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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary and Secretary (West) on Prime Minister’s Forthcoming Visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka (March 9, 2015)

March 10, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin):Good morning friends and thank you very much for being here this morning. As you are aware, Prime Minister will be undertaking his visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka from tomorrow.

I have here with me Foreign Secretary Dr. Jaishankar. On his right is Mr. Navtej Sarna, Secretary (West). Further down the line is Mr. Vinay Kumar, Joint Secretary (East & Southern Africa). On my left is Mrs. Suchitra Durai, Joint Secretary (Sri Lanka, Maldives & Indian Ocean Region).

I will request Foreign Secretary to start the proceedings by making his opening remarks following which Secretary (West) will take you through the specific elements of the visit relating to Seychelles and Mauritius. Then we will open the floor for questions. As usual, we will first have questions relating to the visit, and then if any of you has interest on anything else we will follow that.

With those opening remarks I would request Foreign Secretary to start this media briefing.

Foreign Secretary (Dr. S. Jaishankar): Thank you. Good to see you all.

The first point I would make is that these are really a set of very important visits to three of our immediate Ocean neighbours. These three countries – Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka – are all countries with whom we have had historical linkages. These are countries with whom we have very strong people-to-people bonds. Our economic and commercial cooperation with all these countries have grown significantly in the last few years. When we look at them, in one sense at least conceptually we look at them as Ocean Economies which, therefore, offer new possibilities of cooperation even as we kind of consolidate the earlier areas we used to work together in.

In different ways we have security cooperation with each of these countries – some more, some less. I think there is a common, I would say, overarching theme to this visit which is really a visit to Ocean neighbours, a visit for cooperation possibilities arising from Ocean economies. In each of these cases we have strong people-to-people bonding, the travel, the tourism, the connectivity, and in each of these cases we would like to tap on the substantive goodwill that there is for India.

We would like to follow the sequence of the visit. It begins in Seychelles on to Mauritius. So I will request Navtej to take us through those two. Then when you come back to Sri Lanka, I will come back again.

Secretary (West) (Shri Navtej Sarna):Thank you and good morning everybody.

Let me begin with Seychelles. Rather than talk about it, first let me just give you the elements of the programme and then we can go into the background and then do similarly for Mauritius.

As you know, the Prime Minister arrives in Seychelles tomorrow night and stays on till post lunch day after, which is the 11thof March. During this time he would have meetings both in one-to-one format as well as in delegation-level format with President Michel of Seychelles. As you know he has been the President since 2004 and has been one of the towering leaders of Seychelles.

After the talks there would be a couple of events. One is the Civic Reception which the Prime Minister will be addressing in Mahe. He will also be handing over the commissioning and the operationalisation of the Coastal Radar Surveillance System which is being set up with Indian assistance in Seychelles. He has a lunch hosted by the President of Seychelles on 11th, and thereafter he departs. So as you can see, it is a relatively short but packed and important visit.

To give you some background on the relationship, it has been a very close relationship based essentially on two broad planks – maritime security and development cooperation. We have had high-level visits from Seychelles’ side. From our side President Patil had visited in 2012. However, this will be the first Prime Ministerial visit to Seychelles since 1981. So it is certainly a very strong reiteration of our political commitment to the development of Seychelles and our partnership.

To give you some more background, Seychelles is actually a very strategically located set of islands in the Indian Ocean. There are actually 116 islands, 15 of which are inhabited. It has, comparatively speaking, a very large Exclusive Economic Zone. It has 1.3 million square kilometers of EEZ.

We have been involved with Seychelles in helping bolster its need for maritime security for surveillance of its EEZ so that it can eventually explore its resources that are there. This cooperation has been through capacity building, through providing advisers in critical areas, and through gifts of patrol vessels, hydrographic surveys, bilateral exercises as well as cooperating in counter piracy and counterterrorism on the high seas. This has been absolutely crucial, as you can imagine, for a country like Seychelles and for our extended maritime security.

We also have a tradition of bilateral development cooperation in several areas particularly health. Seychelles is also part of the Pan-African e-Network of hospitals, in the education field, health, science and technology, renewable energy, and capacity building. One per cent of the population of Seychelles has been trained under ITEC. So of the population of 93,000 – and incidentally 10,000 of them are of Indian origin which is a very significant number – one per cent have actually come to India on ITEC.

