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Transcript of Press Briefing by the Official Spokesperson

February 18, 2002

Ms. Rao: Good Afternoon

We have a few press notes on new appointments,

Shri Himachal Som, currently Additional Secretary and Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi, has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to Italy, in succession to Shri Siddharth Singh.

He is expected to take up his assignment shortly.

Shri Vidya Sagar Verma, currently Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, in succession to Dr. S.R. Hashim.

He is expected to take up his assignment shortly.

Shri Bhaskar Kumar Mitra, currently Ambassador of India to Uzbekistan, has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to Bahrain, in succession to Shri S.S. Gill.

He is expected to take up his assignment shortly.

Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, currently Deputy High Commissioner of India in London, has been appointed as the next Ambassador/Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, in succession to Kumari Savitri Kunadi.

He is expected to take up his assignment shortly.

Kum. Savitri Kunadi, currently Ambassador/Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to France, in succession to Shri Kanwal Sibal.

She is expected to take up her assignment shortly.

There are some more press releases on the Maoist Violence in Nepal, the training programme organized by the Foreign Service Institute for 20 Afghan diplomats and on the meeting between the Minister of State for External Affairs Shri Omar Abdullah and the African Group of Ambassadors in New Delhi.

India views the violent and unprecedented attacks by Maoists in the western District of Archham in Nepal yesterday, in which over a hundred lives of soldiers, security men and innocent civilians have been lost - with grave concern.

We strongly condemn and express our deep regret at this senseless violence committed by the perpetrators of the crime. We urge the misguided to suspend this mindless mayhem. It has benefited none but harmed many.

India also conveys its sincere condolences to the bereaved families of the deceased and extends its full support to Nepal in its efforts to restore peace and order in the country.

At the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Afghanistan, the Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of External Affairs is organizing a special programme for 20 Afghan diplomats under the Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation programme. The three-month course was inaugurated this afternoon at the United Services Institute, Rao Tula Ram Marg, New Delhi by Shri Dilip Mehta, Secretary to Government of India and Dean of the Foreign Service Institute.

The programme will focus on imparting professional skills and will include a computer course,special English language classes, lectures on Diplomacy & international relations and interactive workshops. This programme is part of Government of India's assistance to meet the humanitarian, reconstruction and rehabilitation needs of Afghanistan.

Shri Omar Abdullah, Minister of State for External Affairs today received a delegation representing the African Group of Ambassadors in New Delhi.

The delegation was led by the Ambassador of Senegal, H.E. Mr. Ahmed El Mansour Diop, the Dean of the Diplomatic and African Corps, and included Ambassador of Sudan, H.E. Mr. Abdal Mahmood Abdalhaleem Mohammad, Coordinator of the Group. The senior resident Ambassadors from the regions of Africa were also present including H.E. Mr. K. Ahmed, Ambassador of Nigeria on behalf of Western Africa, H.E. Mr. Mr. Joel Kaapanda, High Commissioner of Namibia on behalf of Southern Africa, H.E. Dr. Ahmed K.M. Kiwanuka, High Commissioner of Tanzania on behalf of Eastern Africa, and Mr. Gaspard Nyilinkindi, CdA of Rwanda on behalf of Central Africa.

The envoys handed over to Shri Omar Abdullah document pertaining to "The New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (NEPAD). They said this was the first initiative by the African Group to hand over such a document through a representative delegation in a potential partner country. This was being done in view of the long-standing and abiding relationship between India and the countries of the African continent.

In view of the steady development of cooperation and the consistent support that Africa has enjoyed from India, they look forward to enhancing that cooperation by presenting their vision of Africa for the future through this document.

Shri Omar Abdullah said that the Government was having a focussed approach towards Africa and a plan for implementation of cooperation has been reviewed and was under implementation. The Government of India would study the vision for the future contained in the NEPAD document and would endeavour to establish synergy and act on complementarity where it existed so that our continuing cooperation could be made more relevant and durable.

General Richard Myers, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has been here today and he met the External Affairs Minister Shri Jaswant Singh and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Mr. Brajesh Mishra this morning and he had a meeting with the Defence Secretary this afternoon. General Myers has completed his meetings in Delhi.

As you know the two Executive Steering Group Meetings between India and the United States on the Navy and Army have been completed earlier this month and the Air Force Executive Steering Group Meeting is taking place in Hawaii from today. You will recall that the Defence Policy Group (DPG) Meeting took place in early December and these meeting are offshoots to that interaction. The pace of progress in this field has been satisfactory and indeed a new chapter has opened in military-to-military cooperation between India and the United States. It is understood that such cooperation will also include, at the military-to-military level – unit level exercises involving the three services, it will include cooperation on counter terrorism and there is also to be an exchange of net assessment, which is essentially a strategic assessment of the security environment of the two parties in this case, India and the United States. From the US side, these discussions which are scheduled to take place in Washington in early April, will be headed by Andrew Marshall, A Director of Net Assessment and from our side it is going to be headed by the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff General Joshi. Thereafter the next meeting of the DPG will take place in May. Back to back with this meeting there will be a further round of net assessment talks at that time.

Question: Any other detail on General Myers’s visit?
Answer: I have given you all the details. This is a cooperation that is progressing very satisfactorily and there has been a heightened level of interaction between the two sides especially in recent months, particularly since the reconvening of the DPG which as you know was meeting after an interval of six years because the last meeting of the DPG was held in the year 1995. Since then we have had the Executive Steering Group Meetings and now the visit of General Myers and as you know General Shelton was here in July last year.

