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Transcript of Press Briefing by the Official Spokesperson

June 21, 2002

Ms. Rao: Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have one press release on the appointment of Shri Yogesh Kumar Gupta, currently Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of India in Rome as the next High Commissioner of India to the Republic of Zambia in succession to Shri Ashok Attri..

The other subject on which I wish to brief you today is about the State Visit of His Majesty the King of Nepal, His Majesty Shri Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev. His Majesty the King of Nepal will arrive here on Sunday the 23rd of June evening. The ceremonial welcome will take place in the forenoon of Monday the 24th of June Following this there will be a wreath laying ceremony at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi.

His Majesty will be accompanied by Her Majesty the Queen of Nepal. The Vice President and Smt. Suman Krishan Kant will call on their Majesties. Following this the Honourable Home Minister will call on His Majesty the King. There after the External Affairs Minister Shri Jaswant Singh will call on His Majesty. This will be followed by the Prime Minister’s meeting with the King of Nepal. There after the King and the Queen of Nepal will call on Rashtrapatiji and Smt. Usha Narayanan. On Monday evening there will be a banquet hosted in the honour of their Majesties by the President and Smt. Usha Narayanan. On Tuesday there will be further meetings beginning with a call by Shri Chandrasekhar, former Prime Minister. Thereafter a call by the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, call by the Minister of Human Resource Development, call by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Tuesday afternoon there will be a business meeting with the Confederation of Indian Industry, the FICCI and the FMCC. This will be followed by lunch. Thereafter there will be call by the Minister of Defence, by the Leader of the Opposition and then that evening, the Ambassador of Nepal is hosting a reception in honour of the visiting Majesties. On Wednesday the 26th of June the former Prime Minister, Shri Narasimha Rao will be calling on His Majesty; so also will former Prime Minister Shri Gujral. There will be a farewell meeting with the President and Smt. Narayanan and thereafter their Majesties leave for Kolkatta. On arrival there will be a call by the Chief Minister of West Bengal and also a meeting with the Governor of West Bengal. On Thursday their Majesties leave for Guwahati. There they will be visiting the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati. They will meet the Governor of Assam and there will be a luncheon hosted in their honour by the Governor of Assam. They will leave for Kolkatta on Thursday the 27th evening and on Friday the 28th of June they depart for Kathmandu.

As you know we attach the highest priority to the strengthening of the traditional bonds of understanding and cooperation and friendship with Nepal. Our two countries have a very close relationship based on our geographical proximity as well as historical civilizational and cultural linkages. As our Prime Minister has affirmed we remain committed to the further development and diversification of our bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of our peoples.

This is the first visit of the Majesty the King of Nepal outside Nepal , since he ascended the throne in June last year. We have had a number of high level visits exchanged between the two countries. Our President paid a state visit to Nepal in May 1998. His late Majesty King Birendra visited India as the Chief Guest on our Republic Day in January 1999. The then Prime Minister of Nepal Mr. G.P. Koirala visited India in July- August 2000. Our External Affairs Shri Jaswant Singh paid a goodwill visit to Kathmandu in August last year when he met with the Majesty King Gyanendra and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and conveyed the continuing interest of India to strengthen and expand bilateral cooperation between our two countries. The Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Nepal from January 3-6 2002 to participate in the 11th SAARC Summit. During that visit he had bilateral meetings with King Gyanandra and Prime Minister Deuba on the margins of the Summit. Prime Minister Deuba paid an official goodwill visit to India in March this year. Of course at the official levels the Foreign Secretaries and the Home Secretaries, Commerce Secretaries and the Water Resources Secretaries and other senior officials of the Government regularly interact to review various aspects of our bilateral cooperation. Our trade treaty with Nepal has been recently renewed in March this year. We have recently completed two prestigious development projects in Nepal. The G.P. Koirala Institute for Health Sciences in Dharan and 22 bridges on the East-West Highway in Nepal. In April 2002 an agreement was reached with His Majesty’s Government for laying a 1100 Km long optical fibre cable all along the Terai which will be fully financed by India and which would significantly contribute to the telecom infrastructure of Nepal. Our cultural linkages are also supplemented by over 100 scholarships to Nepalese students which we offer annually. Both our countries are engaged in the fight against terrorism. You are aware of the Maoist violence in Nepal which the Government of India has strongly condemned and we have expressed support for the steps taken by the Nepalese Government to restore normalcy and order in the country. We are firmly of the view that multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy are the two pillars which provide the space for peaceful accommodation and resolution of differences and for political stability and economic development of Nepal. We had offered assistance that is required by Nepal in its fight against terrorism and this has included equipment and training and also bilateral intelligence cooperation. We have also deployed special security personnel along the India-Nepal border to strengthen security in the border areas of Nepal in the context of the fight against terrorism. You would also recall during his visit to Kathmandu to for the SAARC Summit this year Prime Minister had announced a grant of Nepalese Rs. 800 million over 2 years -this is about 50 crore Indian Rupees- for developmental projects in the social sectors including health, education and rural development.

