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Transcript of Weekly Media Briefing by Official Spokesperson (December 19, 2019)

December 20, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, Namaskar, good afternoon and welcome to this weekly briefing. I have a readout on the 2+2 meeting which concluded yesterday. The Ministry level 2+2 between India and the U.S. and after that I'll open the floor to questions.

The second India-U.S. 2+2 meeting was held in Washington yesterday, 18th December. The meeting was very positive, very productive and I'm sure you must have seen the press statements by all the four principles. There were two sessions in the meeting. The first was a working session of one hour and there was another working session, working lunch of the same duration. Before the 2+2 meeting started both the Raksha Mantri and the External Affairs Minister, they had bilateral meetings with their respective counterparts. Both ministers also called on the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Apart from the 2+2 and this meeting, both ministers also had a parallel program. EAM met the U.S. National Security Adviser and he also had a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rakhsa Mantri visited Norfolk Naval Base and he also had an interaction with the Indian community. A joint statement on the meeting is going to be issued very soon perhaps later in the evening and it's a quite a substantive joint statement which includes cooperation and discussion which took place at this meeting. But just to take out few elements from the meeting, you are aware that this dialogue is a review of the cross-cutting of foreign, security and defence issues between the two countries in a relationship. The four ministers resolved that they should work together, they will work to get together to realize the full potential of India U.S. strategic global partnership but some of the highlights which I thought I will just lift from the press statements.

The first was that there was a discussion on indo-pacific including ways to leverage our respective strengths to benefit not only the two countries but also the region as a whole. Some discussion took place on how the two countries can build an enduring and mutually beneficial defense partnership. India welcomed the United States as a founding member of CDRI, a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. There was a discussion on counterterrorism cooperation as well and you will see some reference to this discussion in the joint statement. Trade and how the two countries can work together towards a balanced outcome. Cooperation in science and technology and in this context a new science and technology agreement was concluded and people-to-people contacts, you know, how you know this can be facilitated between the two countries.

On the defense side some of the discussions have been covered in the press statement by the Raksha Mantri but among the highlights are the setting up of a hot line between the Raksha Mantri and his U.S., counterpart carrying out the first tri-service exercise, setting up a link between NHQ and U.S.-Indo back home and conducting a defence policy group dialogue after a gap of five years. There was also of course discussion on the regional situation and also on how India and U.S. can work together in the multilateral fora and how the two countries can cooperate in the multilateral fora.

The meeting, as I mentioned, was very good very warm and it has set the direction for future cooperation between the two countries. So this is what I had to share on the India-U.S. 2+2 meeting. I now open the floor to questions.

Question: Sir, following the 2+2 dialogue, US State Department official said, you know commenting on the citizenship amendment act that it is a core concern of U.S. and also actually the issue of religious freedom and he said that they are concerned on the CA that they are concerned about the religious criteria and then they talked also about the fact that it is being debated and that there are protests going on in India on that and it would be reviewed by the courts. So was this issue raised my Secretary Pompeo at the 2+2 and can you tell us about the Indian response?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, as I mentioned that the 2+2 dialogue, I mean this is a review of cross-cutting issues on foreign policy, security and defense. This issue being an internal matter of India was not discussed per se in the 2+2 meeting. So that is the short response to the query which you had.

Question: Wanted to know whether if Kashmir or the Citizenship Amendment Act was raised if not at the 2+2 platform but bilaterally when they had the one-on-ones between the External Affairs Minister and his counterpart or the Raksha Mantri and his counterpart?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I'm not aware about the specifics of what was discussed in EAM’s meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but you are aware that our perspectives on the act has been shared with the U.S. interlocutors including the Congress and administration and we have highlighted the points which we have articulated in the Parliament and subsequently which has been repeatedly mentioned by the Prime Minister and Home Minister. I can only say that in the context of his meeting with the members of the Congress EAM shared our perspectives on this issue.

Question:………… Inaudible………..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, I mean look there is a difference you know when you say that whether the question was raised or not then I can say that it was not raised. If you ask me whether we shared our perspectives on this matter, then I can say yes and I also told you that at the meeting where it was our perspective was shared.

Question:………… Inaudible………….

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Yes, I mean I read out the EAM’s program and as I said that we have been sharing in the past and you know in that meeting we did share our perspective.