We are also very mindful of the importance of Seychelles and cooperating with Seychelles in the international fora. Seychelles is a leader among the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and has been a very strong spokesperson of the concerns of the SIDS in terms of climate change, in terms of environmental dangers, and this is an area in which we intend to cooperate. As Foreign Secretary mentioned, this is an Ocean Economy. Ocean Economy or the Blue Economy, as they call it, covers a huge panoply of aspects whether you talk of environment or hydrocarbons or renewable energy or exploration of the continental shelf and so on. So this is where Seychelles plays a very important role in multilateral arena and has been a strong supporter of our positions. And this is something which we hope the visit will certainly concretize. This is very broadly speaking where we are on Seychelles.

Post lunch on the 11th, Prime Minister moves on to Port Louis in Mauritius. Again we have one-to-one meetings with Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth who, as you know, has recently won the election in December 2014 and come back to power. There will be delegation-level talks, there will be state banquet, and there will be an address to the National Assembly. The important thing is that the Prime Minister will be the Chief Guest at the National Day ceremony on March 12. This is the 47thNational Day of Mauritius. And incidentally in tribute to Gandhiji and the memory of the Indian Freedom Struggle, Mauritius celebrates its National Day on the day that the Dandi March started, the 12th of March. The Prime Minister will be the guest of honour and the chief guest on the occasion.

He will also be visiting several other important projects and memorials. For instance he will be visiting the Aapravasi Ghat which is the place where the indentured labour landed in 1834 from India. There is a memorial to the tremendous suffering and historical inequities that they faced when they came. Incidentally, it is 180 years which was celebrated last year of the arrival of indentured labour in Mauritius for which the External Affairs Minister had also gone.

There will be a commissioning of the offshore patrol vessel Barracuda. This is a patrol vessel which Mauritius has acquired through combination of credit and grant from India. This is again an element which shows the cooperation that we have with Mauritius in terms of maritime security and working together as far as counter piracy efforts are concerned, exploration of the EEZ is concerned, hydrographic surveys are concerned. Again what we have done in Seychelles we have done in Mauritius. To that extent the Mauritius relationship has other elements which I will just briefly touch over.

As you know, 70 per cent of the population of Mauritius is of Indian origin. India is the partner of preference for purposes of development in Mauritius and we have worked very closely in civilian structures, in building infrastructure, in health, in science and technology, in IT - India built the first cyber city – and in building up Mauritius’s capacities as a financial services hub, as well as now a petroleum hub. India supplies all the petroleum and petroleum products that Mauritius requires and Mauritius has a vision of establishing itself as a petroleum hub for the region.

Again in terms of the African connection, Mauritius is very much part of the Pan-African e-Network and medical network. In terms of ITEC we have a very large number of slots. If I have the figures right, it is 170 in the defence related areas and 100 slots every year for the civilian areas. Mauritius is very active in the international fora, has assured India is of its support on issues of concern including our candidature for the UN Security Council.

Again, to link back to the theme that Foreign Secretary sketched out, Mauritius has an even larger Exclusive Economic Zone. It has 2.3 million square metres. And India’s hydrographic surveys have actually contributed to Mauritius establishing its claims on the continental shelf and the EEZ.

I think I have given you more details than you would think necessary. So I will leave it here for the moment. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: When it comes to Sri Lanka, to begin with it would be our first bilateral visit after 28 years. The last bilateral visit was by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987. Obviously the intent is to strengthen our overall ties with Sri Lanka. This has many aspects because we have a very broad based substantive relationship with that neighbour. I think we are looking at strengthening economic cooperation, discussing trade, discussing investments, both ways. We are looking at scaling up development cooperation, particularly in infrastructure and rehabilitation, reconstruction activities that we support. This covers areas like housing, rail track construction and repair. And we are looking at starting some projects on the energy side.

Politically I think we clearly want to promote and encourage the reconciliation process, support democracy and reform, and we do want to expand our people-to-people contacts including tourism, travel between the two countries. So, as you can see, essentially these elements all really add up to consolidating the stability and promoting the prosperity of what is a very important neighbour.

I would also like to ask you to bear in mind, this is really the fourth visit that we are having within this year. We had the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera come as soon as the new Government was formed; then we had the President Mr. Sirisena here; our External Affairs Minister was there last week; and we now have Prime Minister going. I think more than anything else four visits in such a short space should really tell you the importance we place on this relationship.

