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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (March 15, 2018)

March 16, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar, and a very warm welcome to this weekly press briefing. I have one announcement to make and it just came on my phone as I was walking in and this relates to the visit of president of Germany to India. I will just read out maybe three paragraphs from this statement.

Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany is visiting India on March 22 to 25, this will be his first visit to India as a president of Germany. During this visit the German President will be accompanied by a CEO delegation, Indologists and a media delegation.

President Steinmeier apart from Delhi will visit Varanasi and Chennai. He has visited India several times in his former capacity as the Foreign Minister and the Vice Chancellor of Germany in 2015 accompanying Chancellor Merkel to attend the 3rd Inter-governmental consultations in September 2014 and in November 2008.

The last German President to visit India was Joachim Gauck in February 2014. This visit is significant as it will be the President’s first visit after the new German Government was sworn in on March 14, 2018.

We will put it on our website, there are further details which you can take from there. With this we move to the next segment of Questions and Answers and now the floor is open for questions.

Question: Over the last few days we have been seeing a lot of reports from the Pakistani media about harassment of their diplomats here in New Delhi. At the same time we have been hearing that over the last two months there have been significant increase in harassment of Indian diplomats in Pakistan. So how seriously do you see this and how many incidents of harassment have you seen in the Indian mission in Pakistan?

Question: Pakistan ne bhi apne Ambassador ko wapas bulaya hai is mudde par baatcheet karne ke liye aur dono hi deshon ke relations is stithi mein pahunch gaye hain jo hamare diplomats ko wahan harass kiya ja raha hai aur unki taraf se aarop lagaya jaa raha hai ki unke diplomats ko India mein harass kiya ja raha hai. On ground reality kya hai, Bharat Sarkar ki taraf se agar aap usko spasth karna chaahe, aur kya aisi naubat aa gaii hai ki hum apne mission se diplomats ko wapas bula lein kyonki lagatar wahan par haalaat dushwaariyon se bhare hue hain?

(Pakistan has called their Ambassador to consult on the issue of harassment. The relations between both countries have reached a spot where our diplomats are being harassed there and they are insinuating us for harassment of their diplomats here. So what is the ground reality, if you would like to clarify on behalf of Indian government and has it reach a point where we should call back our diplomats since the circumstances there have become a lot difficult now?)

Question: Has there been official complaint through official diplomatic route, been lodged by the Pakistan embassy here to the MEA, second, if you can describe has there been any official complaint from the Indian embassy in Islamabad to the Pakistan MoFA or Government about the alleged harassment of the Indian diplomats there?

Question: I wanted your comments on the recalling of the Pakistan High Commissioner to India and also are we thinking of a similar retaliatory move, are we also going to recall our High Commissioner from their for consultations and somewhat linked to it is the allegations that this is somehow linked to the Islamabad club issue which the membership apparently has been stuck of the Indian High Commissioner, so could you clarify on that as well?

Question: The Pakistani diplomats have levelled some serious allegations, so have you spoken to the law enforcing agencies about the incidents that have happened? Similarly, has there been any response from Islamabad government on the complaints that the Indian High Commissioner has made about the harassment to their diplomats there?

Question: I have two related questions. One is the actual substance of the incidents we are talking about. There have been reports of door bell ringing, tailing and all sorts of things like that, so could you give some clarity on what we are talking about? And the other thing is that do you think that reflects a broader deterioration in ties and the lack of constructive relationship at the moment?

Question: Pakistani sources ne kuch videos bhi jaari kiye hain, hamare diplomats ko jis tarah se pareshaan kiyaa jata hai Islamabad mein, kya hamare pass bhi kuch videos hain kya?

(Pakistani sources have released some videos about how Indian diplomats are harassed in Islamabad, do we have any such videos with us?)

Question: Kya aadhikaarik taur par Bharat mein jo Pakistan ke Rajdoot hain unhen waapis bula liya gaya hai aur kya iski koi jaankaari aapke pass hai?

