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Transcript of media briefing by Official Spokesperson (July 3, 2013)

July 03, 2013

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon everyone and thank you very much for coming here for this interaction. I hate to disappoint you all, but I will today by saying that I have nothing to say. However, if any of you have anything to ask me on anything, I will be willing to respond.

Sir, has the External Affairs Minister said that India is alright with talks with Taliban, that is the US talking to Taliban, as far as the Afghan reconciliation is concerned? And are there no concerns for India because a part of the Taliban team would also include Haqqani Network?

Official Spokesperson: What I would suggest is that the statement by the External Affairs Minister is put on the website of the Ministry of External Affairs and this can be seen.

As regards our approach to the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, let me try and encapsulate it for your benefit. We do understand the need for reconciliation in Afghanistan, and we have said it repeatedly that we would welcome any efforts towards reconciliation and this reconciliation should include all Afghan parties, it should be Afghan led and Afghan controlled.

Also we have said that as far as we are concerned this reconciliation process should involve following what are known as the red lines which have been agreed to between Afghanistan and the international community. These redlines, if you would like me to reiterate, are: the process should be transparent, Afghan led, inclusive; it should include those who are ready to abjure violence; and we would be willing to accept that it includes all Afghan parties including those who are currently out of the mainstream but wish to abjure violence and join the mainstream, and this includes the Taliban.

Question: Some Indians were killed in Afghanistan in Kabul. Is there anything on that as yet?

Official Spokesperson: I do regret to inform you that yesterday morning in the course of an attack on a housing compound in Kabul which housed foreigners, three Indian nationals were killed. The three were: (1) Mr. Gilaji Sandeep who was working as a waiter, he is from Andhra Pradesh, (2) Mr. Chakraborty Kaushik, who was a laundry manager, he is from West Bengal, and (3) Mr. Gurudi Naveen Kumar, who was the front office manager also from Andhra Pradesh. These were among the more than 50 Indian nationals who were working there through a contractor. They were providing various services at the housing compound. Our Embassy is in touch with their employer to try and assist them in completing the legal formalities and the medical formalities before they repatriate the dead bodies back to their hometowns. The rest of the Indian nationals are safe but obviously shocked by the attack.

Question: I just wanted to ask you on the Snowden story. On the day that the story initially broke you gave a very strong statement saying that if there is any violation of Indian privacy laws, it would be unacceptable. But we heard the Foreign Minister yesterday say that this is not snooping, that this is scrutiny. He seemed to be taking a different stand from the initial MEA reaction. So, what is the Government of India’s position on this? Has it been diluted? It seems that the Foreign Minister is justifying the American snooping.

Official Spokesperson: All those adjectives you use in terms of describing the External Affairs Minister are yours. I do not think he used any of those words in terms of justification, dilution, etc. Our view remains what we have said previously that we were concerned at these reports, also that this would be taken up.

The External Affairs Minister was only elaborating about his discussion with the US Secretary of State during their last meeting. Also we had indicated to you that these are technical issues and need to be discussed in a technical forum, and we had indicated to you that the Cyber Security Dialogue was the forum for discussion of these. That remains our position. I hope I have been able to clarify that.

Question: Just a follow up to that question. There are reports that Indian Embassy in Washington was also under NSA surveillance. Have you verified the authenticity of the reports and any response to that?

Official Spokesperson: First let me put a caveat. While this is a follow up to Nidhi’s question, this is a separate issue. The issue that Nidhi was talking of was in terms of the metatext and assessment of metatext by US agencies, which is a different issue, and that was what was the response that we gave previously, and that was also the issue that the External Affairs Minister was responding to in terms of his discussions with Secretary Kerry.

Now as regards the media reports that you are mentioning about, this is a separate issue about our Embassy. Yes, we have seen and studied the media reports of our Embassy in Washington being amongst a list of diplomatic missions which were intrusively monitored by US agencies. Obviously, we are concerned at such disconcerting reports and we will certainly raise with US authorities these serious allegations.

Question: Antony is visiting China. This is important considering that he will be the first Defence Minister in seven years to visit China. What is his diplomatic brief and what are the MEA inputs?

Official Spokesperson: I think we have been through this before. (a) It is not the norm or the approach that we follow in trying to tell you what are the intra-governmental inputs that are provided. (b) I do appreciate your interest in matters relating to the defence, but there is a full-fledged Division there that can respond to the specifics that you would like to be responded to. I certainly am not responsible for the functioning of that Department.

Question: Can you tell us something about Basil Rajapaksa’s upcoming visit tomorrow? What is he going to do and who is he going to meet? And are you going to be able to say something about Mr. Menon’s visit to Colombo?

Official Spokesperson: You are aware that India and Sri Lanka have regular high-level consultations, and the visit of Mr. Basil Rajapaksa comes in that context. He is likely to have meetings here in Delhi. This is a work in progress, but he certainly will meet the External Affairs Minister among others.