Let me say a few words about the programme. Prime Minister arrives early in the morning on 13th March. He has a ceremonial welcome later in the morning. Then he moves into talks with President Sirisena and his delegation. This will be followed by an exchange or signing of agreements and press statements by the Prime Minister and the President.

Later that morning Prime Minister visits the Maha Bodhi Society with which we have longstanding connections. Then he goes for a lunch which is hosted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe. The lunch is followed by a meeting with the Prime Minister. And then our Prime Minister goes on to deliver an address to the Parliament. This is a relatively unusual honour which is accorded to visiting Heads of Government and Heads of State. Some Prime Ministers have done that address in the past.

After the Parliament address he spends a little time meeting Members of Parliament. And then he goes to the IPKF Memorial which is very close to the Parliament, and he pays homage to the IPKF soldiers who sacrificed their lives to ensure the integrity of Sri Lanka.

Later that evening we have a business meeting hosted by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Our business relations have really grown with Sri Lanka in the last few years. Then we have a set of meetings. Representatives of different Sri Lankan political parties and their representatives come to meet the Prime Minister. This includes the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance, the Leader of Opposition Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva. He has a meeting with former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. And he finishes the day with a banquet which is hosted in Prime Minister’s honour by the President of Sri Lanka. That is day one.

Day 2 begins with the Prime Minister going out of Colombo. He flies first to Anuradhapura where he would see the Sri Maha Bodhi tree there which was brought by Mahindra and Sanghamitra from the Ashokan period. After prayers at that site, he does a tour of a very well-known Stupa which is proximate to that. Then he flies off to Talaimannar.

Talaimannar is to the west. The reason for that is Talaimannar historically was the nearest point of contact between Sri Lanka and India. He will be unveiling a plaque which would inaugurate the Talaimannar pier railway station. He will flag off a train, Talaimannar-Madhu Road train. If you are wondering why he is doing that, we were involved in the reconstruction of the Talaimannar-Medawachchiya rail track as part of the reconstruction activities in the recent years.

From Talaimannar PM goes to Jaffna. In Jaffna there are two big things he would be doing. One is that he would be unveiling the foundation plaque for the Jaffna Cultural Centre. Those of you who are familiar with Jaffna I think will understand the significance of that cultural centre.

He has a lunch which is hosted by the Governor of the Northern Province. Then he will be handing over homes in a part of Jaffna which have been built by us. These have been built essentially for the Internally Displaced Persons. I would say this is actually the flagship cooperation project with Sri Lanka right now.

He returns to Colombo from Jaffna. In Colombo he meets leaders of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress. He has meetings with the Indian origin Tamil parties, with the Ceylon Workers Congress. Later that evening he has a reception hosted by the High Commissioner. And then late at night we actually leave for Delhi. That is the programme.

In terms of the relationship I would just flag a few points. For paucity of time I do not want to go on too long, I want to leave enough time for your questions. I mentioned the housing issue because we will be handing over houses in Jaffna. We had a commitment to build 50,000 houses in Sri Lanka – 42,000 would be in the Northern Province, 4,000 in the Eastern Province, and 4,000 in the Central and Uva Provinces. So far we have built 27,000 houses. Some of the houses which would be handed over in Jaffna are part of that 27,000.

I mentioned energy. We have some history there. As many of you know, we already operate, as part of Indian Oil-CPC collaboration, 15 lower tanks in the Trinco oil farm. We are now getting ready really to start building a thermal power plant close to Trinco in a place called Sampur. This is a 500 MW power station. I think we are at a stage where we are waiting for the environmental clearances to come through.

In terms of connectivity within Sri Lanka and infrastructure, most of our activities have centred around railway reconstruction. We have given a line of credit of 800 million dollars. Most of that has really gone to the railways sector. We have rebuilt the southern line which was affected by the tsunami from Kalutara-Galle-Matara. We have done the northern line from Omanthai to Kankesanthurai. The northwestern line I spoke to you about from Talaimannar to Medawachchiya. We have done the KKS harbour rehabilitation, the Palali runway rehabilitation. As you can see, we have been a fairly significant contributor to the rebuilding of Sri Lanka.

A few words on the investment side because trade and economic cooperation feature fairly strongly in what we do. Trade itself last year was 5.2 billion dollars. Our exports were 4.6, our imports were 600 million dollars. We are sensitive to the concerns of Sri Lanka. We have been looking to see how we can expand their exports to India. We have taken some measures to actually assist in some ways by allowing greater Sri Lankan imports of apparel, of processed meats and of some categories of fruits.