(Has the Pakistani Ambassador in India has been called back officially and do you have any information on it?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think broadly there are two set of questions. One is on the issues raised by Pakistan about the so called harassment of the diplomats and the second relates to the recall. Let me touch upon the recall then perhaps I may answer some of the other queries which have been raised.

I am a bit surprised as to why this question about the Pakistani High Commissioner being called back for consultations. I think let us be clear as to why he has gone back. He has been called back for consultations, now it is pretty normal for an Ambassador or High Commissioner in any country, for example the resident ambassadors or high commissioners in India, they go back to their Capital to hold consultations with the Foreign Office and this is pretty normal and pretty routine in nature also.

We, of course, have no comment to offer as to why the Pakistani High Commissioner is gone back, so I’ll leave it at that.

Question Contd.: Are we calling back our High Commissioner?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: It is not a question of recall. Again I am trying to explain to you, it is very routine, as and when required he visits India. At any point of time, as and when necessary, our ambassadors and high commissioners from abroad, they do come to India for consultations and a variety of issues. So it is not linked to anybody being called for consultations and then you again call your ambassador for consultations, there is no link between them.

On the other topic, we have seen reports of issues which have been raised by Pakistan. We do not wish to respond to these reports through the media but through established diplomatic channels. At this stage what I can share with you is that we are looking into the issues which have been raised by their side. At the same time you know that our high commission in Islamabad is facing a litany of issues which have not been resolved for several months.

We raise these issues in good faith through diplomatic channels and not through the media. We have asked for immediate resolution of these issues faced by our High Commission in Islamabad so that the safety and security of the diplomatic mission and our diplomatic and consular officials is assured. We would like our mission to function normally with any obstruction or harassment in keeping with Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961.

Regarding the question about whether we have taken it up with the Pakistani side, yes, we have repeatedly taken it up with the Pakistani side, both here as well as in Islamabad. Again whether we have received any official response on this thing, yes we have received and that is why I have mentioned that we are looking into these issues.

I have answered the question about why the High Commissioner is gone. When I said that we will not specify and give details of the issues on which we have taken it up with the Pakistani government. And I think it is very clear that this is something which should be taken up with the diplomatic channels and not to be published in the media for the wider dissemination. I think there are and that is the reason why in the past, whenever we had an issue we raised it with them, we have send a note verbal, we have taken it up and we expect them to look into those issues and resolve those issues, whatever issues we have raised and whatever problems we have faced in the last one year.

Question: Mr. Suhail Mohammad, the Pakistani envoy met the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Vijay Gokhale on March 8, because on 7 March as they say when these incidents started and the mission here has been providing some video that looks pretty worrisome because they say that the cars are coming in and screeching closely to diplomat’s car more importantly at least three incidents that they have reported of children being intimated, stalked and photographed and they say this is absolutely disproportionate. If you were talking about the incident of construction workers being stopped in Islamabad that was because they didn’t had security clearances, here it is a residential property, functional property where people are being stopped so is this also going to impact the larger issues because 7th March is also the day when Islamabad accepted the humanitarian proposals that were sent out from India and we haven’t really seen any movement forward as far as those proposals were concerned, could you give us a larger picture as well?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Again I refuse to withdrawn into specifying the issues, I mean what you have could be an incomplete picture. It does not mean that we are going to specify and list out each and every issue on which we have approached the Pakistani side, there are several of them. You are talking about the permit, I think that is one of them but there are several issues but again I refuse to be drawn into listing out issues which we have taken up. I think it is important that we stick to the norms which are governed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and whatever issues we have taken up with them, we expect Pakistan to take action. They are aware of those issues. We do not want to publish them and talk about them in a public forum.

Question Contd.: The envoy said that he was hoping that there is a window of opportunity on 07th March, this needs to stop because this would have an impact on the larger issue.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Let us see where it goes. As I said we have seen the reports and we are looking into it. They have to look into what have said and lets how we move forward on that.