Also you would have seen the interview of His Majesty the King of Nepal with Dilip Padgaonkar of the Times of India which was aired on Doordarshan yesterday.

Question: Regarding lifting of restriction on Pakistani flights over Indian airspace…and the comments of Major General Rashid Qureshi on the subject...
Answer: No, we are awaiting for an official response from the Government of Pakistan to our offer, our decision to remove the restrictions on over flights of Pakistani airlines and Pakistani civil aircraft, and we are yet to receive a response from the Government of Pakistan. I would not like to comment on the sort of comments to which you just referred. We await an official communication from the Government of Pakistan on the subject.

Question: But the Pakistan’s spokesperson have said that they have not received any notification in this regard from the Government of India?
Answer: No, I think that again there seems to be some disinformation that has been spread on this subject. Our Ministry of Civil Aviation has said very clearly that there is no notice to airmen required, no NOTAM required. There was no NOTAM issued when the restrictions were imposed on January 1st. Similarly no NOTAM is required for the removal of these restrictions. All that the Pakistani aircraft have to do is to file for clearances for flight plans as and when they decide to resume over flights. This has been veryclearly stated.

Question: (inaudible)
Answer: I think all these statements that you have referred to fall into the general class, the generic hostility that you see emanating from Pakistan and the Pakistani spokespersons on the subject. The offer we have made, the proposal we have outlined, is a genuine one and we hope Pakistan will respond to it in an appropriate manner.

Question: Would you like to comment on the Defence Minister statement that there is no infiltration?
Answer: Well, the infiltration has gone down and I think the Defence Minister clearly referred to that development. But it is still too early to take those steps which I assume you are referring to when you talk, since he said very clearly that military de-escalation is a long way off. There is still a lot of action that we expect from Pakistan in terms of dismantlement of the infrastructure of terrorism, in terms of permanent, visible, satisfactory action on the ground in response to the pledges and assurances that the Government of Pakistan has made on the subject.

Question: Is there any possibility that the leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) would be allowed to go to Pakistan?
Answer: You will have to address that question to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Question: (in Hindi) referring to a recent statement by the Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs saying there is an indigenious struggle, and no terrorism,in Kashmir..and that until India discussed the issue of Kashmir, there would be no Pakistani response to the offer of resumption of overflights) It is alleged that the policy in India is against the Muslim community and the Kashmiri have every right to Jihad?
Answer: No, the other day one of our friends asked me a similar question to the effect that Pakistan had made such statement. I think there is nothing new in what you have just mentioned just now. Pakistan refuses to formulate and to articulate a serious vision for peace and reconciliation in our region. What you see is the same tired, worn, rhetoric coming from various quarters of the Pakistani establishment. There is very little, genuine desire, an absence, I would say , of any genuine desire for dialogue, for reconciliation, for resolution of outstanding issues through consultation, through interaction between India and Pakistan.

Question: There is an allegation that Mr. Alexander Perry of Time Magazine was harassed just because he had written a controversial article on our Prime Minister?
Answer: What allegation are you talking about? Who has made this allegation? I don’t believe that there has been any harassment and as far as the investigation is concerned I would not like to comment on it. This is a subject of an investigation being conducted by the Home Ministry under whose jurisdiction the foreigner’s regional registration office functions. So you should address this question to the Home Ministry. There has been no harassment and the fact is that on that article the Government of India has issued a very strong rejoinder and we stand completely by that reaction and that rejoinder. It was an ill informed and ill-advised article and completely without foundation.

Question: Inaudible
Answer: I refused to be drawn into any discussion on that. I am here to talk about developments concerning about our foreign policy. I am not here to talk about other issues.

Question: Is the Government of India aware of the procedures as to how many passports and travel documents should foreigners…
Answer: No, I would not say that there is no awareness. I am not commenting on this specific case. I know you would like me to comment on that. But I am going to disappoint you on that account. But the Government of India is fully aware of procedures, conventions, and regulations governing the use of travel documents.

Question: There was a report yesterday that Bangladesh has handed over a list of 18 wanted persons. Can you confirm that?
Answer: I will have to check whether such a list was handed over. I am not aware of such a list but it was very clear during those discussions that both governments were fully agreed on the need for close consultation and cooperation in terms of apprehending and bringing to justice terrorists, militants, people who have violated laws of either country and that there would full cooperation between the two countries on the subject, that Bangladesh would be responding and be sensitive to India’s concerns on this subject and India would also be cognizant and responsive to Bangladesh’s concerns on this subject once full investigations have been carried out. (It was later elaborated by the Spokesperson that Bangladesh had handed over a list of 12 people who were allegedly criminals. Two of these persons had since been arrested in Dhaka itself. The Government of India would take action to locate the remaining persons whose whereabouts would need to be ascertained. The Government had cooperated with the Bangladesh Government on this issue in the past, and would do so in the future also, despite the fact that there was no extradition treaty between the two countries).

Thank You.

Press Briefing

Ministry Of External Affairs, India

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