified why India didn’t raise any objection but send the troops directly, does that means military before diplomatic channels to solve this issue, while India is notified but didn’t raise any objection?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Well my answer is I am not prepared to go into details of diplomatic interactions.

Question: Can you tell us something about Chinese incursion in Uttarakhand?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I think we have already issued a statement in that regard. We have basically said that sometimes these situations arise because of different perception of the boundary on the ground and there are mechanisms to address them bilaterally, locally, these are local incidents and they should not be given undue importance, I think we have said something to this effect.

Let me again mention here what is being stated about the Chinese notifying to us, I should clarify and I am not confirming, I am not denying, I am merely saying that I am not prepared to go into that aspect in this forum.

Question: Mr. Baglay, I know you said that you don’t want to characterize diplomatic interactions, but the diplomat based in Delhi from the Chinese embassy was very clear. They believe that Bhutan never asked Indian troops to come to their rescue on the Doklam plateau. He said this very much in black and white, he said it on the record, if you prefer the technical term. Question is, the Bhutanese statement which presumable the Chinese Deputy has seen as well, does not actually refer to India at all, it doesn’t say we asked India, it doesn’t say we are in close contact with India, it doesn’t refer to India at all. Could you tell us categorically that Indian troops went into the Doklam plateau at the invitation of the Bhutanese side?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Well, we have gone over this thing a couple of weeks before and maybe even earlier also and what we have said very clearly and I would like to draw your attention to the document that we released on 30th June where it was contained right upfront there, we mentioned very clearly that, "In keeping their tradition of maintaining close consultations on matters of mutual interests Royal Government of Bhutan and the Government of India have been in continuous contact through the unfolding of these developments.” We are referring to what happened on 16th June and thereafter. And in the next paragraph we mention that "In coordination with the Royal Government of Bhutan, Indian personnel who were present at the general area Doklam approach the Chinese construction party and asked them to desist from changing the status quo.”

This is what we had to say about this matter and I don’t think I can add anything to it.

Question: Mera sawaal Hafiz Saeed kolekar hai. AbtakJamat-ud-dawa ke naam se aatankisangathanchal rahe they, usko political party mein convert kiyaajaarahaa hai. Aap ka reaction.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: For the benefit of those wish to follow as it was asked in Hindi, the question is about Hafiz Saeed who has been indulging in various activities through Jamaat-ud-dawa and now he is intending to convert it into a political party, so what is our reaction.

Dekhiye, Hafiz Saeed ek khunkhhaar, durdaantaatankwaadi hai jo ki Mumbai mein 2008 mei jo aatankwaadihamala hua thaa, jismein 160 ke upar log maaregaye they, sirf Bharatiya hi nahianyabahutsi nationalities ke logon ki masoomjaaneingayinthii, to unkakhoonuskehathon par hai aur wo us attack ka mastermind hai. Abhi wo Pakistan mein hai, aur humkoaisi reports milti hain media mein ki wo ek house arrest mein hai aur is tareekekaaaatankwaadikisi bhi naam se apanesangathan ko chalaaye, chaahe wo useyLaskar-e-taibakahechaahe wo use Jamaat-ud-dawakahe lekin ye dono hi naam, jaisaa ki aapjaanate hain SanyuktRashtraSangh ne apne 1267 praavidhaan ke tahatinparpratibandhlagaaye hue hain.

Is prakaar ke aatankwaadi aur uskeaatankwaadisangathanonko Pakistan mein jo chhutmilii hai aur milati rahi hai, aatanwaadigatividhiyan karne ke liye wo bade chintaa ka vishay hai, sirfhamaareliye hi nahibalkiduniyaamein aur bhi deshon ke liye, hamaare poore kshetra ke liye. Aur ab agar is prakaar ka aatankwaadiraajanitikgaitvidhiyonmeinaanaachaahtaa hai to main to yahikahungaa ki, kya jisane bullets chalaakarmasoomjaanein li hain abwo ballots ke peechhechupanaachaah raha hai, ya jo haathkhoon se range hue hain unko wo ballot ink se chupaanaachaahtaa hai.

Hamein lagataa hai ki Pakistan koharsambhavprayaaskaranechahiye, poore kadamuthaanechahiye ki jo bhi international obligations hain Pakistan par, aisevyaktiyon ke aur unkesangathanon ko pratibandhitkarane ke liyeunkaaksharsahpaalankiyaajaaye aur inkiaatanwaadigatividdhiyon par poori roklagaaiijaaye.

My answer basically is that Hafiz Saeed is an internationally designated terrorist and under UN 1267 provisions his organization whether it is called Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jamaat-ud-Dawa is one and the same and they have been carrying out terrorist activities not only against India but also terrorist activities against others in the region and it has been a matter of concern not only for us but for the entire region and beyond. We hear from media reports that he is under some sort of a house arrest in Pakistan but it is very well known that his organization and his other colleagues and he have enjoyed freedom in Pakistan to conduct terrorist activities against India and others and that is a matter of concern as I said.