Question:............ Inaudible………..

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That's right, yes. That I have already mentioned, that is what I clarified.

Question:So what is the status of the third military pact?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Look, I mean now you will have to wait and there will be lot of questions on the 2+2. My earnest request is this, please hold on till the joint statement is out. There are several areas of cooperation which is mentioned in the joint statement and that will provide answers to a lot of questions which, you know, I mean I can't answer that you see. I think you will have to wait because you know we are just trying to see if that is being worked out as we speak. So in the next few hours you will have the joint statement.

Question: Pakistan is initiating moves to alter the status of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Do you have anything to say on this?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, I mean you will have to be specific I mean in what context you are asking this question? I mean can you be more specific as to how so that I can.

Question Contd.: You know, to legally integrate the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, you see I think we have seen reports that there is an order, apparently issued by the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir government where I think they have changed the nomenclature of the services to something else. Now we are we are checking this but I can only say that the changing the nomenclature does not change the fact that Pakistan is still is in illegal occupation of a territory which is a part of India.

Question: Can you confirm Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit because he's supposed to be on 21st and some of the media report says it's in Agra?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Okay, no I think I can't confirm at this stage you will have to wait. You will hear an announcement very soon.

Question: Sir Prime Minister of Portugal is here in India and he met Prime Minister also, so can you share with us what were the talks and were there any agreement signed between India and Portugal?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Well, you see you may be aware that Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa is a member of the organizing committee which was set up to celebrate 150thbirth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. That meeting just took place a while ago, he was coming to India as he was invited to attend that meeting in that context and he came here at the invitation of the Prime Minister.

Earlier today morning he had a meeting with the Prime Minister. Prime Minister thanked him first to be associated with this important occasion for all of us. Among the issues, the trade and investment, I think, was discussed and especially in the context of Make in India, Prime Minister did mention to Prime Minister Costa the opportunities which are available in India in different sectors and he urged the Portuguese companies that they should make use of the opportunities available in India including cheap labor to come and invest in India.

Some discussion also took place on the India-EU relationship and how this can be further strengthened especially in the context of the summit level meeting which takes place between India and EU. And yes there was no agreement, its a working visit, it was not a full bilateral visit. The purpose of the visit was to attend the organizing committee meeting to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Question: Pakistan ke Videsh Mantri Shah Mahmud Qureshi ka ek bayaan aaya hai ki jismein unhone jo student protest citizenship amendment act ko lekar ho rahe hain us par Police Force use par aur doosari cheezon ko club karte hue Sarkar par sawaal uthaaye hain. Isko aap kis tareeke se dekhate hain aur kya jawaab denaa chaahenge?

(There has been a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Minister in which he has raised question on Indian government regarding use of police force on student protest about Citizenship Amendment Act and clubbing other things also. How do you see it and what reply would you like to give in this regard?)

Question: It's not so much at Pakistan as it is on Afghanistan and Bangladesh, as India explained what has happened actually I mean what this bill entails and what has their response been like because it kind of also shows that these countries I mean it kind of raises questions on their secularity, they're dealing with minorities, so you know all the optics don't look too good for them.

Question: There is a delegation from Afghanistan, a delegation of six from Afghanistan here and they're meeting political leaders so is the MEA organizing it or they're here on their own and also I mean are we encouraging these communities to migrate to India?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I'm not aware about this visit so I'm not sure in what capacity MEA is involved. I mean I would have known if they were being organized by us you know.

On the statement made by the Pakistani Foreign Minister on the protests, you know I mean I have repeatedly we have been telling them not only about the statements by the foreign minister but also by the Prime Minister of Pakistan that they should look inward and not try to meddle into what is happening in a neighboring country. They should, and as we have repeatedly said that they should start behaving like a normal neighbor I think. If you look at what is going on in the country and there are a lot of things which are happening I think it is something which they should keep in mind before they can point fingers at other countries.

on the prevailing situation you know, I can just refer to Prime Minister's appeal for peace unity and brotherhood. We would also like to point out and there have been statements which have been made by some other organizations as well that our democracy and other institutions in the country they are well equipped to deal with any differences of opinion in a peaceful manner. I do not think that any external agency has any locus standi to comment on a matter which is completely internal to India.

