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Transcript of Press Briefing by the Official Spokesperson

September 19, 2002

Ms. Rao: Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have two press releases.

Smt. Primrose Sharma, currently Consul General of India in Johannesburg (South Africa) has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Republic of Panama, in succession to Shri Tara Singh.

She is expected to take up her assignment shortly.

The other release refers to the registration of Association for Haj Tour Operators.

Registration of Association for Haj Tour Operators.

The Government of Saudi Arabia has notified that only registered Private Tour Operators (PTOs) involved in the Haj pilgrimage with Government of India will be eligible for grant of (Group) Haj visas subject to fulfilment of other conditions that may be laid down by the concerned Saudi authorities. Non-registered PTOs will not be eligible for applying for the Group Haj Visas.

In order to meet this requirement, applications for registration are invited by the Ministry of External Affairs from the well-established and reputed PTOs involved in Haj pilgrimage and their Associations who fulfil the following conditions.

For Registration of Association of Haj Tour Operators who will be responsible for their Members.

  • The Association should have at least 10 members with minimum annual turn over of Rs 25 Lakhs of each member, and it should have been in existence for last two years.
  • The Association should provide following to establish its bonafides:
    1. A copy of the registration certification of the Association under the Societies Act with the Registrar of Societies/Companies.
    2. A copy of Memorandum and Articles of the Association;
    3. Income-Tax "PAN” number of the Association and copies of Income Tax Clearance Certificate for last two years;
    4. A list of members of the Association; and
    5. Copies of audited accounts of the Association for last two years.
  • Steps to be taken by the Association to take care of pilgrims, in case left stranded by their members in Saudi Arabia and financial means to defray such expenses.
  • The Association will give undertaking to provide full information about the pilgrims being sent by their members as needed by Consulate General of India (CGI), Jeddah/MEA in a floppy in the prescribed format before departure of pilgrims.

    Once the Association is recognised then all their members can be registered on receipt of a certificate of membership and guarantee given by the Association for the good behaviour of its members. The Association will also provide proof of establishment and number of Haj pilgrims sent in previous three Haj Season by each member of the Association. If the Association fails to fulfil their assurance given above in 3 & 4, Ministry of External Affairs reserves the right to blacklist the Association for a period deemed fit by the Ministry.

    For registration of individual Private Tour Operators involved in Haj pilgrimage who are not Member of any registered Association
  • PTO should establish that it is a genuine and established Tour Operator for which it should produce:
    1. A Certified copy of Proof of Registration of Business by a Chartered Accountant. The firm/company should have been in business for the last three years.
    2. Proof of establishment. (Show Telephone bills/Electricity bills/Rental Receipts/Registration papers of the property) & number of years in business.
    3. Income Tax ‘PAN’ Number and copies of Income Tax Clearance certificates of previous three years i.e. 1998-99/1999-2000/2000-01.
    4. Certified copy of Accounts/Balance sheet of the firm/company duly audited & certified by a Chartered Accountant for previous three years i.e. 1998-99/1999-2000/2000-01.
    5. The PTO should have minimum annual turnover of Rs 25 lakhs.
    6. Number of pilgrims sent during last three Haj seasons.
  • The PTO has to give undertaking to provide full information about its pilgrims as needed by the CGI, Jeddah/MEA in a floppy in a format to be prescribed later.
  • The PTO must give an undertaking that it will ensure that none of its pilgrims will be left stranded and they would be responsible for the stay, transportation and payment of compulsory charges to Saudi Authorities and honour all terms of Agreement/contract they would sign with the pilgrims.
  • The PTO should forward copy of a model contract/Agreement clearly indicating the services to be provided to the pilgrim and cost to be paid by the pilgrim.

If a PTO fails to fulfil its assurance given above in 2,3 & 4, Ministry of External Affairs reserves the right to blacklist the PTO for a period deemed fit by the Ministry.

The applications on plain paper accompanied with all the requisite documents must reach The Executive Officer, Haj Committee (India) by October 10, 2002 at the following address: -

Executive Officer, Haj Committee (India),
Haj House, 7-A, M. R. A. Marg, Mumbai – 400 001.
Tel no. (022) 2670183, 261 2989
Fax no.(022) 263 0461

Question: Any reaction to Iraq welcoming UN weapons inspection?
Answer: India is vitally interested in the peace and prosperity of Gulf region and has therefore always supported efforts to defuse the crisis relating to Iraq. India, therefore, welcomes the decision of the Iraqi Government to allow the UN Weapons Inspectors to Iraq without conditions. India has repeatedly called for lifting of sanctions in tandem with Iraqi compliance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

Question: Has there been any request by Norway for transit facility for Mr. Balasingham?
Answer: I have absolutely no information on that.