It is Pakistan’s obligation obviously to make sure that such individuals and organization are not able to enjoy any freedom to conduct terrorist activities the international obligations which Pakistan has under international sanctions on these individuals and organizations are enforced one hundred percent. Regarding the aspect of political party, I mentioned that it appears that the person whose hands are stained with blood of innocent lives is perhaps both ironical and disconcerting to notice that such an individual is perhaps wanting to hide his blood stained hands behind the ballot ink or the person who has traded in bullets to take innocent human lives is trying to hide behind ballot. That is a matter of concern.

Question: We spoke to JuD spokesperson and he confirmed that discussions are actually on, a senior representative of the JuD in fact met the Deputy Chairman of Senate in this direction also, just a few days ago. So my question is about how will India take this up, is India diplomatically going to mention this at the United Nations in some manner to the concerned committee or with United States, how are we going to diplomatically impress upon Pakistan to take action?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: The thing really is that we are concerned about these activities as I just said. Now how and what type of consultations are taking place, it is not for me to comment because one, I don’t have their direct knowledge, I have only learnt about them as you have from media reports, but you have also spoken to somebody, I don’t have the benefit of speaking to JuD spokesperson, I don’t speak to such entities or individuals.

Now, I would like to point out there is very strong international consensus against terrorism and in particular against cross-border terrorism in our region. You have seen the international solidarity against such terrorism in our region, so I think it is also incumbent on the international community to work on all those concerns so that such individuals are not able to metamorphose their own self or their organization because as we say the old cliché about terrorism is a hydra-headed monster.

Whichever name you give it, whichever type of activity you want to hide behind, it ultimately remains directed at innocent lives and perpetuating, propagating and supporting terrorism. So it is also incumbent upon international community and we will continue to work all those, as I said in the beginning in answer to a question, we will continue to work with all those countries who share our concerns in fighting all forms of terrorism.

Question: I am going back to Doklam, I am just trying to understand India’s point of view, is there any basic minimum requirement, basic minimum condition that needs to be met for de-escalation to be considered and what they might be, and as a follow-up to another question, you are neither confirming nor denying anything on troop numbers?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I am not at all commenting on the troop numbers because those are operational matters and we don’t comment on operational matters of such type.

As far as your other question is concerned, I would only say that our objective is peace and tranquility. How it will be achieved, it will obviously be achieved through diplomatic channels, which remain operational and available to both sides.

Question: The Pope had expressed desire in October last year that he is hoping to visit India and Bangladesh. There have been reports from Vatican and Rome to the effect that there has not been any positive response from India to encourage him to come to the country so instead of coming to India he now wants to go to Myanmar and Bangladesh. I want to know what exactly is the situation because there have been three visits by Pope and three prime ministerial visit to the Vatican. What exactly is the story?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you for the question. In fact I would add what you recounted in terms of the number of the Papal visits and also to the prime ministerial visits to the Vatican. I would also remind you that the External Affairs Minister visited with a multi-party delegation at the beatification of Mother Teresa who is now St. Teresa.

He is obviously the heritage of entire humanity but we in India are especially proud and honored that we had such a saint amongst us and she has inspired generations of work of serving and that to the people who had studied Gandhi, who have lived on the Gandhian ideals which is basically serving the poor, serving the destitute, serving the downtrodden, so those interactions have taken place in the past.

In terms of our own plurality and diversity, our record is there for everyone to see, I have nothing to say on that. India is a very plural and diverse country. In the context of your specific question, I don’t have the details right now. In any case we have procedure to announce such visits when they take place and we will let you know when there is any development.

Question: On the Doklam issue you have spoken about diplomatic channels a number of times and even today, can you give us some details, where have these meetings, engagements taken place, have they taken place in Beijing, have they taken place in Delhi, have people spoken on the phone? Can you tell us who are the people who have been involved in these diplomatic engagements and what actually if you can give us dates and time, it would be nice too?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: You have asked a very interesting question in English, I don’t normally lapse into Hindi songs but, I would do that for a change. I don’t know and I am sorry to my non-Hindi speaking colleagues, I don’t know how to render it, but I would say Ishaaronko agar samjho, raaz ko raazrahne do.

Question: President Donald Trump announced some points about H1B visa, so the question is the Indians who were staying in USA facing the problems after announcement by the President and those who were entering the US, there is also problem either educated or technical persons, What is the stand from external affairs ministry, is it the Donald Trump announced, you will be following it or you will be instructions?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Thank you for the question. See the thing really is that there was a Presidential Executive Order on H1B visas, after that, as far as our understanding goes, a number of bills have been introduced in the US Congress. These bills pertain to different areas, they pertain to H1B but they also pertain to broader immigration issues of the United States. So far after that executive order this is the process which is on, which is the legislative process. Now the bills have to be legislated by the US Congress and then there is an entire process under the US laws for their approval and assent by the President of the United States.

At the moment none of these bills have been passed but several of these bills of different aspects have been introduced. We are in touch with the concerned people, we are following the situation, we are monitoring the situation in the context of the matters being of interest to us.