We also think that expanding investment and creating employment in Sri Lanka would be a good way to go. We have had some significant investment projects. Actually both countries have invested in some big projects, but we are really looking to scale that up. We hope that Prime Minister’s meeting with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce would be helpful in that regard.

In terms of connectivity between India and Sri Lanka, we have 118 weekly flights. We are actually the largest source of tourists to Sri Lanka. Roughly about 16 per cent of their tourism comes from Indians which is about 200,000 people. About 260,000 Sri Lankans visit India every year. Again we want to make travel easy, we want to create both the regulatory side of travel as well as the mechanisms of travel. We are looking to see how we can expand that.

That is broadly what I have in terms of the substance. If there is nothing else, we could go to questions.

Official Spokesperson: Thank you, Foreign Secretary.

We will first focus on questions on the subjects that have been highlighted today. Let us first take questions relating to the Mauritius and Seychelles part of it and then to Sri Lanka and then onwards. The floor is now open. All those who would like to ask questions on Mauritius, Seychelles, please raise your hand. Before I give the floor to you, remember, choose your question correctly. One question per person. We have about 20 minutes for questions.

Question: Foreign Secretary, maritime security as you said is an overarching theme, a cross-cutting theme across this three-nation visit. What are the new initiatives, concepts we are carrying to our oceanic neighbours? For example, Indian Ocean is a zone of peace. Are we selling the idea of Project Mausam? What are the new concepts, what are the new initiatives?

Foreign Secretary: A lot of the concepts and new initiatives have to be bilateral. If they have to happen on the ground, they have to be largely bilateral though we have some beyond bilateral forums and initiatives as well. At the end of the day we ourselves are taking a much more integrated, connected view of all our ocean neighbours. We believe that doing that actually allows different parts of our system to come together and work much more effectively. As my initial remarks suggested to you, there are common interests and common areas here. I did mention to you the Blue Economy area and the fact that with all of them we have different levels of security cooperation.

Question: Mr. Foreign Secretary, we already have a maritime security umbrella or arrangement involving Maldives, Sri Lanka and India. And there has been some talk of inviting Mauritius and Seychelles to join this security arrangement. Is that likely to happen when the PM goes to Mahe and Port Louis?

Secretary (West): Venkat, we already have biannual exercises with Seychelles. That already exists. When we discuss this, this will be one of the things that would be up for discussions. Let me just add that we do have regular meetings at the Deputy NSA level, at the NSA level and also visits by the Naval Chief. The Naval Chief recently visited Mauritius in January. He visited Seychelles in November last year. I think there is a very close cooperation between the Navies. How this is formalized in terms of all the four countries, we will have to see after the discussions.

Foreign Secretary: The trilateral maritime initiative, which started in 2011, has met twice and that is working well.

Question: Foreign Secretary, in recent years the Chinese armed forces have been able to develop strong defence cooperation links with both Seychelles and Mauritius. How do you view these developments?

Foreign Secretary: We are here to talk about our relationship and our interests. In a sense I would say that question should be addressed to the Chinese Foreign Secretary. As far as we are concerned, we are looking at our visit, our interests, the possibilities of our cooperation with these countries; and we are very bullish about where we see these relationships going. The first point which I mentioned is, we have historical linkages. We have people to people linkages with these countries. So in terms of the history of this relationship and the solidity of this relationship, I leave it to you to judge.

Question: Chinese Ambassador to India recently said India and China both can be partners in Sri Lanka’s development. What is your view on that?

Foreign Secretary: Again, we are here to talk about Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka, a lot of possibilities of going forward, cooperation, investment, trade. So the fact that we are working with them does not preclude the possibilities of other countries working with them. I do not have a particular view on it. I only have a view on what we are doing with Sri Lanka, and my view obviously is very enthusiastic and positive.

Official Spokesperson: Let me clarify. We are working on the questions relating to Seychelles and Mauritius.

Foreign Secretary: I would also clarify, we are working on India.

Question:Seychelles aur Mauritius donon ke paas kaafi bada Exclusive Economic Zone hai jaisa ki abhi bataya gaya. Kya India is maamle mein aage cooperation ke liye badh sakta hai? Kya itna bada Exclusive Economic Zone donon hi deshon ke paas hai ki Bharat usmein apne liye possibility talaashein?