Ms Rao: Mr. Eric Solheim the Special Advisor to the Norwegian Foreign Minister is coming to Delhi tomorrow. This is part of the close consultations that we have had with the Norwegian facilitator. He will be meeting the Foreign Secretary.

Question: Would you like to comment on the first round of talks of the Sri Lankan Peace Process in Thailand?
Answer: Well, the first round has ended with some progress on some important issues like the resettlement of some displaced persons and the Government of India has always extended support to the peace process in Sri Lanka, to the peaceful resolution of differences between the two sides involved in these discussions and in these negotiations and let me reiterate once again our three fold commitment to the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka and to the peaceful negotiated settlement between the two sides involved in this peace process, a settlement that meets the aspirations of all elements involved in the Sri Lankan population.

Question: The LTTE has also given up their demand for an independent state?
Answer: I would not like to comment on that. That was a statement made by one of the interlocutors Mr. Balasingham in response to a question. We would not like to comment on that. This is an ongoing discussion, ongoing negotiation and consultation and it is premature for anyone to comment on that.

Let me also say this is for your background information. The constitutional issues do not appear to have been discussed in the first round. But let me once reiterate that we want the peace process to go well, obviously every responsible member of the international community is committed to see the restoration of peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We support this ongoing process.

Of course you could see from the press release issued by the Norwegians that the parties have agreed to a continuing rounds of negotiations and the next three rounds of negotiation will take place in October, November and December this year and the immediate priorities of the parties concerned from the first round is stepping up of humanitarian mine action and accelerating resettlement and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons.

Question: Any comments on the US Ambassador comments on infiltration?
Answer: Well, our External Affairs Minister has also been quoted, I saw that on PTI, on the subject to that effect that we have been saying all along that infiltration continues to take place, that elements that are infiltrating into Jammu and Kashmir continue to receive support, equipment, sustenance from the entire infrastructure of terrorism on territory controlled by Pakistan and there has been no change in that situation. Obviously pledges and commitments made by the leaders of Pakistan in this regard remain unfulfilled and support for violence, support for terrorist activity continues.

Question: He also said that the first phase of elections has taken place well and if the rest goes well dialogue between India and Pakistan could resume?
Answer: We have said very clearly that the question of resumption of dialogue with Pakistan will only arise once we see satisfactory and wholesome fulfilment of the commitment made by Pakistan to end infiltration and to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, the launching pads, the communication centres, the life support that Pakistan provides to terrorism must be culminated and the conditions for the resumption of dialogue could be created only once these conditions are fulfilled and we have also stated that the response or the attitude of Pakistan during the run up and the conduct of elections in Jammu and Kashmir in terms of whether or not Pakistan will cease support to terrorist groups which inflict violence, which continue to kill innocent people in Jammu and Kashmir, kill candidates who are committed to the democratic process there, we will have to see how Pakistan behaves and how Pakistan’s attitude plays out at this crucial time. Because that really will be the linchpin that will really be the test of Pakistan’s intentions.

Ms. Rao: I also wanted to inform you that tomorrow at 5.00 p.m there will be a briefing by the Foreign Secretary on Prime Minister’s visit to the Maldives.

Question:
Answer: Well, our External Affairs Minister attended the high-level adhoc meeting on Afghanistan last week in the UN and the question of reconstruction, rehabilitation and the security situation in Afghanistan was discussed. We had the P5 members there and the neighbouring countries in Central Asia, we had Pakistan, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Iran in addition to India. They were all there in the meeting. Of course Prime Minister met President Hamid Karzai. They had a very constructive, cordial discussion. Our involvement in the reconstruction of Afghanistan is centred on a number of areas whether it is rehabilitation of mine victims, whether it is involvement in health sector, we are involved agriculture sector, training of diplomats, police forces. We have a whole menu of activities which we are involved in and it is now a question of intensifying our involvement to all that we are completely committed to doing in the field of reconstruction and rehabilitation and in that context of course the security situation in Afghanistan and the improvement of security situation will certainly help push these activities forward and that concerns all the countries involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Thank you.


Press Briefing

Ministry Of External Affairs, India

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