On Bangladesh and Afghanistan, you see I think last time I did answer the question last time on both Bangladesh and Afghanistan but I can repeat. There have been comments about you know some of the meetings etc. being postponed, cancelled with Bangladesh. We have to understand that with Bangladesh there are over 75, over 75 dialogue mechanisms which are taking place and dates are decided through mutual consultation. Our understanding is a relationship which is as close as between our two countries should not be defined in terms of a postponement of a visit here and there. In any case Bangladesh has explained the reasons for such visits you know why it has been postponed.

In fact there is a statement by the Bangladeshi foreign minister where he has also mentioned why the Joint Water Commission was postponed and he essentially says that they did not have the data with them from the six rivers and therefore the discussion which could have taken place may not bear fruit. Again I would like to reiterate that you know what is happening and this is something which has been understood by Bangladesh, what is happening within India is an internal matter and we enjoy excellent relationship with Bangladesh. We are keen and both countries are actually keen to work together to further deepen our partnership in the future and we are very successful in our efforts in strengthening the relationship. I don't think much should be read into some of the isolated incidents of rescheduling for meetings which are taking place than what appears to us as the very obvious.

On Afghanistan, you see we have and especially in the context of a statement which came out from their side especially when we spoke about the minorities, we said that we didn't say that religious persecution is taking place under the present, the current government of Afghanistan.

What we have said and this has been explained by our Home Minister as well is that during the previous Mujahideen and Taliban regimes, religious minorities were deliberately victimized on the basis of religion in 2001 and we are all aware of that. Taliban issued a call to these people either to convert to Islam or leave the country. We are also aware that the current government has substantially addressed the concerns of the minorities as per their constitutional provisions and laws.

Question: Bangladesh ke mantri ka yeh bayaan bhi saamane aayaa thaa ki agar Bharat mein koi avaidh roop se Bangladeshi rah rahaa hai to Bharat Sarkar hamein list de hum unko waapis lene par vichaar karenge. To kya officially taur par Bangladesh ne koi approach kiya hai is list ko lekar aur kya Bharat ke pass aisi koi list hai Bangladeshiyon kii?

(Statement from a Bangladesh minister also came in light in which he has said if there are any Bangladeshi nationals which are staying illegally in India then Indian government should give us the list and we will think about taking them back. So has Bangladesh approached us officially regarding this list and does India has any such list?)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Nahi, dekhiye aapko pataa honaa chaahiye ki jo repatriation hai illegal nationals kaa, ye Bangladesh kii baat nahii hai, ye kisii bhi desh mein agar aap ye bataate hai koi national illegal hai aur jis country ke wo national hain wo maan jaate hain ki hamaare national hai to fir praavdhaan hai aur ye pahle se chalaa aa rahaa hai Bharat aur Bangladesh ke beech mei koi naii baat nahi hai.

Agar hamaare pass list hoti hai to hum share karte hain aur agar wo bataate hain ki ye hamaare national hain, to pichhale saalon mein ye chalta rahaa hai ye koii nahi baat nahi hai, to aisa provision hai dono desho ke beech mein agar koi prove ho jataa hai to wo wapis Bangladesh jaate hain aur is cooperation ke liye frankly hum log Bangladesh Sarkar ko bahut-bahut dhanyawaad dete hain ki inhone jab bhi aisa mauka milaa hai to is silsile mein unhone hamaari madad bhii kii hai.

(No, you should be aware that the repatriation of illegal nationals, and it is not just the case of Bangladesh, if you tell any country that you have illegal nationals of their country in your country and if that country agrees that these are their nationals then this provision exists and this has been there since long and it is not a new thing between India and Bangladesh.

If we have such a list we share with them and if they confirm that yes these are their nationals and it has been going since last many years and this is nothing new. So if it is proved then these people go back to Bangladesh and frankly for this cooperation we are very thankful to the Bangladesh Government that whenever such a situation arose they have helped us in this regard.)