Question: Sir I have a question on border dispute with both Pakistan and China. 70 saal poore ho rahe hain azaadi ke, aap ko kyaalagataa hai neeyat ki kami hai China aur Pakistan mein, border disputes in dono deshon ke saathsulajhnahipaa rahe hain yaa koi aur baat hai, diplomatic hitch hai. What is the issue, hum solve kyonnahi kar paa rahe hain, 70 saal ho gayeaazaadi ke?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: It is a very conceptual question and I don’t know if this is the remit of this forum to go into that but since you have asked this question I will try and answer that in a succinct manner.

I think there are commonalities in the sense that border has not settled with both the countries but there are also important differences and we have to see both. The position with Pakistan is that we have a bilateral agreement namely the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration subsequently of 1999which affirms the bilateral approach to resolving all the matters, to addressing all the matters peacefully through bilateral dialogue.

Our difficulties have been two fold. Its not a question about our initiatives or our intentions, you heard our External Affairs Minister speak in parliament yesterday about his matter in Rajya Sabha. The question is that whenever there are sincere initiatives, they run into difficulties mostly recently because of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and directed against us.

Also Pakistan, from time to time, has been trying to suggest and has suggested the role of third parties which obviously is not envisaged under Shimla Agreement and also equally importantly under the Lahore Declaration, but our commitment to addressing to these issues bilaterally and in a peaceful manner with Pakistan, in an atmosphere free of terrorism and violence, that remains.

As far as China is concerned, you know the situation. There is a special mechanism, there is an SR mechanism, there are agreements and the understandings from several rounds of the SR talks that have taken place. It is important, as the External Affairs Minister also mentioned and we had also mentioned earlier on, it is important that the understanding from these discussions are respected by all sides.

Question: Yesterday in parliament the External Affairs Minister said that war is not a solution and diplomacy has to be pursued to resolve this, but given the Chinese claim that there was prior intimation not once but twice, why didn’t India seized this option or opportunity to resolve things diplomatically instead waiting for a face-off and then talking about diplomacy? And the second related thing to this is that the Chinese are saying that look we have been very open about the facts in this case implying that India has been trying to brush things under the carpet. Now for a democracy, don’t you think that India should also confront this claim of theirs with facts instead of your response that you will neither confirm nor deny because this will just create more confusion?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: All I am saying is that I am not prepared to go into the domain of diplomatic interactions. Now I have answered this question about two purported notifications, so you would forgive me if I move on to the second because I have nothing really else to add to that rather than saying I am not prepared to go into the domain of diplomatic interactions at all.

As far as your second question or the related aspect of that question is concerned, if you really look at it and I am sure you have looked at it and you have looked at it many times, the statement that we issued on 30th June was a very carefully considered statement which we prepared over a slightly long period of time.

The statement was carefully considered, it was deliberated upon, it has a lot of facts in it not only pertaining to the developments which were immediate but also about the background of the matter and all our positions which are there, which have been laid down there, they speak for themselves. So we have put our side on the table fairly and squarely.

Question: Without getting into the domain of diplomatic relations, I understand there are issues over there but in very broad terms, has Bhutan offered New Delhi or Beijing potential solutions to the stand-off?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Look, I would again not be able to answer your question in any specific terms because currently there are these developments, there are sensitive matters. I would only say that the special relationship which we have with Bhutan, enjoins on both of us and entails for both of us i.e. India and Bhutan that we do things in close consultations and coordination with them and this is as much as we have said earlier on also.

Question: Just staying on Bhutan, when we have say that our June 30th statement refers to close coordination and consultation with Bhutan and that has been the position that EAM also articulated yesterday. Would it therefore be correct to assume that the steps that we take both diplomatically and in terms of our troop presence in Doklam from hereon will also be done in coordination and consultation with Bhutan and only after we have acknowledgement from them that they are OK with what we are doing?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: With Bhutan we have a constant and continuous interaction.

Question Contd. :………..Inaudible ……………

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: I can play the "Ishaaron ko agar samajhoraaz ko raaz hi rahne do” again if you wish but the basic point here is, more seriously that there are diplomatic channels which are available with China. We have very special relationship with Bhutan. There is always an ongoing dialogue between the two countries at various levels, involving various officials at our level, at senior levels.

So I’ll not like to characterize what exactly are these channels at one point in time because I say something about this moment and the next moment the reality changes, there is some other level or another channel but the basic fact is that there is continuous coordination and consultation with the Royal Government of Bhutan and Indai takes its relationship with Bhutan, which is a special relationship, very close and very friendly relationship, extremely important relationship, so we take the relationship very seriously.

Question: Pakistan mein change of leadership hai, to kaise isedekhataa hai Bharat aur baat-cheet ki koi sambhaavnaa?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Gopal Baglay: Pakistan meinjonetratva ka parivartan hua hai wo unkaaantarikmaamalaa hai aur jahaantak baat-cheet ka sawaal hai, wo humnepahle hi kahdiyaa hai ki terror and talks do not go together, cannot go together.

So with this we come to the conclusion of this press briefing. I normally don’t have announcements to make or things to do after I finish the press conference, but since this is the end of this press conference, my last one, I would request the cameras to be off and lowered and then I have a very pleasant duty to perform.

(Concludes)

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