As regards what he will discuss, you know my answer to that but you still have ventured to probe me on that matter and I will desist from falling for that bait. It is our usual practice that we respond at the outcome of the discussions rather than prejudge what they will discuss.

As regards any other visit, if they deal with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I will respond. But you have referred to a visit other than by the Ministry of External Affairs and my answer to that remains what I told Rajiv, which is that my limited ambit of discussion is either matters relating to the Ministry of External Affairs, or the visits of the Prime Minister of India, or the Vice-President and President. These are the areas information about which twe in the External Publicity Division are responsible for disseminating. So, I would beg your pardon that I will not be able to respond to those specifics that you are asking about other visits.

Question: Will Mr. Rajapaksa call on the Prime Minister?

Official Spokesperson: As I said, I can confirm the meeting with the External Affairs Minister. The rest of his programme is still evolving. Should we have such a meeting, we will certainly let you know. At this stage I can confirm to you the meeting with the External Affairs Minister.

Question: Sir, it has been reported that Russia offered assistance in disaster management in Uttarakhand rescue and relief but this was declined by India. Your comments please.

Official Spokesperson: As you know, as a general policy in case of rescue and relief operations we have followed the practice that we have adequate ability to respond to emergency requirements. And for a variety of reasons we have not also in the past too, unless there are specific circumstances, been able to accept offers of assistance for rescue and relief.

However, as you know, such events are cataclysmic in nature and they have a longer term impact. So, beyond the rescue and relief phase there are other phases. These are rehabilitation, reconstruction, and so on. If reconstruction and other measures are provided for those elements, we will examine how they fit into the broader plan in terms of rehabilitation and reconstruction in the region and take a call at that stage rather than say that this was for all times, etc. I hope I have clarified our position on that.

Question: This is regarding the Italian Marines. Today is the 90 days of the beginning of the investigation of NIA. According to some speculation there are some obstacles regarding the Italian witness. I would like to know if there are any updates, and if the 90 days are mandatory or not for the investigation?

Official Spokesperson: Maria, frankly I must confess that for once I am not able to respond to your questions because again this is a complex matter which deals with several parts of our executive as well as judiciary. Now whether certain dates are mandatory or not is for the judiciary to take a call on.

As to whether there are some shortcomings or inability of any witnesses to come, I suggest you need to contact those who are in a position to make those witnesses come, and that in this case is the Italian Government. After all those witnesses etc., may also be employees of that Government and it is easier for them to facilitate that. We can only make those requests.

Let me reiterate, it is always our desire to try and quickly resolve this case which is unique in nature. It issui generis.We do not want this to impinge on other aspects of our relationship. We stand ready to work with Italy to try and facilitate in a manner which is possible under our judicial system so that an outcome which is judicially determined is arrived at at the earliest.

Question: Sir, this meeting between Sartaj Aziz and Salman Khurshid in Brunei, was it decided that India would resume the format of Composite Dialogue process with Pakistan?

Official Spokesperson: I do not know where you heard this. What is available as an outcome of that dialogue is available in terms of the statements made by both the External Affairs Minister and by Mr. Sartaj Aziz there. A video is available, you could have a look.

As far as we are concerned, we are awaiting the dates for different aspects of the resumed dialogue, and that is the dialogue that we have been pursuing so far. I do not know of anything else that you are saying about because what is on the table is the continuation of the resumed dialogue because, as you perhaps are aware, the resumed dialogue started immediately in September 2012. That was the third round of the resumed dialogue. It began with the meetings of the Commerce Secretaries.

Subsequent to that there were meetings which were scheduled relating to the Tulbul Navigation Project and the Wullar Barrage. That did not take place. That was perhaps to be in early February and they could not be at that time be pursued because we had indicated that our lead negotiator in that was unable to continue because he was retiring end of the month in January. Therefore, we had requested for fresh dates. Those were the only two elements of the resumed dialogue that were agreed on. There remain other elements of the resumed dialogue where we now have to work on dates, and that is the issue that is being discussed and focused on.

Question: A few countries have issued travel advisories for Egypt. Are we concerned about our citizens in the country and have we had any discussions with the Government over the Constitutional crisis?

Official Spokesperson: A couple of things. It is not our practice to revert to advisories unless we deem the situation is so difficult that it makes it absolutely necessary for us to indicate that there is no need for Indians to travel, and in such cases we have. In this case we have not. However, our Ambassador there is in touch with the Indian community. As you are perhaps aware, there is an Indian community but not a very large one. The Mission has indicated to them the areas where these protests are taking place so that for the present they avoid those areas.

As regards the situation itself, this is a matter for the Egyptians to decide internally, and so we have not taken it up. If the question you asking us is whether this has been taken up bilaterally, the answer is no because it is not our practice and policy to intervene in matters which are essentially in the domain of internal jurisdiction of a country.

Thank you very much.

(Concluded)



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