Question: When we are going to call our High Commissioner for consultations?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I have no information on that but as I told you this is something which is pretty routine. As and when the government feels necessary, for any ambassador, not only for High Commissioner from Islamabad, but from any of our embassies abroad, they are asked to come for consultations.

Pakistan ne jo mudda uthaya hai usko dekha hai. Hum iska reply media ke through nahi karna chahte hain par jo hamare established diplomatic channels hain uske through karna chaahte hain. Is samay main itna bataa sakta hoon ki humare saath jo mudde unhone uthaaye hain unko hum dekh rahe hain. Usi ke saath main ye bhi kahna chaahunga ki jo humara High Commission hai Pakistan mein aur jo itne saare mudde hamaare pass hain, jinke saath hum joojh rahe hain aur jinko humne kaafi mahino se Pakistan ke saath uthaaya hua hai, usmein se kisi ka bhi samaadhaan hamein abhi tak unse nahi mila hai.

Hum unke saath aise mudde diplomatic channel ke through uthaate hain, good faith mein uthaate hain aur humne unse ye demand bhi kiya hai ki jo issues hamaare hain unko wo resolve karein jis se jo hamare diplomat aur officials hain us mission mein, unki safety aur security, unko hum guarantee kar sakein.

Hum chaahate hain ki hamara mission jo Islamabad mein hai, uski functioning normal ho, usmein ko harassment nahi ho, koi obstruction nahi ho aur jo Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relation, 1961 hai uske tahat jo bhi suvidhaayein hamein milni chaahiye aur jaise ek mission ko function karna chaahiye, wo sab hamein pradaan kiya jaaye.

Question: Last night US dragged India to the WTO on the entire Foreign Trade policy. We are seeing what is happening in terms of defence skills as well. Will it have an impact on the 2 plus 2, the Foreign Secretary is there, is it going to happen on scheduled dates though they have not been announced, what is the status and also if there is any reaction on yesterday’s decision?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I can tell you straightaway that these are two separate issues, handled by two separate ministries and I don’t think one is going to impact the other.

On the date of the 2 Plus 2 itself, I have shared in the past, that there are four principals involved. Foreign Minister and Defence Minister from the Indian side Foreign Minister and Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence from the US side. We are in regular contact with each other to work out the dates which is suitable to all the principals. We hope to have some announcement on this dialogue as and when the dates are confirmed.

Question: MEA’s reaction to United States challenging India in WTO against export subsidies?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As I mentioned this is not a subject matter which we handle, WTO matter is being handled by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and they may be the right person to address this query.

Question: Iran Foreign Minister was in Pakistan on a three day visit and he met the Pakistani counterpart and he made a statement that Pakistan and China also participate in Chabahar Port and he also made a statement regarding Palestine and Kashmir. So are you aware of this and how is it happening when we were told within 18 months India will take operational charge of Chabahar port, so how Iran is commenting like this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: If your question is whether I am aware of it, yes, I am aware of it as it is my job to be aware of international developments.

On the Chabahar Port let me tell you that it is the prerogative of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to choose its partners for the development of infrastructure facilities at the port.

At the same time you are aware that India is supporting the development of Chabahar Port as a robust and alternate access route to and from Afghanistan and Central Asia.

You are aware that significant progress has been made in operationalizing the port. We have sent shipments of wheat through Chabahar which was successfully carried out since October last year. We have sent four such shipments and they have been successfully delivered. One shipment is schedule to leave later this month.

Further, during the visit of the President of Iran to India last month, an agreement was signed with regard to interim operations of the Chabahar Port. India’s assistance for building Chabahar-Zahedan Railway to realize the full potential of the Port to connect to Afghanistan and Central Asia also came up for discussion during that visit. We continue to work with Iran on the full and effective operationalization of the Chabahar Port.