Question: Thank You Mr. Kumar. I met two days back in Jamia, absolutely petrified foreign students, virtually fleeing the campus and two of them were Afghan nationals who said that they come from war torn country but they've never been so scared. While I understand there is a Dean Student Welfare in Jamia that addresses such questions, such issues. Have the missions here got in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs to ensure the safety of their students or have you given them some assurance?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see, I think this is of course what you were referring to is a law and order problem and I think the law enforcement agencies are trying their best to address the situation. If we do get such communication officially from the government then we will have to see what is to be done about it but at this stage I am not aware of any such request having come to us.

Question: This is about the postponed visit of Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Abe. First, what are the exact reasons the visit was postponed and second is that, given it is a bilateral mechanism, the annual summit, just to understand, is there any alternative venues that were discussed or could we have accommodated it somewhere else other than Guwahati?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This is passed now and I don't think I'm again going to open what I shared last week. I did mention that the visit is not taking place and I think as and when we have the future date we will announce that to you. I can only share with you that both India and Japan are in touch with each other and trying to work out a mutually convenient date and as and when these days are finalized I'll share that with you.

Question: How hopeful you are that Kashmir won't be raised at multilateral forum because we have seen that UNSC there is one country which has been trying to raise it, not once but last week will be saw again the country tried to do so.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Hopeful, that's a very difficult question. The whole world moves on hope, but I must explain that as I have said in the past that our position on developments related to 370, that is something which is now known to the international community. I think we have explained to them, we have told them that this is an internal matter of India and we have also explained the reasons why this has been done and that outreach continues. We have explained and as and when there have been statements you know we have also reacted to those statements. So we do hope and expect that the rationale of the developments related to Article 370 has reached out to the international community and also to multilateral organizations.

Question: Our rationale also for this Citizenship Amendment Act, was that the percentage of minorities in Pakistan came down from 23 percent in 1947 to abysmal about perhaps 2 or 3 percent now and this was also mentioned by the Home Minister recently. But Pakistan has issued a formal statement from Islamabad yesterday in which they say that these figures are totally false and it was never 23% and this has been taken from the 1941 census and it does not take into account the migration that took place the time of partition. So do you have an official response because we have always been maintaining that from 23% it came down to 2 or 3% and so this itself is proof of the way they have treated their minorities but in the light of the fact that they have disputed these statistics?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: A statement which is made in the parliament by the Home Minister, I mean is that not an official response. Now you are trying to kind of put the statement of the Home Minister made in the parliament to something which is being mentioned by Pakistan. I don't think I need to answer that question.

Question:UNICEF chief has also raised the issue of CAA and she has expressed concern especially for women and children and urging that the voice of the children should be heard, what you say?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think on the second part, on the prevailing situation I did answer and in fact when I answered that question I included the statements made by several one or two other organizations. On the CAA itself, the views of the government of India has been articulated very clearly in a parliamentary debate. Since then there have been several statements from the Prime Minister and also the Home Minister. And again I mean I can go into the details, I mean I can say that it is a matter internal to India it does not seek to strip citizenship from any Indian citizen of any faith that provides expedited consideration for an Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities already in India from three countries. It is an affirmative action and this is something which we have as I said which we have shared our perspectives with international community on this matter.

Question: Recently we got a news that China tried to push Kashmir issue for discussion in United Nations Security Council and later it was withdrawn. So did you contact Chinese about it and what was the situation, new situation that China tried to raise it and how they retrieve it?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: We understand that a request was made by one country to have consultations on 17th December. This request was subsequently withdrawn. No discussion on any aspect of India Pakistan relationship was discussed among member states of the UNSC on 17th of December.

Question:……………..Inaudible………… we have spoken to them what kind of response have we got in return?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: No, look by enlarge our understanding is that countries across the world they have understood that the Citizenship Amendment Act is a matter which is completely intended to India and they have also understood the rationale and the logic behind this decision and they have also understood that it is not discriminatory, that it is an affirmative action, so this is something which has gone out to them and the effort and outreach will continue.

Question:Regarding Afghanistan and Bangladesh, you said persecution happened in the past and the current regime is substantially doing good job. What about Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Pakistan is very clear I think, the persecution continues you see. The fact that I left Pakistan out it makes it very clear that there is a religious persecution in Pakistan, they have an international obligation to look after the co-religionist and the minorities which are in their country because they don't look after.

Thank you. I don't see any other hand. This concludes this weekly briefing. Thank you all for joining.

(Concludes)
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