Question: Was the issue of civilian cooperation in terrorism discussed?
Answer: No this is military-to-military. We are talking about defence level interactions. The Joint Working Group on counter terrorism, as you know is a separate structure.

Question: Can you throw some more light on the net assessment?
Answer: As I mentioned it is the assessment of the strategic and security environment of the countries.

Question: On the Afghan trainees,is it for the first time we are organizing such a training programme?
Answer: I believe it’s the first time an exclusive training programme is being organized for one group of diplomats from one country.

Question: Has such course has been organized in the past for any other country?
Answer: No, I don’t believe so. But of course we have had two or three diplomats from a given country participating in such courses in the past also. But this is an exclusive, dedicated training programme.

Question: General Musharraf has said that Pakistan would take no action on the list of 20 criminals? Any comments.
Answer: Well, all I would like to say is that we still await action from Pakistan on that list and we are looking for action from Pakistan in that regard. We still haven’t received a satisfactory response.

Question: But General Musharraf has ruled out any action on the list of 20 criminals?
Answer: Well, we don’t conduct foreign policy through the media. At least we in India don’t certainly do that. As I have said our point of view has been stated very clearly and unambiguously and action is awaited from Pakistan on that list of 20.

Question: Details on the meeting of EAM and General Myers today?
Answer: Well, they spoke about the situation in the region, they reviewed defence cooperation and as you know they have met in the past. Actually EAM has met General Myers when he met Secretary Rumsfeld in Washington, with General Myers also participating in those discussions. So they have been interacting on past occasions also. Today’s meeting was a continuation of those exchanges.

Question: Do you plan to organize such training programmes for Afghanistan even in the future or is this is one time programme?
Answer: Well our commitment to human resource development and capacity building in Afghanistan based on the requirements of the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan is there and I assume even in the future also we will undertake such capacity building based on their requirements.

Question: Is there any civilian participation as well in the talks with Gen. Myers?
Answer: Well there are officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defence on both sides who are involved in it. There are both military and civilian officials who participate in these discussions and as far as defence cooperation, military-to-military exercises are concerned obviously this involves defence and military-military personnel. When it comes to counter terrorism I assume there will be specific civilian component.

Question: There is a news report that Omar Sheikh had confessed that he had a hand in Parliament attack and also revealed the names of those five terrorists who were killed in that attack? Any comment on that.
Answer: I have seen the same report that you have and I don’t want to comment on what is stated in the news report because often matters of this sort are best not discussed through the media. All I can say on this is that this individual, Omar Sheikh, is a known terrorist and he was imprisoned in India for many years on terrorist crime charges and that’s all I can say on that.

Question: Is there any official contact on his interrogations?
Answer: No. There has been no official contact.

Question: Any response to the Maoist attacks in Nepal?
Answer: I will get back to you on that if there is any further development on that. Of course Prime Minister had spoken to the Nepalese Prime Minister on the 14 February and expressed support for Nepal in the current difficult circumstances and as you know India has consistently opposed the use of violence for gaining political or ideological objectives and believes changes can only be achieved or brought about through peaceful and democratic means.

Question: Are we concerned about the situation in Nepal now?
Answer: As I said we have expressed our support for the Government of Nepal in the current difficult circumstances and we are against the use of violence for political or ideological objectives. That expresses our position. We will continue to support the Government of Nepal in the steps taken by it to maintain peace and security in the country.

In response to a taken question regarding India’s view on President Bush’s policy statement on environmental protection and global climate change, the Spokesperson said, developing countries like India require strong economic growth to improve the quality of life of their people, which in turn has a salutary effect on environment and to invest in clean technologies, energy efficiency and increased conservation.

India welcomes therefore, U.S. President George Bush’s policy statement on 14th February on U.S. Government’s approach to environmental protection and global climate change. India shares the view about the links between economic growth, prosperity and environmental protection.

President Bush’s emphasis on capacity building through cooperation, rather than imposing impractical and unrealistic targets on developing countries, is a realistic assessment. That is why we welcome his commitment to assist developing countries in building prosperity in an environmentally sustainable manner.

We believe that it is not the aggregate national values, but the per capita level, which correctly defines a country’s contribution to the global greenhouse gas emissions. India’s per capita GHG emission is very low compared to developed countries. Nevertheless, we are fulfilling the commitments that we have accepted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and we will continue to work with the international community on this issue. India’s pursuit of strong economic growth recognizes the need for increasing energy efficiency and using cleaner energy, which is demonstrated in our efforts at diversifying energy sources, including renewable energy and nuclear energy, and promoting energy conservation and clean technology.

India-U.S. cooperation in clean energy and environment has deepened in recent years. During their meeting in Washington D.C. in November 2001, Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Bush imparted a strong momentum to it by establishing high level institutional dialogues on energy and environment. Minister of Environment and Forest T.R. Baalu and the Administrator of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency Ms. Christine Todd Whitman signed a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2002 in New Delhi to further advance bilateral cooperation in environment. Government looks forward to a mutually beneficial cooperation with the United States in developing clean sources and efficient use of energy in the country.

Thank you.

Press Briefing

Ministry Of External Affairs, India

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