On the other question about the linkage and the purported statement made by the Pakistani side, I think there was a press statement from Pakistan that issue also came up for discussion i.e. related to Kashmir, frankly I would not like to comment or respond to the distorted picture and falsehood that is routinely propagated by Pakistan. ON the contrary the fact that Pakistan is an epicenter of terrorism harboring globally designated terrorists and other entities and providing safe haven and sanctuary to them is a well-known fact.

Our position on Jammu & Kashmir is very well known and it is consistent. Any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under the illegal and forceable occupation has no legal basis. So I have answered both the questions that you have raised.

Question: On October 26, the Indian High Commission in Colombo had written to MEA headquarters recommending that a certain project there should be financed by the Indian government through BEL. Other people in government have also taken up the same issue, I just wanted to know if a decision has been taken on it? And the other thing is, Prime Minister Trudeau has spoken in front of a map that was grossly incorrect. PoK, Aksai Chin and Gujarat were incorrectly represented. India has taken up the issue but can you give us the details?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On the first question, you are aware that India is an important developmental partner of Sri Lanka and whenever we have discussions at higher level as well as the Foreign Minister level, these developmental partnerships, they too come up for discussion. The specific project which you are referring to at this stage, I am actually not at the liberty of disclosing the details as to where it stands. There are several projects which are in the pipe line, they are at several stages of implementation. Some of them are still at the initial stage. Also as the name of the project itself, I think perhaps, is known to you, you are referring to a very specific letter, it may not be possible for me to comment.

On the second one, regarding the incorrect map of India, I have some response which I promised that I will have by next time. Basically we had taken up the matter with the Canadian side. We were informed that the inaccurate depiction of Indian map happened at an event which was the Young Change Makers Conclave held on February 24 which was attended by the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. We have been told that the event was organized by a third party and that the map and backdrop were an artist’s rendering. More importantly we have been told that they do not imply endorsement or acceptance by the Government of Canada.

Question: CPEC ko lekar Bharat ne apni chintaayein jataai hain lekin Iran ne CPEC ko bhi welcome kiyaa hai, usmein bhagidaari ki bhi apni baat kahi hai.

(India has raised its concerns regarding CPEC but Iran has welcomed CPEC and also mentioned about participating in it.)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Dekhiye jo CPEC hai, iske baare mein main ye batana chahunga ki hamari jo position wo aap jaante hain ki wo bahut hi clear aur consistent hai. Hum pehle se hi bolte rahe hain aur pehle bhi humne share kiyaa hai ki.

(Regarding CPEC, I would like to say that our position regarding CPEC is well known to you and which is very clear and consistent. We have been saying this since beginning and we have shared it also that It should be based on universal recognized norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and quality. More importantly must be pursued in a manner which respects sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is our position, now for us to react to what others think about CPEC, I think this is something which may not be fair for me to answer. There is a stand which Indian government has taken and this is something which they can answer, I can answer on their behalf.

Question: On the Tibetan day of uprising on March 10, some Tibetan activists were prevented from marching from their settlement in Majnu ka Teela to Parliament Street, which they normally do. I also understand there were a lot of traffic diversions that day around Macron’s visit and also the International Solar Alliance but there are people who are reading into it as something else. What do you have to say, did it had anything to do with the decision by the MEA?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: The answer is very simple. I think this really should be addressed to Delhi Traffic Police. We had the ISA Summit happening on that day and I think the diversions were announced in advance. There were a lot of routes which were closed and my sense, I mean I haven’t spoken to Delhi Traffic Police but my sense is that to avoid congestion in certain parts of Delhi especially in the routes between the hotel and the venue a lot of steps were taken and it could be one of them.