Secretary (West): Ji, jaise main ne aapko shuru mein bataaya ki - Ocean Economy Mauritius mein usko kaha jaata hai aur Blue Economy kaha jaata hai Seychelles mein – basically the objective of that is to develop the Exclusive Economic Zone for the benefit of the country and for the region. We are hopeful of having detailed discussions during the Prime Minister’s visit on the idea of Bblue/Ocean Economy, how to take this forward in terms of cooperation. It will have to be a multidisciplinary approach. It is not only hydrocarbons, it is not only deep sea fishing, it is not only marine resources, it is not only mineral resources, it is not only environment, it is not only renewable energy. It is all of these. So this is an area in which the potential of this area for these two countries and for many others is only just being realized. India has the capacity to take this forward with these countries. We have proven expertise in earth sciences, in deep sea activities, in seabed activities, hydrographic surveys. This also links back to what Ranjit asked earlier in terms of other players. We have a long record of hydrographic surveys of Seychelles and Mauritius. So all this put together puts us in a preeminent position for working on the Ocean Economy.

If there are no more questions on Seychelles and Mauritius, let us move on to questions on Sri Lanka.

Question: My question refers to what Foreign Secretary has said. You said that the overarching theme of all these three trips is all Ocean Economies. In that sense, is the Sri Lanka leg of the visit purely part of that overarch? After all as a closest neighbour we have other issues related to our immediate security. Also I wanted to draw your attention to what Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickramasinghe recently said in an interview. He said that he seemed to think, and this is the prevalent view in Sri Lanka, that the visit by Prime Minister Modi is going to be likely to largely ceremonial.

I am wondering also given the fact, Foreign Secretary, that the Government in Sri Lanka with whom are you going to sign any decisive agreements if there is going to be a major overhauling of the Constitution, power slated to be returned from the President to the Prime Minister, all this might look completely different in June. From that point of view, is Prime Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka also likely to remain largely ceremonial?

Foreign Secretary: Three sub questions. I think first is about the other issues. Yes, there are other issues. I think if you looked at the programme you would see that many of the calls and meetings do in fact reflect those other issues. In fact I did mention our support for the reconciliation process and our support for democracy and reforms. So I think that is fairly apparent.

The second issue is, will this visit be ceremonial? No, I do not think so. First of all a visit to a neighbour is very rarely just ceremonial. I think you always have issues of substance with all neighbours. With Sri Lanka we really have such a strong relationship which has so much content in a whole set of areas. I have described to you the trade, the investment, the railways, the housing, the energy projects. I am pretty sure that many of these in some way will be reflected in the conversations in the meetings and in the understandings on how to go forward.

Your final sub question was on the status of the government. We have just had elections, there is a President in place, there is a Prime Minister in place, we always deal with a government in place. As to whether they are planning any changes, that is really for them to work out. As a visiting delegation, any discussions, negotiations, understandings we have with the government in place, and I think there is a very clear government in place. So I do not see any reason for that confusion there.

Question:Foreign Secretary, mera sawaal yeh hai ki Sri Lanka ke Prime Minister ne abhi haal hi mein kaha tha ki agar Indian fishermen vahan aayenge toh voh golI maar denge. Aise mein hamaare Prime Minister unke saath meeting karenge, lunch karenge? Aur yeh sawaal is liye important hai kyon ki election se pehle jab Pakistan ke President ko hamne yahan par lunch karaya tha tab chunaav ke dauran Narendra Modiji ne baar baar kaha tha ki hum unko biriyani khila rahe hain. Toh aapka kya point of view hai?

Foreign Secretary: You know, our External Affairs Minister was in Colombo. She discussed the fishermen’s issue with Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe. I think the Spokesman thereafter has said something about it. I believe more things are going to be said today on this issue, I do not want to preempt it. But we recognize today that this is an issue. It is a livelihood issue which clearly has larger humanitarian aspects to it. We expect to sit down and work out with the Sri Lankans how we are going to handle this to our mutual satisfaction. I do not see frankly any comparison between dealing with Sri Lanka and dealing with Pakistan.

Question: Sir, why has Maldives been excluded from this visit? And, is India going to sign any defence or energy agreements during these visits?