Question: Uzbekistan is going to host a conference on Afghanistan later this month, who is going to represent India because it has invited India also, I have seen the logo and what are the issues India is going to raise at that conference because India has been playing a major role when it comes to Afghanistan’s peace process?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On the first part, who is going to represent India, this is something which I’ll have to check and I’ll get back to you. The issues which we raise at such forums are pretty much standard. Our position on Afghanistan which we have announced from this forum and if you following Foreign Secretary’s visit to Afghanistan a detailed press release was issued. So broadly it will be around that that we want Afghanistan to take a lead on the resolution of this conflict but specific details on the agenda also depends upon how the agenda is shaped up, what are the issues which are likely to come up which is decided by the host government and accordingly we will have a response.

Question: Is India okay with Iran’s reported offer to China and Pakistan to join the Chabahar Port development project, what is India’s reaction? Is India okay with Pak and China being onboard, as Iranians have offered?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I just answered that question. I did mention that it is actually the prerogative of the government of Iran. They have a port, who they want to do the infrastructure development etc. is up to them.

Question Contd.: But are we okay with it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I am saying that it is their prerogative.

Question: The report about the visit of the Chinese special envoy to India, if it is confirmed then at what level and when the meeting is going to take place and what would be the areas of discussion. And the way MEA and MOD have been in coordination while dealing with China in last 8 to 10 months, I am told that Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman is going to China by the end of next month. Anything being coordinated with MEA, what is going to be area, will she be meeting the Foreign Affairs minister and all?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Can you be more specific, you are talking about the Chinese special envoy, what is his name?

Question Contd.: We have read reports in media only that special Chinese envoy will be visiting India in just few days from now, this week itself.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
If I understand you correctly I think there was a visit scheduled but I think it is no longer happening now because I think there is a party congress which is going on and there has been some preoccupation with that, so that visit is not taking place.

On the visit of Minister of Defence to China, I think she herself announced that it is taking place in the context of the SCO Defence Minister’s meeting and this is something which you will have to address to her. If it is linked to EAM’s participation, there is actually a SCO Ministerial meeting which is taking place in the fourth week of April. At this stage it may not be possible for me to confirm EAM’s participation. We will of course announce it in due course.

Question: Taking forward the update on the last week’s briefing, were you able to take any investigation or enquiry about Takla’s passport case from our mission in Dubai and his filing in India?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Actually I have a long paper on the process which a person has to through when its passport is renewed but let me briefly explain to you, which I did in some form last week as well. There is a certain process which is involved when you apply for the renewal of the passport. The applicant has to fill up the form online, he has to take a print out, take it to the nearest passport issuing authority and there are certain conditions and criterion which he has to fulfill apart from the fact that he has to be a citizen of India.

The important thing to note here is that there should be nothing pending against him, the documents are all in order. When we checked what I can share with you that in this present case CGI Dubai followed the established guidelines as per the Passport Act, 1967 to renew the passport. There was no reason for CGI Dubai not to renew the passport at the time of application.

Question: ……………. Inaudible …………….

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That is what I am saying that when you apply for a passport we go by what the criterion are and what is it that has to be followed. When we followed the criterion, all the criterion were fulfilled and as long as there is nothing which is into the system which prevents us from issuing the passport, we will issue the passport. And that is what we are saying the issuing authority should have something with them to stop issuing of the passport.

Question: So are you telling me that the MEA was not given all the information that relates to Takla and all the charges against him?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I am not saying anything. You have to understand how the missions and posts abroad function. The person who accepts the application form and actually there is a three-layered process through which we vet and check the application form. Whatever had to be done according to the process was done and as I mentioned that there was nothing which could prevent CGI Dubai from the renewal of his passport.

Question: Today, in Rome there is a conference of 19 countries going on on the issue of Palestine. Funding of Palestine refugees has been stopped by USA and now 19 countries are deciding and considering how it can be met, so is India also a part of this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: It is a very good question for which I don’t have a reply at this point of time. I will find out and share it with you, I apologize that I don’t have the reply at this moment.

Thank you so much for your presence and have a good day.

(Concludes)

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