Foreign Secretary: My answer to your second question is, some agreements or understandings are still being worked on. But I do not think we are going to sign anything on the defence side. On the first issue, I think the announcement was of a visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, and those are the countries we are visiting. And we only go to countries which we announce we will visit.

Question: Earlier it was said there will be a meeting of Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen during the visit of PM. But now you have not given any indication about bilateral talks between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.

Foreign Secretary: I responded to a very specific query about remarks made by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister. To your question I would say, we do encourage direct discussions between their fishermen’s associations and ours. So my answer does not preclude that.

Official Spokesperson: And we have already mentioned just two days ago that these talks are being planned immediately after Prime Minister’s visit. Given that we are now focused on Prime Minister’s visit, the talks of fishermen’s associations are trying to be worked out immediately after that.

Question: You said that when the External Affairs Minister was there on Saturday I think she had issued a statement but essentially saying that all bilateral issues will be taken up. I get this clarification on the fishermen’s organisations meeting. But in that interview that the Sri Lankan Prime Minister had given, I think the one thing that raised a little bit of alarm was how he was defiant about the Sri Lankan Navy’s right to shoot. On that specific aspect could you just respond and say how it would come up?

Foreign Secretary: My understanding is that whatever the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said was discussed in the meeting which External Affairs Minister had with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister. I think I will leave it to you to understand what External Affairs Minister would have said to him.

Question: You had mentioned all the leaders the Prime Minister is planning to meet in Sri Lanka including former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Will he also be meeting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa?

Foreign Secretary: I do not have anything on that yet.

Question: Could you give us an understanding of the reconciliation process? There have been three high-level meetings, this is the fourth one. If we compare, are there more assurances coming vis-à-vis the last government which is Rajapaksa’s government as far as Sri Lanka moving towards the reconciliation process is concerned?

Foreign Secretary: We are discussing a lot of issues with the Sri Lankans, and the issue of reconciliation obviously features significantly in our discussion because in many ways, as we all know, we have been impacted by it. So our role has been really to encourage that process happening. Even when EAM was there representatives of different political parties came to see EAM. Different government leaders who met EAM discussed it in different ways. And we continued to be encouraging. There is a whole history out here which right now centres around the implementation of the 13thAmendment.

Question: What is the stand on repatriation of Sri Lanka refugees in India? What is the stand now? After the Tamil Nadu Government stand is clear, what is the Central Government stand?

Foreign Secretary: On the repatriation of the Tamil refugees, we have roughly about 100,000 of them living in Tamil Nadu. Almost 65,000 are living in camps. There are 109 camps there and about 37,000 are actually living outside the camps. We had agreed, when the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister was here in January, that we would hold bilateral consultations to find ways by which these refugees could go back with honour, dignity, safety. We have had one meeting on the bilateral side between us and the Sri Lankans, I believe it was on the 30th of January, to discuss this issue. We need to have more discussions so that we create the basis for them going back.


Foreign Secretary: We had one round of discussions with the Sri Lankan Government to discuss how these refugees should go back.

Question: We have seen that Sri Lanka’s new Government today made some policy adjustment towards China in the sense we also see some policy adjustment toward India. Can you tell us what is the adjustment that India perceived from the Sri Lanka’s new Government which will be positive for Modi’s visit this time?

Foreign Secretary: I am not sure I would frame the situation in Sri Lanka in the way in which you have done. I think we have longstanding contacts with Sri Lanka. These are very broad based contacts. We have had cooperation, you have heard me spell out different aspects of the cooperation. For this trip I gave you an overarching ocean theme. Please bear in mind that we also are today reaching out to our immediate neighbours. It is a very high priority. In fact for that reason I wan on what was called a SAARC yatra in the last week. Sri Lanka is a SAARC member, it is an immediate neighbour. We have enormous cooperation possibilities with Sri Lanka. Reaching out to Sri Lanka is not part of a zero sum game with someone else however far away they may be. It is for us reaching out to an immediate neighbour. So, I would urge you to see it in those terms.

Question: Who are part of the delegations – political and official – on these three visits?

Foreign Secretary: From our side I think NSA would be traveling with the Prime Minister. Traditionally the Secretaries dealing with the visit, Navtej and myself, would be going. Akbar, of course, would be going. And there will be a few others.


Foreign Secretary: I do not believe so.

Official Spokesperson: It is beyond 12 o’clock and the Foreign Secretary has another appointment. We will have other occasions certainly. Thank you very much. With that we come to the end of this discussion.



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